Cocktail Club

Meet the beverage director bringing ‘beautiful cocktails’ to the Seaport

Tuscan Brands' Jose Luis Betancur shares his path from wine to cocktails, and why "cocktails are here to stay."

"People really, really enjoy elaborate cocktails," Tuscan Brands' Jose Luis Betancur said.

What does it take for a Boston sommelier to get pulled into the world of craft cocktails? For Jose Luis Betancur, it was simple: a bitter, herb-infused Italian liqueur.

“I started tweaking cocktails with interesting recipes with my other colleagues,” Betancur recently told “The reason why is because of amaro.”

The Chilean native, who currently serves as Tuscan Brands beverage director, spent years developing his knowledge in wine across New York and Boston. While working as a sommelier at the now-shuttered Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca, Betancur began experimenting with cocktails, altering flavor profiles and swapping ingredients for different amari. 


“I started coming out with fun cocktails with a little more complexity, more depth, deeper flavors,” he said. Based on his knowledge in Italian wines, the versatility of amaro, and utilizing fresh ingredients, Betancur immersed himself in cocktails. After joining Tuscan Brands, he now splits his time between wine and cocktails; the latter includes designing the cocktail menu and running mixology classes held at the Tuscan Village in New Hampshire. 

Betancur joined the Cocktail Club on Thursday for a virtual class mixing spring gin cocktails. We spoke with Betancur ahead of the class about the most popular drink orders from his base at Tuscan Kitchen Seaport, cocktails for social media, and why Mass. should start drinking rum again.  

What’s something we might not know about you?

I’m very precise about things and I like to take my time. When I create something I want things to be perfect. Sometimes it’s difficult to get through that, but I do my best so our drinks and cocktails are just right.  

If you were a cocktail what would you be and why? 

The rusty nail. It’s an old-school cocktail — it’s two ounces of Scotch, one ounce of Drambuie. I like adding little cloves because they look like nails, and a cherry. Why? Because I think two or two and half is my limit. By three of those, I could just tell you everything about me. 

How have people’s interest in cocktails changed during the pandemic? 

Definitely the knowledge about cocktails has changed. The classics are coming back. Or have never left – the old fashioned, the cosmo, the martini. But also people want to see more prepared cocktails, especially the new generations. They do like to see beautiful cocktails. They want to see color, they like to see exotic fruits, exotic syrups within the cocktails. I think that has changed a little bit more in a sense. 


Since the pandemic started, what we’ve been going through a lot of is cocktails. It’s been growing enormously. Wine has gone down a little bit. It’s coming back, but definitely cocktails are here to stay. People really, really enjoy elaborate cocktails. They want to learn more about it, and they want to be seen, if you do something table side. So that’s something that we are working on at Tuscan Kitchen Seaport is doing more table side cocktails. You know, with social media, I think we need to do more.

Are you seeing any particular favorite drink orders at Tuscan Kitchen? 

One of the most popular cocktails has been the espresso martini. Then the old fashioneds are what other people are drinking. I believe the Manhattan is behind the old fashioned now. Margaritas with different types of chilies, too: Thai chili, jalapenos, habanero. 

The one that needs more love, especially in the city of Boston, I think is the mojito. The mojito should be one of the cocktails that should introduce Massachusetts to start drinking rum again. Rum used to be one of the most drunk spirits during the Prohibition, and after Prohibition was repealed. From there we jumped into a new generation of drinking. The other ones that I’d love to bring back would be a caipirinha or a pisco sour. It’s time. 

What’s a project you’ve been working on that you’re particularly proud of? 

The cocktail classes that we are doing in the Tuscan Market by the [Tuscan] Village side by side with William Sonoma. We’re teaching people how to make limoncello, how to make different types of syrups.

What’s your favorite thing about gin cocktails? 

What I like about gin is that it’s very versatile. You have the junipers and the botanicals, so the botanicals also come with all these layers and textures on your palette. Depending on what type of gin you’re using, juniper can also be heightened by all the other [cocktail] ingredients. But those botanicals, since they’re oils, stay there. So they produce a nice balance in between all your ingredients.

What’s your favorite thing to do around Boston in the springtime? 

Around the city, I like to go to the Boston [Public] Garden, especially in the springtime. When I was living in Boston Metro, I used to go there with my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, and we’d always end up walking through the park. 

How can readers support you and your colleagues? 

Hit the bar. Sit down. With respect to your bartenders, ask them to make something for you that will inspire them and that will personally put them on on the stage. And then talk to them. I think every bartender has had a rough time during the pandemic. Show your support. 

Would you like to add anything else?

​​There’s always room for learning … This is a great career for somebody who wants to make a switch or a change. For those that want to come back, you’re welcome to come back. We are experiencing a shortage of bartenders, unfortunately. So we’re working on training new bar members.