Demi Stevens

Ortega 1 2 0
4 signature cocktails

Exited the 110 toward San Pedro to PCH, turned right and followed the signs to Harbor City/Lomita and merged onto that glorious Highway 1.

Cool stickers greet us on the windows. We knock… no answer. Oh great! What day is it? We laugh. Great sign above door. Corrugated metal base with a rusted, hand-cut sign. Beep beep! Demi is rolling in.

We enter to a dark, but very unique interior. WOW. The art is off the charts cool. Skulls with jewels, bullets, horns, paintings. Heck, even has ceiling art keeps you looking up. Too much to take in. Nice to meet you Demi!

Do you consider yourself a mixologist or bartender? A glorified bartender. [Demi giggles] I think mixology is a little diluted as a term. There is an art to bartending, so I look at it as I’m a really good bartender. Bartending is talking to people and making a drink for that person. So it’s sort of two-fold. You do the mixology end where you’re creating the recipe and presentation and then you gear those drinks for somebody. The cool thing about being behind the bar is you’re talking to that person, so from the one drink to the next you can have them drinking something totally different. I do that with tequila. Even when people say they don’t drink it, I can make something they will say ‘wow’ about. I have 250 tequilas behind my bar.
Are you a risk taker? Big time! We take a lot of risks in general. I like to say to everyone just close your eyes and jump. Three restaurants in this spot failed, but I say “not this one.” I don’t know if I’m a risk taker or just really arrogant [laughing].
What are your priorities in life? My children are number one, then my business. I love doing what I do and I like people.
What’s the best thing about mixing drinks for a living? It’s creative and the interaction more than anything. The guy that taught me how to bartend said there are seven stories in the world and seven drinks. It didn’t matter how good I was at making the drinks, it was your personal interaction with the individuals at the bar that counts.
Is there a subculture among bartenders? Yes! Absolutely. [“Can you bring me the bottle of Fernet?” she asks Carl]. When you go into a bar, especially in California, and there is a bottle of Fernet behind the bar, you know that either the bartender is a real bartender or the person that owns the bar is a bartender. It’s really a San Francisco drink. It’s kind of like a Jägermeister and it tastes horrible. It’s really an acquired taste. If you do it right you see God. Of course, people will cheat and put it behind their bar [smiling]. So is there a subculture? There is a little. People eat late, drink late and a lot of the restaurants stay open ‘til four in the morning which is a bartender’s dream cause we don’t get out of work until at least 2:00 am. You see almost everyone in the restaurant business there. As far as mixologists go, we all know about each other. It’s not like the chefs.
What is your great extravagance? Shoes! As with everyone at Ortega it’s shoes. The chef, sous chef, chef de cuisine, manager, everyone. Shoes. And as crazy as we can get them.
What makes the perfect cocktail? Ratios! You have to have your ratios right on. You have to have 3 parts alcohol, 2 parts something sweet and 1 part something sour and .5 is water or melting ice. The ratios are incredibly important.
What liquor could you not live without? Whiskey. More than tequila. I like the flavor of whiskey and it’s making a big comeback right now. It’s doing what tequila was doing a couple of years ago and vodka a couple of years before that. That said, all the browns are coming back in. The whiskeys, the bourbons, the ryes.
What cocktail are you most proud of creating or reinventing? The house margarita, obviously, the Abuelo (grandfather in Spanish). That one is a good one. I like my new one, Tequila Gone a “Rye,” it’s interesting.
Whats the most important tool in your bar? Shaker. I use a Boston Shaker. I don’t use the ones with the caps on the top. The Boston uses the glass.
How do you feel about the term “bar chef?” I like this better than mixologist. I do cook behind the bar. I do hot cocktails and when I do my flights of tequila we pair them with food, not just with a sangrita, so I’ll cook something behind the bar on a hotplate or I’ll do it in the kitchen or have the chef prepare it for me.
Hidden tattoos? None. I was in a really bad motorcycle accident when i was 15 so I’ve been in enough pain [laughing].
Do you consider yourself a celebrity? No! I think that’s silly. No.

the recipe:

Tequila Gone a “Rye”

  • Pelegroso Anejo Tequila
  • Pomegranate Syrup
  • Bitters
  • Muddled Lemon
  • Sugar Rim
  • Rye Whiskey Float
  • (Once ignited, the sugar rim will caramelize)
Tequila Gone a 'Rye' photo

Horchata Martini

  • La Tradicion Horchata Liqueur
  • Vanilla Vodka
  • (One of the hardest drinks for Demi to make due to the fact that the alcohol curdles the horchata)
Horchata Martini photo

Rosemary & Strawberry Margarita

  • Arthur Silver Tequila
  • Fresh Strawberries (Muddled)
  • Agave Nectar
  • Shaken poured over ice
  • Float rosemary on top for an aromatic flavor
Rosemary & Strawberry Margarita photo

120 House Margarita

  • Sorry, we can’t give away the secret to this lovely creation! You’ll have to just come by and try it for yourself. ;) –Demi
120 House Margarita photo
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