Q&A: Diego Peña of Eastern Standard

Emily Hagen
Emily Hagen

Diego Peña was born in Cartagena, Colombia, but spent most of his life in North Carolina. After studying chemistry at Boston’s Northeastern University, Peña gained experience in the high-end hospitality industry at the now-shuttered Sel de la Terre. After college, he worked in a malaria vaccine lab in Bogotá, but later returned to Boston to join the staff at Eastern Standard, where he’s now a senior bartender.

First bartending job:

I was lucky enough to work at the now-late Sel de la Terre in Back Bay. My managers, Rob Haberek and Rudy De La Roca, taught me all the aspects of the bar, like how to make the perfect cocktails while also making sure guests are happy.

Favorite Boston drink:

I had a lovely cocktail at Bar Mezzana called the Seventh or Second.  I’m all about savory cocktails, and this one is a beautiful combination of reposado tequila, mezcal, manzanilla sherry, elderflower, and olive oil. Those guys are spot on all the time, so I’m not surprised this drink was so good!

Day off drinking destination:

My local watering hole is usually Audubon. Jay and Devo make me feel like I’m in an extension of my living room while I’m there. If I’m not there, I’m at Cafe Sushi crushing sake, kamas, and nigiri.

Go-to garnish:

Nutmeg because it’s so versatile and not wasteful.

Favorite cocktail pairing:

My favorite cocktail is a Bobby Burns, a Scotch Manhattan with a touch of ­­Bénédictine, paired with charcuterie. I like this pairing not only because they go well together, but because they both require a bit of time to get through. This allows me to enjoy my time eating and drinking with the people I’m sharing the experience with. What’s the rush!?

Dream customer:

I like making drinks for anyone who walks into our restaurant. However, if Anthony Bourdain happened to walk in, I wouldn’t hesitate to make his drink.

Desert island drink:

I would choose the Clover Club because I know I could survive on a deserted island off of gin, raspberries, lemons, sugar, and eggs.

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