Like many people who lived and worked in New Orleans, Kirk Estopinal had to move after Hurricane Katrina—less out of choice than necessity. Trained in bartending by Toby Maloney of Alchemy Consulting and mentored by Terry Alexander, Estopinal was already a more-than-capable mixologist, with hours upon hours in the weeds behind him. Which meant his next stop, wherever it was, would be behind a pretty serious bar.
Estopinal opted for Chicago and a new direction in the service profession. When he found The Violet Hour, he knew he’d found his match—a place where he could further cultivate his love for flavor and passion for service. In 2009, feeling the pull of home, Estopinal moved back to New Orleans, bringing with him a level of hospitality savvy the city needed.
Back in NOLA, Estopinal met fellow bartenders Neal Bodenheimer and Matt Khonke. It was a lucky encounter—Estopinal immediately began working with them at Cure, one of the city’s premier cocktail destinations. Now a partner at Cure and the cobbler-centric Bellocq at the Hotel Modern, Estopinal has already published two books, including beta cocktails, the second best selling book at Tales of the Cocktail. Meanwhile, he’s competed and placed in several cocktail competitions. He also has participated in a bar exchange program, bringing his Southern hospitality to the bar of New York City’s beloved Death & Co. All the while, Estopinal constantly questions—and answers—what makes a drink delicious.