Ben Baxter, general manager of Houston’s Rose Gold Cocktail Den, knows a thing or two about tequila. As a bartender in the Houston area for the past 7+ years, and an industry veteran for the last 12, he's been intentional about furthering his education on this captivating spirit. “I really got interested in tequila, especially with my wine background,” says Baxter. “There's actually a lot of similarities, I feel, between wine and tequila.”
After working at a variety of tequila bars and restaurants (including a stint at El Big Bad, which features an impressive collection of infused tequilas), Baxter moved to the ambassador side and signed on with Don Julio. That gig gave him the opportunity to learn even more about tequila: through seminars, classes, and other trainings. With this background, it’s easy to see why Baxter is the perfect choice for this competition.
Baxter isn’t a complete stranger to the world of boxing, either. “I've taken some classes here and there,” he says. “I did a little bit of Muay Thai [Thai boxing] a couple years back, but I never really pursued actually fighting, it was just a really, really good workout.”
But it wasn’t the tequila, or the boxing, that provided the biggest draw for Baxter to join the competition. “Honestly, what really sparked my interest in it — I wanted something to take my mind off of every day, every night, just work work work work work. Any chance I get to have a distraction like that. Sometimes we get so caught up with working seven days a week; it's hard to just take some time for yourself and actually get healthy and get your mind out of work for a while.”
Baxter’s work extends beyond the reaches of Rose Gold to other projects within his hospitality group. “We've been opening up so many bars and restaurants in the last year. I did not realize how out of shape I was,” he says. “This is kind of a kick in the ass, honestly. It was like, ‘I can't believe I've let myself get this burned out with work and everything.’ It definitely made me realize that I need to take more time for myself.” He’s also been drinking more water, trying to get more sleep, and trying to work less.
Baxter hopes to keep up some of the healthy habits he’s picked up long after the ring is empty. “I don't ever really foresee myself actually fighting, but [I see myself] definitely working out there,” he says. “I love the gym, the guys are great, and really just the core workout, the cardio — I feel great.”
For Baxter, bartending has provided an excellent training ground for boxing. “It's taken years and years for us to develop our muscle memory,” he says. “I mean, stirring multiple vessels at a time and constantly looking at different customers, constantly looking at your surroundings — you're just aware. I really think that hand-eye coordination, how you move behind a bar, how you move with other bartenders — you’re essentially dancing with them, and when you’re boxing, you’re kind of dancing, too, but you're hitting each other in the face.”
When this competition is over, Baxter might have time to pursue his next venture: a company providing event coordination, private bartending, and catering. “I have an extensive catering and food background,” he says.
Until then, you’ll find him in the ring under the name of T-REX, a fighting name with a long history for Baxter. “T-Rex has been my nickname since I was probably 10 years old,” he says. “I grew up skateboarding and racing cars and motorcycles with my dad. Whenever I'd fall or get hurt, my dad would say ‘Suck it up, you're a T-Rex.’ I skated a competition when I was about 11 years old and he happened to be standing right next to the announcer one time when I fell. Over the loudspeaker you hear my dad go, ‘Get up, you're a T-Rex.’ Everybody at the competition just started cracking up and teasing me. I spent the next ten to fifteen years skating with these guys. It’s been my nickname ever since.” The nickname might be the same, but with Baxter in the ring now, no one is laughing.