2017 Colorado Rising Star Bartender Austin Carson of Mizuna

2017 Colorado Rising Star Bartender Austin Carson of Mizuna
March 2017

Oklahoma City native Austin Carson found his way to bartending rather circuitously. He began his hospitality career washing dishes at a pizza joint while studying philosophy. Carson took the leap back to restaurants in 2006, this time through wine. His first professional gig was at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, Colorado. Next, trading in the snow for heat and humidity, Carson moved to Houston to manage wine sales for Lasco Enterprises. 

In 2012, Carson returned to Colorado for a sommelier role at Chef and Restaurateur Frank Bonanno’s flagship restaurant, Mizuna. Eventually Carson took over the bar program, too, amping it up with studied technique, playfulness, and serious ambition. He also found a collaborator and ambitious counterpart in Mizuna Chef Ty Leon, who influences Carson’s culinary perspective on cocktails.

Carson was one of six national finalists at the 2016 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience cocktail competition, and he was a North American regional finalist for the Bombay Sapphire “Most Imaginative Bartender” contest. So far in 2017, his innovative work has landed him at the regional finals of Diageo World Class. 

Recently promoted to wine director for Bonanno’s soon-to-be 20 restaurants, Carson still works a few shifts behind the bar each week, forging a path for the modern beverage professional.

Interview with Colorado Rising Star Austin Carson of Mizuna

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start?
Austin Carson:
I started in restaurants during college, bussing 12 or 13 years ago. I studied philosophy and graduated in 2006. My first gig in Colorado was in wine, at the Omni Hotel in Broomfield. I left and moved to Houston, but I missed Colorado and came back. I started [at Mizuna] in April 2012.

SK: What’s your five-year plan?
AC: I want to make Mizuna one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. I have an obsession with the Top 50.

SK: What’s the most underrated cocktail ingredient?
AC: So, my most underrated also happens to be my most overrated. Ice. I’m growing more and more uncomfortable with the amount of water we (bartenders) use, which engenders a sort of appreciation for the right types of ice used in the most efficient ways.

SK: What’s a cocktail trend you would most like to see
AC: In keeping with the previous answer, more pre-dilution and chilling, making cocktails by weight, and creative use of generally discarded ingredients and waste; citrus juices in particular

SK: Is there a city whose cocktail culture you’d most like to explore?
AC: Generally this goes hand-in-hand with food cultures I want to explore, which, here in the States would be Atlanta, and Nashville as well; internationally, Mexico City and Lima.

SK: Have you competed in any bartending competitions? 
AC: Relative to my peer’s I haven’t done a whole lot of competing. I was fortunate enough to compete in the national final of the Woodford Manhattan Experience last year. I’ve done Most Imaginative a few times, and I’m competing in the regional finals of the Diageo World Class coming up.