Meet the Bartender Shaking Things Up in Naples

His reverence for the classics and innovation makes Edgar Sierra our editor-in-chief's favorite new bartender in town.

BY May 1, 2024
Bicyclette Cookshop bartender Edgar Sierra
At Bicyclette Cookshop in Naples, bartender Edgar Sierra enthusiastically shares his zeal for cocktail culture, drawing on his Mexican heritage, experience at genre-defining bars and restaurants in New York and boundless curiosity. (Photo By Brian Tietz)

It doesn’t take much for bartender Edgar Sierra to know what kind of drink you’ll like when you slide up to the bar at Bicyclette Cookshop, the sleeper-hit restaurant that has taken Naples by storm since opening last fall. Small context clues, like your spirit of choice, lead to inspired delights: a gin-based sipper with a hibiscus tea reduction and citrus-curd puree (a far more complex take on flavored lemonade) or a spicy tequila espresso martini, like the one that earned him top place at this year’s Tromba Tequila Master of the Margarita competition.

The improvised libation was inspired by his Mexican grandmother’s café de olla (clay pot coffee). “It’s the same clay pot she uses for her chilis, beans—it’s multiuse,” he says. The porous surface retains the flavor, lending the coffee residual spice and earthiness. Edgar hopes to one day open a Mexican bar in Naples to showcase the true spectrum of his family’s native culture—the unsung spirits like fragrant raicilla and earthy bacanora; the blended diasporas that have influenced Mexico’s UNESCO-recognized culinary heritage; and the peoples’ familial-driven vivaciousness. “Hispanics have a big culture of partying, but there’s this beautiful side, where, although it’s a party, people really engage with one another,” he says. 

While it’s been a few years since I put down my cocktail writer pen (I used to write a column for Southern Living about the American South’s then-exploding cocktail scene), I still appreciate a proper bar experience. In its most devout iteration, the industry draws highly creative, well-read, charismatic folks with a deep curiosity about the world around them. When I met Edgar, I saw all of this as he whipped up three- and eight-ingredient drinks with equal finesse, translated preferences into new creations, and expounded on spirits’ provenance with ease.

Starting his career in the kitchen at farm-to-table pioneer Blue Hill and the now-shuttered molecular gastronomy legend wd~50, Edgar learned to perfect the basics (his collection of culinary books is 200 deep and counting), honor tradition (he has deep reverence for the 20th-century classic and neoclassic cocktails) and to play adventurously with flavors. “Just because someone says something doesn’t work, doesn’t mean it won’t—we just haven’t found the way to make it work yet,” he says.

He moved to Naples in 2021 and worked at Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar and District’s back-room speakeasy, Staff Only, before transitioning full-time to Bicyclette. The Vanderbilt Beach Road restaurant—with its innovative chef and kitchen—provides a perfect playground for professional bartenders like Edgar. By the end of his shift, the 31-year-old, New York transplant may have sous vide tequila with super spicy chile de árbol and smoky, chocolatey chile morita to rapidly infuse it for an árbol de tequila tincture; turned leftover citrus peels into a flavor-rich puree; and painted a chamoy puree rim onto a glass, which he then chills for a subtle tequila drink. The hardened condiment imparts delicate savoriness with each sip.

The term craft cocktail gets thrown around lightly these days, but here, it’s exemplified: drinks composed as stories. Edgar tells me about the New York icons like Pegu Club and Angel’s Share, where he began his self-education about 10 years ago, and his time working at ATLA (from the group behind The World’s 50 Best Restaurants standout Cosme). Places that, through osmosis, taught him the mechanics of a proper cocktail: nothing too sweet, nothing watered-down—you need a perfect balance of flavors and a nice, weighty mouthfeel. “It’s like a good wine, the flavors should dance in your mouth,” he says.

Edgar sees Southwest Florida’s bar culture as being at a tipping point, with modernist cocktailery taking root and possibilities abounding. He looks to places like Naples’ new Unidos Restaurant & Bar, with its singular focus on reinterpreting Latin American food and drink, and Chartreuse Craft Cocktail Lounge in Bonita Springs. “They have spirits you won’t find anywhere, like multiple varieties of Haitian rum,” he says.

Before closing down the bar, we toast to a night well spent. Edgar shakes up a gin martini with the addition of Yellow Chartreuse, St-Germain, orange blossom water and bitters. He splits the drink into three shot glasses and tops mine with a disc of candied citrus, brûléed and chilled on the spot. It’s the most sophisticated shooter I’ve seen. “The sugar crisp on the side mellows out all those strong flavors on your palette,” he says.   

As I sip my uniquely smoky-meets-herbaceous mini martini, I’m reminded that you often don’t have to go further than your neighborhood bar to expand your palette and mind. And if your closest drinking den happens to be Bicyclette, go pull up a seat, ask for Edgar, and let him play.

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