Nico De Soto, the New York and Paris-based master mixologist, has lived in 86 countries, worked in 31 of them, and won over 15 awards worldwide for unique artistry of creative cocktail concoctions. And now, leading a new charge in the Design District for the growing craft cocktail scene, Soto is launching his first South Florida concept, coined Kaido, a Tokyo-inspired lounge, with culinary star Brad Kilgore.
We sat down with De Soto to hear more about what brought him to Miami to open Kaido, making a lasting impression on the global cocktail community, and what cocktail trends Miami locals have to look forward to this season.
Nico, recently launching Kaido with Chef Brad Kilgore, tell us about some of your creative craft cocktail pairings. NICO DE SOTO: Kaido is a cocktail den, so we started with the cocktail menu and when Brad was developing the food menu he went off of my menu for inspiration. However, for the “Ama-kase” menu at Ama we did come up with three different pairings to choose from—the regular pairing, the Reserve Pairing, and the Ultra Rare Vintage Japanese Whisky Pairing, which offers vintage whiskys including a 1969 Suntory, 1985 Nikka Tsukuba Expo & our Kilgore 18:75 Maker's Mark "Japanese Inspired" Custom Blended Bourbon.
A globally acclaimed mixologist, travelling to 87 countries and working in 31 of them, how did your journey in the spirits industry first begin? NDS: I started in Australia in 2005, then I helped open the Experimental Cocktail Club in NYC, where I worked for three years, as well as the London location, and finally opened my own bars, Danico in Paris and Mace in NYC.
Which city did you favor most? NDS: I have a couple of favorites. The first is NYC because it is the best city in the world and there is nowhere else like it. The food scene has such a wide variety, from off the beaten path restaurants to Michelin-starred ones, as well as to the number of different types of cuisine—no other city has that kind of international variety. I also love that you can find people from all around the world in one location. Another favorite place is Singapore. There is such an amazing cocktail culture there, they have delicious street food, and unbelievable restaurants. Sydney also tops the list. I spent two years in Australia and it was a dream to be there. It’s a creative city and the scenery is unbeatable.
Bartenders often see and hear everything behind the bar. What is one of your favorite memories? NDS: I had a customer at Mace who was a door guy in one of the most famous clubs in NYC 30 years ago. I have a lot of crazy stories to tell.
You’ve also won a magnitude of awards and accolades. Which was most memorable? NDS: Most Influential French Bartender at Cocktail Spirits in 2014.
After scouring the globe, taste testing some of the world’s most sumptuous cocktail bars, why head to Miami next and why now? NS: It’s a growing scene and I love Miami. Brad and I met three years ago when I did a guest shift at Alter and have wanted to work on a project together since then. We both love Japanese culture, so Kaido was the perfect place to collaborate.
What would you say your favorite cocktail bar in Miami is? NDS: Le Sirenuse—I never drink the same cocktail, always try a new one.
And Nico, as a master in mixology, what cocktail trends should we look out for this season? NDS: I’ve begun to see a rise in low-ABV cocktails and virgin cocktails. I always work on flavors, so for me it’s more important for the flavors to be correct than there to be a high alcohol content.
Will you be opening another cocktail bar in Miami soon? NDS: There will be more for sure, Paris will be first.
What are your plans for the future and what city do you plan on taking over next with your potent potions? NDS: More bars, more travels. For now, I’ll stick to Paris, NYC or Miami to bring my bars to. I really enjoy doing pop-ups at bars around the world so I will be doing more of those in the future as well.