“I’m not a mixologist, a bartender, or even a sommelier, although I am certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers,” insists Todd Brinkman, who is one of the ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen at the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage. “I’m a leader and mentor to a young staff that is eager to learn craft cocktails and luxury service.” It’s a privilege Todd takes quite seriously.
I’ve spent many a day and evening in the company of Todd, 41, while he’s been on duty at this extraordinary hilltop resort, and have learned that he was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Attending Case Western Reserve University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology—now, if that doesn’t qualify him to be a top-notch barkeep, I don’t know what does—Todd got his start in hospitality at the Cleveland Renaissance Hotel post-graduation in 1996. He toiled for Marriott International under several different brands for more than 15 years, making stops in Baltimore, Orlando, and Tucson. When an opportunity arose for him to run the food and beverage operations at L’Auberge de Sedona in Arizona, he jumped at the chance. California soon called, however, and Todd went to work crush at a winery in Napa prior to coming to the Palm Springs Valley in late 2013.
Proud to be part of the inaugural team of the new Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, Todd tells me one of the best parts of his position is the freedom to be creative in his craft. “I have the opportunity to work with the best products in order to create memorable experiences for our guests,” he says, adding that “one of my favorite things about my job is introducing people to my friends through their wines. Telling people about Seth Kunin through his bottling Pape Star, and Nikki Nelson through her beautiful chardonnay at Liquid Farm—that’s fun. “
I can vouch for the fact that being among Todd’s friends is indeed fun. So the next time you’re at the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, seek this impressive gentleman out. Belly up to his bar. Chances are pretty good that he’ll befriend you, too.