Luis Betancur is beverage director at Boston-based Tuscan Brands, which includes seven restaurant concepts and two retail markets. A sommelier and a Chilean native who immigrated to the U.S. at age 27, Betancur also teaches mixology and wine classes at La Scuola, the Williams Sonoma and Tuscan Market cooking school in Salem, NH.
What was your first job in the beverage or hospitality industry?
My first job in the industry was as a busboy in a French restaurant by the South End of Boston. Great wine and, of course, profiteroles.
What is your favorite spirit to work with at the moment?
Rum currently because of the Tiki moment and the summer. It’s super easy to hide and to enjoy in many classic cocktails.
Tuscan Brands includes seven restaurant concepts and two retail markets; how does the beverage program reflect the concept’s Italian culture?
By pushing the boundaries! We make everything from scratch, including many fun syrups, leveraging everything out of the fruit and herbs — peel, juice and pulp. We create cocktails with many dimensions while using Italian liqueur and amari.
What cocktails, wines and beer are Tuscan Brands guests interested in these days?
The Dirty Martini is a classic; also the Espresso Martini and fun, flavorful spicy Margaritas. Our trending wines include coastal wines like vermentino, vernacchia and falanghina, and some obscure wines like Etna bianco from the majestic Etna Volcano. The beer trend is changing; still some interest in IPAs, but now we can see more light and crisp refreshing pale ales and nonalcoholic beers like Athletic from Colorado.
As a native of Chile, are you a fan of the Pisco Sour?
I drank so much pisco…so much. I love a classic sour, but my favorites are the Passion Fruit and the Mango Sour. In Chile you can find so many fruits like cherimoya or custard apple. A little different than what the internet will show you, custard apples are a creamy, sweet-granny apple with a touch of lemon — to die for.
What’s your current go-to cocktail or beverage?
A White Negroni or many summer variations of the Negroni. Also Spritzers; they are so versatile and you can create so many different flavors and styles. It is a category of its own nowadays.
Would you share one of the most popular at Tuscan Brands, or one of your favorite drink recipes?
This is a difficult one, we have so many popular cocktails from our talented bartenders, but here is the recipe for Makin Me Coconuts.