These days, bow-tied mixologists and tattooed "bar chefs" are the face of modern drinking culture, but it’s guys like Jorge Moreno that are the backbone of the bartending world. Moreno is an everyday stiff who spends his nights pouring two-ingredient cocktails at a bar where you’re more likely to find dusty bottles of Crème de Cacao and Blue Curacao than rare amaros or terroir-driven whiskeys. The type of bar that is not about form, but function: Where people don’t go to get a drink, they go to get drunk. The type of bar where everybody’s favorite drinks include a well shot and a splash of soda water, a wedge of lime only if they think outside the boxed wine.
On Bachelor in Paradise, 43-year-old Moreno has become an unlikely hero amidst a crew of twenty-something hardbodies with occupations like "Canadian" and "Twin," true romantics who dare to dream a dream and leave their footprints in the sand as they walk alongside their lord, Chris Harrison, in pursuit of fleeting, televised love. Last year Moreno quietly captured the hearts of viewers as he smiled and laughed in the background while serving drinks at Mexico’s Playa Escondida Hotel, the site of Bachelor in Paradise. There, he was an avatar of all of us, blithely enjoying the antics of all the beautiful dummies that surround him. Then the show got wise and made him a cast member.
‘Bachelor in Paradise’ is not a show about food. But, in a lot of ways, it is a show about bartending.
Bachelor in Paradise sees former contestants of ABC’s long-running romance series The Bachelor and The Bachelorette shipped off to a resort in Mexico for what is essentially a month-long chance to hook up with other people that love love. The idea is that they will find lasting love amongst the rank and file of their old show. The reality, for the most part, is that a bunch of beautiful people just party on a beach.
Let’s be clear: Bachelor in Paradise is not a show about food. Contestants really just drink in scenery and feed on drama. But, in a lot of ways, it is a show about bartending.
"Everything is horrible, Jorge. Everything. Is. Horrible," Ashley I. confesses on one episode, before a date with Daniel, a one-person porn parody of Degrassi High. "I think you’ve got a hotter guy," counsels Jorge, grabbing his pecs to make his point. "You know, the guy you’re taking has bigger boobs." Jorge tells Ashley what she already knows, like good bartenders have done for customers since the dawn of mixed drinks.
Moreno is two parts Isaac Washington and one part Brian Flanagan with a dash of Woody Boyd and a Guinan twist. He’s not the bartender we deserve, he’s the bartender we need. Here now, Moreno reflects on his two seasons as the Bachelor bartender:
How did you end up on the show?
Bachelor in Paradise showed up [at the resort where I’m employed] last year and, you know, for the first five days I was told not to talk to anyone: Send the drinks, don’t say anything. If you watched that season, you know the first few days I didn’t even speak… No conversations, nada.
So how did they end up roping you in to be more present?
There are certain rules: Cast members are not allowed to talk to anyone. So there would be moments they would stop at the bar and start telling me things, and I would be like, "Sorry, you can’t talk to me." I wasn’t that rude, but I would listen a little bit and then I’d have to walk out and say, "I’ve got to get out of the camera."
"Jorge, do me a favor, just make me a drink that looks like it’s an alcoholic beverage with no alcohol."
Right, and it’s just natural to talk to bartender.
Exactly! You know, they’re people at a bar: All I did was listen. And all of a sudden, I-don’t-know-who likes it. Some of the producers? They say, "Oh no, stay! Listen!" And then everything came up naturally. I thought it was just going to be that year. This year [the show] came back to the hotel on May 18. I was already finished with the hotel. I don’t work at Playa Escondida anymore.
[But the producers] called me in, and I extended my contract with the hotel and said I’d stay a little longer, until the show is over. They stopped filming on June 30, so I stayed until then. I don’t work there anymore. I am starting my own business.
So when you were bartending on the show, were the contestants really all just drinking all day?
I’ll tell you this, but everybody will have different perspectives: Maybe they show it that way [on television], but it would be very, very hard to spend all those weeks drinking every day. Usually I worked around noon-ish until late. On rose ceremony nights I’d stay until three or four in the morning. They didn’t drink during the daytime but at night everybody had a cocktail.
Now on this kind of show, there are a lot of people who take care of themselves so much: Not much sugar, not much alcohol. Quite often they’d be telling me, "Jorge, do me a favor, just make me a drink that looks like it’s an alcoholic beverage with no alcohol."
