Phoenix Bartender Crowns Winner of The Last Slinger Standing Cocktail Competition
Delena Humble-Fischer considers herself a lifelong learner. After completing her master’s degree in narrative studies at Arizona State University, she decided to take a one-year hiatus before continuing her PhD. He channeled the energy he put into his work into bartending—a job that had until then been his side job. The leave was crucial that year and set Humble-Fischer on a path that made him a mixologist to follow. On Monday, March 13, Sin Muerte bar manager took home the Last Slinger Standing award, beating 15 other bartenders in a one-on-one competition that tested their skills, speed and creativity and closed Arizona Cocktail Weekend.
Humble-Fischer, who had only competed in another bartending competition before, was still allowing the win to make its impact.
“It’s an honor and I’m going to carry it with the utmost pride and responsibility and use my platform to really do things,” he said as he sat on the other side of his bar at the newly opened Phoenix restaurant in downtown one afternoon recently. Sin Muerte. “I came and showed people that I deserved to be here, that women deserved to be here, that Mexican women deserve to be here and women of color deserve to be here.”
Humble-Fischer says it’s important to talk more about the small number of women in the industry, and even fewer women of color. His academic work has focused on nonfiction with a focus on race and identity. She shared the challenges she faced and saw others face in a male-dominated industry, including tipping bias and harassment.
“If I reject someone’s sexual approaches, I don’t get a clue. “If I interrupt someone, I’m a horny bitch,” she says. “I know my male colleagues are absolutely crap, but it’s really nothing compared to what we women have to deal with in this industry.”
But despite these challenges, Humble-Fischer says he’s doing what he loves in a place full of talent.
“It’s booming,” he said of Phoenix’s boutique cocktail scene. “There are many incredibly talented people in this community.”
Humble-Fischer cut his teeth by selling liquor while working on his undergraduate degree in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. When she and her fiancé moved to Arizona to begin her master’s degree, she again took up a bartending job, but things changed for her when they first visited The Golden Pineapple Craft Lounge in Tempe.
“We fell in love with the place. From the cocktails to the service to the food, it was an experience we haven’t had in Arizona yet, and it felt like home,” he says, adding that they were captivated by the bar crew and quickly became regulars.
Humble-Fischer has submitted an application to join them. Adam Fought, beverage director at Golden Pineapple, said he didn’t have enough experience yet, but offered him a service job to get him started. Humble-Fischer rose to the rank of bar manager, eager to learn and ask questions.
“I’ve always seen this innate talent in him,” Fought says, complimenting his taste buds and his ability to find balance between unconventional ingredients. He took him under his wing and encouraged him to continue to grow with experiences such as Tales of the Cocktail Foundation’s Cocktail Apprentice Program, an exclusive industry mentoring opportunity.
Humble-Fischer left The Golden Pineapple last year to run the bar at Sin Muerte, a vegetarian restaurant near Roosevelt Row created by Instrumental Hospitality, the same team behind Belly Kitchen & Bar and upcoming cocktail bar Quartz.
“It was a really exciting moment for me to come in and be the bar manager of a place that doesn’t have an identity yet and start building the story,” he says.
Humble-Fischer dived along the 33rd parallel, from Arizona to Morocco, examining the areas that inspired Sin Muerte and the flavors that defined the food and drink there.
“A lot of passion, love and time went into developing this program,” he says, noting that there are narratives embedded in every drink.
Get Sin Muerte’s spicy margarita. While pretty true to the classic, Humble-Fischer uses triple chile agave, made with the same three chiles his family uses when making tamales at Christmas.
“I paid a tribute to all the women in my family,” she says. “Every cocktail on my menu has an identity and a story… It’s a really powerful thing.”
When asked what he would like to see more of in Valley’s booming bar scene, his response went back to the concerns he had expressed about the industry as a whole.
“I want to see less sexism, less tipping bias and less sexual harassment. “Everyone deserves to come to work and have a great time and have a safe environment and not worry about dealing with this bullshit.” “I will continue to push my bar and make sure everyone feels safe.”
He’s also excited to see how the growing scene continues to bring more creativity to the fore.
“It’s all about pushing the boundaries and trying to give people unique flavors and a truly incredible experience that goes beyond the glass,” he says.
Others may be watching him. Although he entered the Humble-Fischer Last Slinger Standing “just for fun” in hopes of getting through the first round, he admits that he worked for it and prepared flashcards for different spirits.
The contest is similar to cooking contests like Food Network’s chopped, with hidden ingredient-based challenges, and there’s an application process to select the top 16 bartenders before the big event. Past Last Last Slinger winners include mixologists from famous Valley bars, Lauren Azevedo of the latest Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlor, Colton Brock of Liar’s Club and other downtown bars, and Chanel Godwin-McMaken of Little Rituals.
For Humble-Fischer’s final round at Last Slinger Standing, he had to face off against Highball’s Mitch Lyons, a famous Valley bartender, cocktail consultant, and bar owner. He won with a riff on the Vieux Carré, a classic New Orleans drink traditionally made with cognac, rye, and sweet vermouth.
“This is an incredible achievement,” says Fought of Humble-Fischer’s win. “It’s really mind-blowing to see how far you’ve come in two or three years.”
Humble-Fischer is currently looking at where to put his mug and picks up a pen along with a cocktail shaker. He focuses on finding a way to blend his passions for storytelling and bartending.
“I’m really trying to find a fusion between writing about my experience as a woman, not just as a Mexican-American woman, but also as a leader in this industry,” she says.