2021 Los Angeles Rising Star Bartender Mike Capoferri of Thunderbolt

2021 Los Angeles Rising Star Bartender Mike Capoferri of Thunderbolt

Bartender Mike Capoferri has been making drinks since age 14—at Planet Smoothie, that is. The fun of slinging smoothies in Atlanta led him to prep cook at Wild Times Cafe. When that restaurant shut down, Capoferri became a busser at a local steakhouse before fibbing his way into a bartending position. Thanks to his strong work ethic, his coworkers vouched for him.

 

The opening of the Sound Table cocktail lounge inspired Capoferri to view bar work as more of a craft. He tried to bring that mindset back to the steakhouse, but the owners weren’t feeling it. Ready for a change, Capoferri dabbled in copywriting, which brought him to Los Angeles. To subsidize the low-paying writing job in 2011, he served then bartended at Soho House, where he met his first bar mentor, Chris Ojeda. 

 

Next, Capoferri moved to NYC to open and design the cocktail menu at the upscale edition of breakfast chain Denny’s. He moved on to bartend at No Name Bar, and in 2015, Campari hired him as a brand ambassador. A lot of Aperol spritz parties later, Capoferri returned to Los Angeles and spent four and a half years trying to establish his own bar, a process full of headaches over the liquor license and parking. He built the whole concept around a paragraph in Charles Baker’s Around the World with Jigger Beaker & Flask, which describes an amazing drink outside Savannah, Georgia called Peach Thunderbolt. Capoferri’s own Thunderbolt bar, which finally opened in 2019, is rooted in Southern hospitality and technology-driven cocktails that build an experience while keeping things affordable, efficient, and delicious.