Story by Alexandria Lindstrom | Photography by Jeremiah "JD" Davis
There’s an art to creating the perfect cocktail, an understanding of the subtleties and nuances of flavors and the way that certain ingredients can coexist harmoniously in a glass in a way that not only works, but seems to dance on the palate. It is no mere combining of this and that. Rather, it’s a deliberate, thoughtful mixture that shows creativity and respect for all the elements, the art of it all balanced by a certain amount of science that becomes a masterpiece in liquid form.
A proficient master of mixology, bar genius at Café 44 Joe Quintero—or “Joe Q.,” as he’s more widely known—possesses that very set of characteristics that makes a great maker of drinks, his love of the craft something that shows in every cocktail he creates. As someone with eight years of experience behind the bar with seven of those years focused on learning and perfecting his mixing skills, he is now a craft cocktail artiste, boasting a resume that includes working at True Food Kitchen and The Luminary in Atlanta before coming to Alexandria to open Café 44 with his wife and sister in 2016.
“During that period of training in Atlanta, I learned how to handle loads of prep, how to create infusions, how to maintain balance in flavors, and how to properly use citrus and juices,” Joe Q. recalls. “While I worked at The Luminary, classic cocktails were the inspiration for everything, so I had to memorize 30 pre-Prohibition cocktail recipes before the proverbial ‘bar key’ was entrusted to me. It was there that I helped craft my first craft cocktail menu.”
That skill is something that his patrons at Café 44 now enjoy regularly, as Joe Q.’s creativity—and his obvious passion—come to bear in every rhythmic flourish of his shaker, every pour, every well-placed garnish. His cocktail menu proves that he doesn’t just sling his drinks—he designs them the way a chef would design a dish, and the results speak for themselves. “I love the inherent versatility of the ingredients—utilizing the savory notes of micro greens, incorporating a wide variety of fresh juices, constantly evolving techniques. My favorite thing of all, though, is the camaraderie that is built within the industry. Brainstorming, trading stories, or just casual chats with others passionate in the craft. That’s what gets me going, man,” Joe Q. says with a twinkle in his eye.
“Being an introverted extrovert, I love meeting new people and giving them an experience that, hopefully, they find unique to being at my bar. The ability to always keep on my toes and also escape behind prep and other guests makes it fun and challenging!” he goes on.
Basing his signature menu on the foundation of classic cocktails, he still puts his own spin on those inspirations to achieve something one-of-a-kind and special. Case in point: the Cabin in the Woods. “It’s my take on a hickory smoked Old Fashioned, with a touch of a Manhattan vibe from a balsamic based syrup that we make in-house,” Joe Q. says. “It’s a wonderful winter drink, but still popular even on balmy summer days.”
One sip of his drinks leaves little wonder that Café 44 has become such a hotspot; and this place certainly knows how to mix it up.