‘Human connection.’ Storm Evans on how they approach service at Cantina OK!, and Patrón Perfectionists globals

“Let’s go out and see how many lives we can change.”

‘Human connection.’ Storm Evans on how they approach service at Cantina OK!, and Patrón Perfectionists globals
Storm Evans at the Patrón Perfectionists final in November. Photo: Christopher Pearce/Supplied

“I think you have to go through the fire a little bit first to understand really what you’re getting into,” says Storm Evans.

The Cantina OK! creative lead is the Australian Patrón Perfectionists winner, having taken out the final on his second attempt last November in Sydney.

Storm is one of my favourite bartenders to visit — two minutes standing in front of him at the pint-sized Cantina OK! and whatever mood I’m in improves considerably. So I hope he does himself proud when he gets to Mexico later this week to contest the global final of Patrón Perfectionists.

His drink, Palome, is a full-flavoured, yet crystal clear, take on the Paloma — one that I think will stand him in good stead when takes on the world in Mexico. But he’s also someone who genuinely appreciates hospitality for the effect it can have on someone’s day, and so — in advance of the global final — I spoke to him about the Cantina OK! way of hospitality and service, how making the national final in 2022 helped him win in 2023, and asked him about the pressure to win the global final, given that Harrison Kenney — Storm’s predecessor in his role at Cantina OK! — won the big dance back just two years ago.


Storm Evans talks Patrón Perfectionists and more. Video: Boothby

Sam Bygrave: You’ve competed in the national final two years in a row, Storm. What do you think made the difference the second time around and helped you take the win?

Storm Evans: I mean honestly I think [it was] just being better prepared the second time around. The first time was great, lots of learning experiences, but understanding how the challenges are structured and how to actually engage with those challenges was a lot better the second time around. I think you have to go through the fire a little bit first to understand really what you’re getting into.

And how are you feeling about the global finals coming up? Are you prepared? Nervous?

To be fair, right now I’m feeling quite good which scares me because I feel like, I’m gonna wake up maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe in three days or in a week — I’m gonna wake up and be like, oh this is actually happening now and then just go freak out mode. I am currently trying to stop everyone boarding the panic train. So I’m trying to, you know, get some earlier sessions in, practice everything leading up to it, but I’m feeling good right now, but we’ll see.

Someone from Cantina OK! has taken out the global final win before, Harrison Kenney, your friend and former colleague. Does that put pressure on you to also win?

The beautiful thing about this is I don’t necessarily feel like there’s any pressure for me to replicate what Kenney did. I think the beautiful thing about this competition is it allows you to be really individual and really personify your style of service, or who you are as a professional [and] as a human being.

I guess for me the internal pressure is it would be absolutely phenomenal to have Cantina OK! take out the exact same global finals, two out of three years. I think that would be really special. And I mean, to my knowledge, I don’t think there’s been any other bar in any other competition that’s done something like that.

That’d be a really cool legacy to set. Because I think that we do really, really special work here at Cantina OK!. And I think the way we approach hospitality really allows us to engage with people on a level that isn’t really seen anywhere else in the world, to be honest.

What do you think is the Cantina OK! difference, what is the approach to service?

It comes down to human connection. We focus so much here on how we’re engaging with our guests.

I think what we do here at Cantina OK! is really special and I think the way we approach our guests, the way we approach service, and the way we really focus on emotionally and quite deeply interacting with our guests, I feel like that attitude really translates well into the competition format. Because at the end of the day, you’re not just presenting a drink, it’s all about engaging the judges, all about connecting with the judges.

I think that there is a similar focus in that, the way we treat service is the way that we’re approaching these competitions and that’s literally just through the most core basic principle we can, which is just really connecting with people on a deep and meaningful level. If I’m telling a story about my journey then I want them to feel like it’s their journey as well.

I’ve kind of summed it up as this, I’m like, this is my performance art — make them fucking cry. Cause I’m gonna cry, so they have to cry as well, otherwise I look like an idiot.

What advice do you have for doing service the Cantina OK! way?

I think it all comes down to you being genuine. I think that every single person has their own kind of personality, or the way that they do things behind the bar. And I think that really allows you to connect deeply with guests. Or it can be the reason why you’re not connecting with guests at all really. So being genuine is very, very important. Making sure that people feel that you’re being genuine as well. Everyone’s ability to detect when you’re not being genuine is extremely sharp and extremely strong. So if you’re not connecting deeply with guests and on a genuine level you’re going to find it very difficult I think, whether it’s in general service or whether it’s in competitions.

Why do you do what you do, Storm? What gets you out of bed and off to work?

I mean, to be honest, this is something I’ve been pondering quite a lot lately, why I do the things I do? We’ve got a bunch of fresh young bartenders not just coming through Cantina but also coming through the industry and you know, I’m now trying to position myself more as a mentor as opposed to a mentee. I think one of the big reasons I do what I do is I really love making a difference in someone’s day.

I single-handedly have this ability to either make or break someone’s day or evening or week depending on how I interact with them, how I connect with them. And I really think there’s nothing more powerful than when you’ve got a guest that comes in — maybe something’s gone wrong in their life or maybe that there’s just something that they’re not happy about — and being able to stand there, spend time with them and connect with them on a genuine level can really make a difference to someone. And I think that that’s really what drives me now. Let’s go out and see how many lives we can change. And sometimes that could be a macro task or it could just be as simple as saying hello when someone walks through the door, I think. Human connection, connecting, building those relationships with people is why I do what I do.

Storm's Palome — get it at Cantina OK! now. Photo: Boothby
Storm's Palome — get it at Cantina OK! now. Photo: Boothby



  • 45ml Patrón Reposado
  • 30ml salmiana spiked grapefruit cordial
  • 60ml soda water

Recipe by Storm Evans, Cantina OK!.