masters of the craft

Mixologist Fraliza Gianniondis of The Ritz-Carlton, Boston. (Photo: Marriott International)

Mixing It Up

How Mixologist Fraliza Gianniondis Taps Into Her Heritage to Become a ‘Master of the Craft’

Fraliza Gianniondis began 2019 working as a server hoping to land a bartending gig. Before the year was out, not only would she be a mixologist at Artisan Bistro at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston, but she would also be named Marriott International’s Beverage Master of the Craft for the Americas, beating out 3,000 competitors from across the Western hemisphere.

Born in Puerto Rico, Gianniondis began her career in the hospitality industry at age 18 while attending the University of the East culinary school in Carolina, Puerto Rico. “I had the opportunity to get a few shifts bartending at the restaurant I worked in, and I just fell in love with it,” she says. “I loved the experience of coming up with a new drink and looking at people’s faces when they enjoyed it — interacting with people and discovering all the experimentation you can do.”

masters of the craft
(Photo: Marriott International)

Gianniondis’ talent with a shaker glass soon had her moving on to bigger and better jobs, culminating in a six-year tenure at The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan, where she became lead bartender and designed and launched the hotel’s acclaimed After Dark speakeasy.

Gianniondis spoke to Marriott Bonvoy Traveler about how her heritage helped her win top honors at Marriott’s most challenging cocktail competition and what she’s stirring up for the future.

Your path from Puerto Rico to Boston and taking top honors at Masters of the Craft had a few twists. Tell us about that.

I came to Boston about two years ago after being a head bartender in Puerto Rico and got a bartending job at the Westin Boston Waterfront.

But I was eager to work at The Ritz-Carlton again, so I took a job as a server and worked in that position for about a year and a half before an opportunity opened up to work behind the bar again … It was rough for me because I really wanted to be back there bartending, but I was patient, and in the end it was worth the wait.

How long were you bartending at Artisan Bistro before you won Master of the Craft?

Six months.

masters of the craft
(Photos: Marriott International)

The competition rules gave you just seven minutes to create a cocktail using a mystery ingredient unveiled just before each round of the competition. What was your secret ingredient for success?

In the semifinal, the mystery ingredient was carrot juice, and when I was sick as a kid, my grandfather would always tell me to have ginger and Greek honey and lemon, so I made a drink using the carrot juice, Caribbean rum, lime juice and honey.

For the final, we had to use a brand-new Italian amaro (China Martini Liqueur) none of us had any knowledge of. When I saw that it was an amaro, I decided to do a classic cocktail, kind of a reverse Manhattan with the amaro, bourbon, mezcal and chocolate bitters.

It was actually one of the easiest cocktails I’ve ever made, and for a moment I was worried that I went too safe. But when I lit a cinnamon stick and served it in the drink to the judges, the whole room went, “Ohhhh, it smells so good and feels cozy and warm.”

Tell us how your background influenced your winning cocktail and your career overall.

The inspiration for the drink was the seasons in Boston; people come into the Artisan Bistro for a warm and classic cocktail. Being half Greek and half Caribbean also gave me a lot of inspiration.

From my Greek father, herbs and spices and citrus; from my mom, who is from the Dominican Republic, savory ingredients like turmeric and ginger. I use them to take a classic cocktail and tweak the three or four main ingredients to create something new and interesting.

masters of the craft
(Photo: Marriott International)

What unique touch do you bring to the Artisan Bistro?

Being an after-work and pre- and post-theater bar, we see a diversity of guests, old-school and young-school, so there’s a classic and modern bar program on the menu. We have a traditional Manhattan, but also a modern Old-Fashioned made with a house-made Demerara syrup infused with cloves, cinnamon and other spices.

There’s also a wellness menu, including a craft cocktail made with matcha, coconut rum, CBD oil and fava water. People in Boston also seem to like a lot of hot buttered rums and hot toddies this time of year — rum is something that, being from Puerto Rico, I feel very comfortable working with.

What mixology trends catch your eye? What kinds of award-winning drinks will we see Fraliza Gianniondis coming up with in the near future?

Mocktails and low-ABV cocktails. People are changing their lifestyle to be more healthy and are more concerned about calories. They want the experience of being at a bar without being out of control.

Companies are making more nonalcoholic spirits and craft beers, and mixologists are making tonics and syrups that can be infused into mocktails. At the end of the day, it’s about flavor, so instead of selling them a $4 lemonade, we can serve a really nice $10 nonalcoholic craft cocktail.