Winner of the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award for the 50 Best Bars in the World 2022, Jean Trinh of Alquímico in Cartagena has become a standard bearer for excellent bartending, friendship and hospitality around the world. A man who provided shelter and supplies to his staff when they needed it most and empowered local communities and saved endangered ingredients, Trinh talks to 50 Best about his mission to defend Colombia, his products and help everyone his bar touches along the way.
Above ground, the Alquímico de Colombie is a high-energy bar that offers high-volume drinks for hundreds of customers every day. However, scratch a little below the facade and you will find an extraordinary space with a deeply positive ideology for people. Despite its size – rising over three floors in a heritage building in Cartagena’s old town – each cocktail served in this uniquely designed space is crafted with the same level of care and respect found in most boutique bars of the world. This is mainly due to the vision of its owner, Jean Trinh.
To call Trinh the mastermind behind Operation Alquímico would be reductive. While his intelligence and skill behind the stick is remarkable, he is just as much the heart and soul of the operation. Throughout his career, Trinh has been committed to creating a community of bartenders based on generosity.
As part of The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022 awards program, Trinh has just been named Altos Bartenders’ Bartender, thanks to the votes of his peers. “When I found out I was named Altos Bartenders Bartender for 2022 I was so thrilled. It was a huge recognition from the industry and all the work we have done. energy, we are so proud of the comprehensive hospitality package that we offer and have spent years working on, this award on behalf of my team.
Trinh is very proud of its staff, which now numbers over 70
Growing up in a family of restaurateurs in France, Trinh has hospitality in her blood. Originally moved to Colombia in 2013 after falling in love with the country while traveling, which started as a pop-up bar to capture crowds for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil over the summer became the cocktail giant that Alquímico is today.
Since speaking to 50 Best in 2020, when Alquímico won the Ketel One Sustainable Bar AwardTrinh built on the mission he first set for himself: to build a better bar system for everyone in and around his business.
In March 2020, when his bar was forced to close with little help from the Colombian government, Trinh took drastic measures to protect his staff, offering refuge to 22 of his bartenders and their families at a farm 900 km away. south of Cartagena, in Filandia. While this small coffee farm was originally purchased in 2019 to provide ingredients for the bar, Trinh has turned it into a shelter for its staff. “That was the main idea of the farm,” says Trinh. “In South America we didn’t have a lot of help and for my team a lot of them didn’t have a plan B. So naturally I felt responsible for them because they’re the 99% from the bar.”
Many cocktails at Alquímico now use farm-grown ingredients
At the farm, Trinh and his team spared no time in becoming ambassadors for the local bartending community, donating daily food parcels to those in need while fully immersing themselves in the area. “At the time, I didn’t know if I could reopen the bar. But I could be sure that I could give my team food, shelter and enough to survive,” he says. For Trinh, it was far more important than the survival of his business.
In the months following 2020, his team has since returned to Cartagena and resumed working at the bar, with the farm and infrastructure they created being deeply integrated into the Alquímico ecosystem. While Trinh’s team has grown from just six to more than 70 staff, their concern for their welfare has not wavered, ensuring that everyone involved in Alquímico – from farmers to bar staff – has everything they need. it needs for an excellent quality of life.
Before each shift, staff have a family meal together, they socialize regularly and the team environment is a priority. Trinh’s biggest win, however, is doing all of this without compromising his bar’s commitment to ensuring it’s sustainable and positively adds to its surroundings. If anything, it only gets better.
Back to basics
When the Colombian government encouraged poor communities to burn their native crops and plant corn instead during the pandemic, Trinh visited those communities and set up direct supply lines to his bar and farm to s ensuring that the history and culture of these unique ingredients were not buried. ashes. After visiting these farms, Trinh was surprised by their offering. “It was amazing,” he says. “It was the only place on Earth where we could see ingredients like these. We knew then that we wanted to use these products from the farm and support the producers.
By choosing to build strong ties with these farms, Trinh was both doubling sustainability, while creating unique products for customers. “In using these products, we have to be creative because we use ingredients that hardly anyone knows about,” he explains.
Across Alquímico’s three floors, each bar shines a light on Colombia’s incredible biodiversity through a different lens. From serving classic cocktails injected with indigenous ingredients to celebrating the colors of Colombia and the magic of its wildlife, the bar is a temple to the offerings of the Latin American nation.
Each of Alquímico’s three floors offers a completely unique cocktail experience and menu
Trinh thinks this is just the beginning of a renaissance for South America, especially in the hospitality world. “Before we arrived in Colombia, the cocktail scene was very new,” he explains. “Everyone wanted the cocktails they were drinking in the United States and Europe, with very high prices.” By using local produce, Trinh has been able to ensure that the point is accessible to a much wider audience in his bar. “Speaking of South America, and I think it’s the same in other parts of the world, product prices have only gone up. If you don’t start working locally, it’s hard to understand how you can continue to buy products from the other side of the world.
With small changes, Trinh believes the bartending community can change the world: “It starts with asking ourselves ‘how can I do better?’ Then ask, ‘How can I improve the quality of life of my people?’ These are small changes, but hospitality is such a huge industry. When we’re together, they can add so much.
The 2022 World’s Best 50 Bars, sponsored by Perrier, will be announced LIVE from Barcelona on October 4, 2022 at 8:20 p.m. local time. Plug into the live stream of the event here.