Ivan Buchting is a high-profile, Nicaraguan mixologist at Hollywood’s highest-end hotel: the sophisticated Four Seasons Los Angeles Beverly Hills. With the type of entertainment industry executives, entertainers, and business travelers who frequent this hotel, the swank, stylish bar at the hotel’s Culina Ristorante and Caffe is, itself, a stage.
Buchting’s smile and enthusiasm make the soothing setting even more approachable, as do the welcoming nature of his colleagues Christian, Jessie and Cherish, the space’s smiling manager.
I even met a server at Culina, who is a voice performer for movies and television and a classically trained operatic singer. Guests and patrons are likely to hear live jazz music and standards – sometimes on three stages at one time – throughout the Four Seasons lounges and bars.
Ivan is in show business too – he appears weekly on a morning television show called “Maniana Latina” on Vision Latina. He displays the preparation of one of his vibrant craft cocktails for the shows’ stars and the audience.
Culina’s Craft Cocktail Creations
Culina, inside Four Seasons, serves gourmet coffee drinks but in the afternoon and evening craft cocktails are the stars that soothe the stars. Ivan and his colleague Jessie happily mix up potions such as “That’s So L.A.,” which combines vida mezcal, peach-habanero shrub, lime and aquafaba.
“Cucumber Infante” blends mi campo blanco tequila, cucumber, and orgeat with lime. A “Bianco Negroni” combines monkey 47 gin, suze d’autrefois liqueur, and lillet blanc.
These satiating sips all appear as artistically as they sound – presented in proper glassware with garnishes.
I watched Ivan shake a dry Belvedere martini with stuffed olives for a regular bar patron named Scott Addelman who’d learned I was a travel writer.
“If you put me in your article, my name is spelled A-double-d-e-l-m-a-n,” he reminded me repeatedly, swaying to the music next to the bar while cradling the concoction Ivan just splashed from the shaker for him.
Ivan then, at her request, sent a hotel guest up to her room with a glass of Barolo for her nightcap.
Culina’s wine list offers Dom Perignon champagne by the glass as well as favorites whites and reds from Silver Oak and Duckhorn.
Ivan In Los Angeles
Ivan’s talents can be found socially on Insta @TragosyTemas. In terms of travel, he does wander, but is very happy at home.
“My favorite place right now is Los Angeles,” Ivan insisted as he made a margarita. “I am adaptable. After three months in any place, I feel at home and happy. The first three months might be a little rough, but after that, I am comfortable.”
He cites Hawaii as a destination at which he could chill. Recently, he made a trip to Miami, but his family is in Austin, Texas, so he considers that his other home. He has friends in Houston, too…which brings us to the remarkable part of today’s travel story.
Hope and Crosby would be proud of Ivan’s recent odyssey to Austin. Their “The Road To…” movies were madcap.
In modern movie parlance, the screwy storyline of Steve Martin and John Candy’s “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is similar to what Ivan experienced when he decided to make a trip to Texas.
The adventure started so innocently. He’d previously been thwarted to fly to Austin for the birth of his niece due to a beastly Christmas storm that crippled air travel nationwide. Ivan was, therefore, determined to attend his new niece’s Christening.
“Since I was flying to Texas, I thought I’d stop to visit my old friends and go out with them the night before in Houston,” Ivan reasoned. “In was only in town one night, so we made the most of it.”
What could possibly go wrong?
Hair of the Dog in Houston
Houston’s Four Seasons Hotel is a landmark property with a significant selection of whiskeys at Bayou and Bottle by Latin celebrity chef Richard Sandoval. In addition, is a tucked away, modern-day speakeasy called Bandista, an intimate cocktail laboratory – a concept Ivan, a mixologist, could surely embrace.
But after a special Saturday night, Ivan woke up with a start on Sunday morning.
“I was so happy to see my friends that I’d stayed out too late and overslept,” he admitted.
Ivan, still woozy from the all-night party that turned into morning hustled to Houston’s airport…but was too late to make the early morning flight.
“But I had to make the Baptism. And with almost no sleep I was in no condition to drive a rental car for three hours. My only choice was to pay to take an Uber all that way. It was going to cost $150, and we would have to hurry if we were going to make it.”
As it turned out, though, Ivan may have been in better chemical condition than his Uber driver.
“I bought a tall can of cerveza in the airport to bring with me for the Uber ride. You know, ‘Hair of the dog,’” Ivan explained.
Once he got in the backseat and they’d rolled away from the airport, Ivan opened the beer can. But as he swallowed a sip, he sensed something surprising in the front seat. There was an aroma of something other than barley, yeast and hops in the car. And the driver, hidden in a hoodie, was the source of the smell.
“He was casually smoking marijuana as he drove!” Ivan exclaimed.
Ivan, already in a curious condition from the night before, with no sleep, and the morning sun beginning to blaze in his eyes, had to endure the motion sickness of the car, the stench of ganga, and the stress of being late.
On top off all that, the Uber driver at the wheel was sneaking peeks at a movie on his phone…with the volume way up.
Ivan had enough, but it wasn’t easy for Ivan to get the driver’s attention. Eventually, he turtles out from under his hoodie. Ivan waved his hand signaling the driver to turn the sound down. Once the volume came down a bit, Ivan was able to voice his objection to the driver puffing on a joint.
“Don’t worry about it. I can handle a little,” the driver, unbothered by the question, assured him.
Rolling With It…
Despite his concerns about the Uber driver smoking weed at the wheel, Ivan knew he was already up against the clock to make the Christening in time.
“We were already away from the airport. To get him to drop me off on the road somewhere and then to try to find another early morning Uber would have taken too long. So, I figured I had no choice but to roll with him,” explained Ivan.
But then he sized up the outlaw optics of the situation he found himself…in and where he was – the conservative Lone Star State. He thought:
“The driver is speeding to Austin before the Baptism is over.
The driver is smoking marijuana.
I have an open beer in the car.
And I am the gayest man in Texas.”
Ivan worried that, if apprehended, his next night’s sleep could be much longer – and much less comfortable – than his previous nights. Instead of luxurious blackout drapes, he imagined himself behind bars!
And it did not take long for Ivan’s worst fear to come true.
“We were in the middle of nowhere, hurtling through ‘tumbleweed country,’ and I swear the driver was lost. Then I heard the siren and looked back to see the flashers of a police car.
Stop in the Name of the Law!
Ivan, as his hopes of making the Christening in time dwindled, now just hoped the driver would have the sense to turn the movie he was watching off as he slowed the car along the shoulder. Ivan was also busy opening the windows to air out the car and hid his beer can below the seat.
Bleary-eyed Ivan laid low and listened, from the backseat to the conversation between to officer and the driver.
“Essentially the policeman asked the driver many questions. Then he told the driver it was better that he be out working than to be in jail,” Ivan recalled.
The driver was off the hook and Ivan, in his backseat, was back on the road.
Ivan made most of the beautiful Baptism with moments to spare, and the driver drove off into the noonday sun.
The next time he goes to visit his family in Austin, Ivan will be certain not to “mess with Texas!”
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