I was curious about what kinds of drinks they might like, or if you’re just pouring a bunch of beer.
Oh, no, no, no. Number one: vodka soda. Or tequila and soda. There are less calories.
But like I say, you know, some of them they did drink a lot, yes, but it was… this show [filmed] when the rainy season starts. Too much alcohol and you’d be dehydrated. So let’s say on average for a person, they’d have five waters and an alcoholic beverage, then five waters and an alcoholic beverage. So yeah, alcohol was flowing at all times. But, like I say, they were people taking care of how they look.
So are they not typical guests? Being on TV, it must be a little bit different than an average customer.
Totally! Totally different. An average customer can do whatever they want. They can say, you know what, I’m going to have a nap, I’m going to wake up and have a cocktail, I’m going to go to the hot tub, read a book, I’m going to town. This is a reality show where there are rules: You are here to interact with people. You’re not here to sleep, you’re not here to tan. You’re going to tan a little bit? Okay, get two or three girls and you can be tanning while you’re talking. You can fight with everybody, but in the morning everybody has breakfast. You can go to bed at 4 or 5 a.m., but at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. at the latest, the lights are on and you must be talking to somebody. And with the cameras behind you 24/7. It was very nerve-wracking.
Before anybody comes into the resort, I think they might put them in isolation for a couple of days.
The beginning of the season begins with Chad getting completely drunk. It seems odd that he would get so drunk. Was it just because it was the beginning of the show and people were really loose and having fun? Or is that kind of part of just the television magic?
That I’m going to say is like this: Before anybody comes into the resort, I think they might put them in isolation for a couple of days. You know, put them in a little cage. No phone or whatever, and when you put them together everybody wants to talk. Everybody is going to be very...
Eager to go nuts?
Eager. Eager to do things, full of energy. You know, all these people, they know well in advance that they’re going to be on a reality show. Everybody is waiting for day one. You see episode one and you see everybody very, very happy, doing their best. After the camera is following you for so many hours, so many days, you start seeing people sigh, you know. Start getting tired. Somehow it’s a party every day, something is going on every day.
Has anybody from the franchise ever vacationed there outside of the show?
Yes. We had employees from the show, you know, coming over and stopping by for the day. Once you know you see the place…
Yeah, it’s gorgeous.
Yes, it is. It’s something you see on TV and it’s a totally different thing when you go see it on a normal basis.
That’s good to know. Because it seems nice except for all of the Bachelor contestants.
Oh yes. There are a lot of people that say "that happens there? Oh no! You know, I’m not going there, it’s a party place!" But on a normal basis you’re going to find the beach and everything is very relaxed. Hardly ever going to see too many people on the beach, in the hot tub. It’s not a party place.
Did you have a favorite contestant that you liked to talk to amongst the Bachelor contestants?
Carly was here last year and this year came back. I love that girl. We spoke so much. I know they show you certain things, the juicy stuff, but Carly was the person that was every day, not necessarily having a drink, but we would always find a moment to talk.
Another favorite: Lace Morris. From the moment that she arrived she introduced herself and said, "I want to get to know you and you’re going to get to know me really, really well." Those were the first words she said.
I told the contestants: "Any time you feel like you want to do a shot and nobody else wants to do a shot with you, I will never say no."
On my body, the part the worked the most this season was my liver. You know, I had a rule that I told the contestants: any time you feel like you want to do a shot and nobody else wants to do a shot with you, I will never say no.
I know! (laughs) Oh, Lace Morris, I never let her down, I always said "let’s do it!" Sometimes it was the other way and I was like "Lace, I want a shot," and she was like "I already had two today" and I’d say "you know what, let’s have a shot!" She is my favorite in that department, as drinking buddies.
Have you ever given a contestant a glass of wine and said "will you accept this rosé?" I feel like that could be your slogan.
No! You know what, I will think of this if they invite me for the next season.
Yes, please do it! You could get a white zinfandel endorsement deal!
Okay, if they invite me for the next [season] I will say this is only thing I want to do: I want 15 seconds guaranteed to be shown on the show. This is going to be my slogan!
Melissa Buote, a writer based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, lives for good food and bad television.
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