That talent has garnered him national attention as the New Mexican was named one of the top 15 bartenders in the country.
Beginning with 10,000 applicants, Simons navigated his way through the 2022 U.S. Bartenders’ Guild World Class to a top 15 finish.
The bartending competition is put on but the USBC and sponsored by DIAGEO.
Simons made the first cut to the Top 100 with an essay he wrote about tackling the culinary evolution of New Mexico through a cocktail.
The regional finals were held in April in Tucson, Arizona. There, 10 bartenders competed. The final three were joined by competitors from four other regionals from across the country.
Simons says the final 15 then competed in June at the national finals in Nashville, Tennessee.
“I didn’t win, but I learned a lot along the way,” he says. “One of the big things I learned is how to value myself and my experience in a bigger way. When you start off in a small market like New Mexico, you compare it to New York and Los Angeles and look outward. This competition forced me to think about myself and my history.”
When Simons first applied for the competition, he never imagined he would make it as far as he did.
After being selected, he decided to let everything fall where it may and see what the end result tastes like.
“It’s sweet,” he says. “I really enjoyed the aspect of getting feedback after each of the rounds. It’s a confidence builder and I tried my best. It was great to be in a room of fabulous competitors. The connections that I made have been phenomenal.”
Simons was so impressed with some of his competitors, he was taking notes on how to stand out.
One woman created an iron brand and seared the outside of a coconut. Another competitor made root beer-infused brandy cherries.
“I’ve got to step up my game,” he says with a laugh. “Each one of them were so inspiring.”
Simons began making drinks at the age of 8, while growing up in Bosque Farms.
“The first time, it was for a New Year’s party my parents were having,” he recalls. “(My parents) gave me a recipe and I was making mocktails for everyone. There was no liquor in them. I remember my mind being stimulated by the creation process.”
Years later, his family had a lemonade stand, which they would take to various community events and markets.
“It was there I would try to put together different flavors to add to the lemonade,” he says. “I’ve never looked back.
Simons has been a soda jerk and a barista.
He began getting serious about it while he was working at Apothecary Lounge at Hotel Parq Central.
“I started working with Sara Mathews,” he says. “She noticed I had an eye for it. She started training me before I could tend bar.”
Simons would follow Mathews to Borracho’s Craft Booze and Brews in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he would train new bartenders.
He would have stints at Ibiza inside Hotel Andaluz, as well as Q Bar in Hotel Albuquerque. He was also part of the team that helped open the bar at Hotel Chaco in Old Town.
“Then I went to Copper Lounge as it was reopening,” he says. “My wife grew up in Santa Fe and we lived there for over a year, where I worked at Santa Fe Spirits Distillery. I also did the cocktail program at La Casa Sena.”
Simons currently tends bar at Tonic in downtown Santa Fe three nights a week.
It’s a job that helps keep him sharp.
“Making drinks, it’s where art meets science,” he says. “I always tell people if you don’t know what you want, describe it to me in adjectives.”
Simons has joined his wife, Rikki Carroll, studying comedy in Amsterdam. The couple were living there prior to moving to Santa Fe earlier this year.
He began a consulting service called WestonDrinks.
“I want to spread that love I have,” he says of making drinks. “I teach classes and am constantly learning something new along the way. I constantly think flavors. Eighty percent of my time, I spend thinking of my day thinking about food and drink. Ideas are always floating around in my head, just ready to be mixed.”