Gina Barbachano

Gina Barbachano: Hanky Panky's new star

24 February, 2022

Shelves packed with bartending books in the background of her Zoom meeting is a big giveaway of Gina Barbachano’s passion for making drinks. The other is her beaming smile.

“I never thought I’d want to work in food and beverage because it’s a tough career and you don’t get much free time,” says Barbachano on her one day off in the week. 

Having studied business administration with a focus on running events, she started o working on the other side of the bar. But after being required to do some hospitality work for her course, Barbachano found herself working at Tata Mezcaleria in Morelia, Mexico, a bar which focuses on serving local produce. 

“I thought that if I have to do this for my internship then I want to do it somewhere interesting. They told me I had to do a bit of everything, not just the paperwork, so I did shifts in every department. I totally fell in love with being behind the bar and they offered me a job after a couple of weeks, but I could only work weekends because I still had college.” 

Barbachano’s vibrant personality and clear ability saw her land a high-up role in the sales and marketing department of a brewery in Morelia. “It was a good job for the money, but I was spending too much time in an office and I had nowhere to really progress to because I already had a good role. It didn’t fulfil me.” 

Her next move was back to Mexico City to pursue events organisation, where she subsequently returned to bartending to keep the cash coming in. 

Barbachano adds: “Things were going pretty well by this point but my dad would phone me up asking when I was getting a real job, so I got a job with Marriott Hotels. But I really didn’t enjoy it and I knew I wanted to be behind the bar for real.” 

After returning once more to hospitality she was building her skills and reputation within the bar scene of Mexico City, until one day she received a call from Hank Panky. 

“I was super nervous about getting a job there so I was studying every day. I started as a regular bartender and all I wanted to do was learn and be a part of it.” Hanky Panky, which is currently number 12 in The World’s 50 Best Bars, is an intimate speakeasy which does not disclose its address. 

“The way we make drinks at Hanky Panky was totally new to me and I remember finding it both challenging and interesting. Even now I am learning every single day. The essence of the place is unique. Each day is different because we have people from all around the world visiting the bar. It truly fulfils me.” 

After three years at the world-renowned speakeasy, Barbachano is now bar manager, but it’s her relationship with her team that makes the job feel special, particularly founding partner Walter Meyenburg. 

“Walter has always put a good amount of pressure on me, enough to help me grow without it being too much. He wants me to develop and get the best out of me. It’s more like he’s working beside me than above me. 

“One time I was bitten badly by a dog across my face and I was worried about my job and being able to work. But Walter told me not to worry and paid for private medical care, which I think shows just how much he values the team. Even when we’re not working he feels like part of my family.” 

A dog bite would put most people o canines for life, but Barbachano’s British bulldog Kapi spends every free evening by her side watching movies, although she misses him when she’s travelling the world with the Hanky Panky team. 

A landmark moment in her career came last year at the 50 Best ceremony in London with Meyenburg and head bartender Ismael Martinez. “It was an amazing night. I didn’t actually know we were on the list and then to be so high – it was one of the most amazing feelings of my life. 

“To be honest, I don’t bartend to get awards, I do it because it’s my passion, but when people recognise it, I find that really rewarding. And now we have a new challenge because we want to prove it’s not just a one off.”

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