The tender: Mario Rana
The bar: Cuoco Pazzo (4175 N. Goldwater Blvd., 480-265-9814)
The pedigree: Rana fell in love with creating drinks when he started behind the bar of a coffee shop at age 14. He later started barbacking at the restaurant owned by his parents, then began working at wine bars around the Valley, including Kazimierz World Wine Bar and Javino's. Now he owns both the Mad Chef Gastropub in Ahwatukee and Cuoco Pazzo. Most nights he manages the restaurant, but you can find him working the bar on Thursdays.
What attracts you to drink-making?
It's just something I enjoy. I enjoy learning about the history of the beverages; I enjoy taking classic cocktails and putting my own twist on them. Right now I'm doing a cocktail list where I take classic cocktails -- a manhattan, a caipirinha -- and incorporate Italian liqueurs in there. I like variation, having something that no one else is doing, being the first to do something. My new passion is incorporating beer into cocktails -- you don't see a lot of that around here. I'm kind of a pioneer.
I like making my own concoctions. Back when I was younger, I used to go around the neighborhood and collect twigs and flowers and mix them with water. My magic potions, I called them. I've always been into making some type of concoction.
Did you drink them?
I always tried them, and they never tasted like I wanted them to. That's why I enjoy cocktails, because they actually turn out the way I want them to.