Cocktail Club

Local bartender Michael Pando is busy slinging cocktails on Twitch

"After the pandemic one of my main goals is to inspire people to return to the bars and restaurants," he said.

Michael Pando spent nearly a decade behind some of Boston’s favorite neighborhood hangouts, including The Automatic, Deep Ellum, Lone Star Taco Bar, and The Hawthorne. He’s claimed victory in bartender competitions like Espolòn Tequila’s “Cocktail Fights” and volunteered at Speed Rack, the all-women, high-speed bartending competition.

But during the pandemic, everything stopped. “I had a tough time losing the thrill of meeting and chatting with new people every day,” he said.

While Pando hasn’t returned to tending bar, you can still find him online mixing drinks on his Twitch channel heyPando, where he hosts a weekly Friday cocktail hour at 9 p.m. By creating videos for the live-streaming platform, the local bartender found a new way to meet people.


“Twitch directly provided that luxury in a safe and comfortable way,” he added.

In the coming months, he’ll be traveling to Guatemala and Kentucky to shoot video and learn about alcohol traditions, as well as help manage Camp Runamok, an education retreat for bar industry professionals, as head counselor.

Before he embarks on his IRL travels, Pando joined the Cocktail Club on Thursday for a virtual class mixing tequila cocktails. Ahead of the class, the local bartender and Twitch creator shared the flashy cocktail that might best describe him, one of his super powers, and his favorite thing about the tequila highball.

How did you get into the beverage industry?

I found myself interested in the beverage industry after my career in retail came to a close. I left my old job without a plan and took a liking to a neighborhood spot where I lived. I started working there and was hooked on the scene. The people, the travel, the friends, the excitement, the hustle, the grind — I can’t imagine there are many other careers out there quite like ours.

What got me interested initially is the same thing that has kept me around for so long and that is the people. Being able to meet new people every day and introduce them to cool new things has become truly invigorating to me. Most people aren’t aware of the wonders of the bar world that are out there waiting to be discovered in every city or town you come across.

Can you tell us more about getting into Twitch during the pandemic?

I have been a viewer on Twitch for a long time. Being able to interact with streamers in real time on Twitch has many advantages compared to what most platforms are able to offer. I think this instant streamer and viewer interaction has really changed the way in which many people consume their media. Have a question about a hobby of yours? It’s almost guaranteed there is an expert streaming this hobby live on Twitch. Being able to ask questions to a person in real time can often be superior to searching through a lengthy instructional video on YouTube.

There’s a lot of Super Mario on your Twitch stream. Are you a big gamer?

I have loved playing video games since I was a child. Super Mario 64 was one of the first games I fell in love with as a child, and I love playing it to this day.


During the pandemic I found a game called GeoGuessr. [It’s] a game that uses Google Maps to take you on a journey around the world while challenging your ability to recognize your surroundings. Playing this game has given me the ability to recognize the country and sometimes the region or the specific road based on a single image on Google Maps. I now consider this one of my super powers.

GeoGuessr introduced me to a whole new global community I had no idea existed before. I now have friends from Chile, Latvia, Norway, Malaysia, and many other places I never expected to connect to. My love for Earth has combined with my love for the bar world in ways I could not have imagined. In the coming months I will be traveling to Guatemala to travel the country and visit the Zacapa rum distillery. I have always been fascinated by the traditions of alcohol all around the world, and I can’t wait to go. I’ll be filming all that I can to produce a YouTube video on the country of Guatemala, highlighting the geography, the people, and the rum that they make. I have plans to visit Kentucky this year among other locations to film different episodes as well. In addition to running my Twitch stream, this series will be a huge priority of mine for the foreseeable future.

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

If I were a cocktail, I would be a jungle bird. A bit flashy with just enough going on to fuel the party while making sure to keep it classy at the same time.

What’s your favorite thing about the tequila highball?

My favorite thing about the tequila highball is how it highlights the spirit you choose while also providing a refreshing experience. If you don’t want to lose the flavor of the booze you love by adding too many ingredients, the highball is going to be the way to do it.

What’s something we don’t know about you? 

Something you may not know is that I am fluent in Spanish.

Are you looking to get back into bartending in Boston?

I would love to get back into the community event scene in Boston. While I don’t see myself picking up a weekly gig in town, I do see a lot of opportunity to take what I do on the road for different guest bartending shifts or events.

How can people support you and your colleagues in the hospitality industry right now?

After the pandemic one of my main goals is to inspire people to return to the bars and restaurants. We lost a lot of really special locations and many talented people have moved on. [With] the work I do, [I] hope to inspire those to return to the bar with a special curiosity that only fresh insight could provide. The best way for people to support my colleagues is by going out and supporting their local establishments. I also encourage people to try new places and meet new people! The thrill of a new bar or a new cocktail can be an amazing time. I hope to motivate people to seek out these experiences.