In the heart of Toronto, where the city’s vibrant nightlife stands out with the stirring of cocktails, magic brews behind the polished bar of this Michelin-starred restaurant. Here, amidst the clinking glasses and the hum of conversation, a bartender with an eye for detail and passion for creativity works away at creating masterpieces you can sip on. Eder Sanchez is not just “the guy behind the bar” at Quetzal, he is the visionary who created this Michelin award-winning cocktail. Here’s his story.

Sanchez tells Curiocity that he always had a love for cooking. He would watch in wonder as his aunt and grandmother prepared feasts for his entire family. This would ignite his culinary passion.

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Passionate from the beginning

“I stepped up at home, cooking for my mom and sister and then for friends. They always complimented what I would come up with, that’s when I realized I wanted to pursue cooking professionally,” shares Sanchez.

“I began by cooking at a cafeteria that my gym buddy and culinary school teacher used to run. This is where I started to learn proper techniques.”

After moving to Stoufville back in 2011, he found himself working at a golf course. There, he learned about the pressures of working in the service industry. He took advantage of this time to expand his knowledge of ingredients and learned different cuisines – or so he thought. This was just the beginning.

“I realized Stouffville wasn’t for me and I was hungry to learn more. I moved to Toronto on my own, handed out resumes to so many places,” shared Sanchez.

He ended up working at a steakhouse as a service bartender and took an interest in the origins of every bottle, and how they were made. Learning about different spirits, Sanchez became a pro in this new field and after working up to a head bartender position, he found that the corporate setting wasn’t for him. He craved creativity.

Success in growth

This is when he found the now-shuttered high-end Mexican restaurant, Los Colibris. “There weren’t a lot of Mexican restaurants in 2014, let alone authentic ones, so I was really excited for this opportunity,” says Sanchez.

“Here I really began to expand my knowledge on cocktail techniques and was able to work closely with the chef to have a cocktail program that complimented the menu. I quickly realized that creating cocktails was my true passion, where I was easily able to use it as a creative outlet.”

Taking the opportunity to continue learning and growing as a bartender, Sanchez then moved on to work at The Cloak Bar where he was able to contribute to agave-based cocktails.

His entire journey eventually led him to the Michelin starred restaurant, Quetzal. He helped open the restaurant and also contributed to other cocktail programs during this time, including La Bartola and 1 Hotel.

eder sanchez
“No Heather, It’s Heather’s turn”

Though finding success in growth wherever he set his eyes next, his next major accomplishment would be contributing to the creation of the award-winning “No Heather, It’s Heather’s Turn” cocktail.

The tantalizing blend of smoky Mezcal, Pisco, infused with lime-leaf, honeydew, pineapple, celery, poblano pepper, and lime, has been on the menu for two years.

The Quetzal bar team was awarded Michelin Guide’s Toronto Exceptional Cocktail Award in 2023.

What’s on the horizon?

Though he found a home within the walls of Quetzal, Sanchez shared that he’ll stay at the restaurant until he’s able to open his own bar next.

As Sanchez remains committed to his current establishment, he is eager to share his knowledge and experiences to aspiring bartenders who are on their own path to success.

“In this day and age, I feel like a lot of new bartenders are too focused on working at a bar that is part of these “best lists”, losing sight of what really matters,” he says.

“My advice is to follow your passion, educate yourself, read books, visit bars, ask questions, get out of your comfort zone and join bar competitions (you don’t have to win them to really win). Most importantly, enjoy practicing your craft, pour your heart into guests’ glasses, success and accolades will come after. ”

Sanchez’s journey embodies the real essence of dedication, growth, and unwavering passion for the world of mixology.

Wherever life takes him, Sanchez’s spirit and passion for his craft will undoubtedly continue to leave a mark in Toronto. It already has.

Quetzal Toronto

Where: 419 College St