In this edition of Mixology Spirit we met up with mixologist Gary Crone who built us a perfect cocktail to enjoy this holiday season. He calls it the “No Egg/All Nog,” which has a similar taste and mouthfeel as a traditional egg nog, but without the egg! As you’ll read below, Gary has an impressive industry background. He is currently doing great things at Newtown’s Barnwood Grill and recently started up his own virtual cocktail website called The Ant Bar.
Batchers: Where do you work and what’s your role?
Crone: Hi, I’m Gary “Fiveboys” Crone and I’ve been a bartender for the last five years at Barnwood Grill in Newtown, CT. As you might guess, the nickname comes from being the father of five boys.
Batchers: How long have you been bartending? What attracted you to the profession originally?
Crone: I began bartending parties during college but got my first “real” bartending job at a high-end trattoria in Fairfield back in 1992. I had been working at Blockbuster when a friend of mine, who was a waiter at the restaurant, came into the store to rent some movies. He told me the restaurant was looking for a service bartender and that was how I got started. Of course, the money was way better than what I was making at Blockbuster!
Batchers: You have many years of experience working in various aspects of the industry in Manhattan. What did you learn from working in such a competitive marketplace that other bartenders outside of a big city can benefit from?
Crone: I spent the last 21 years working in Manhattan — first as a bartender and now as a sales consultant in the wine and spirits industry. Bartending in NYC teaches you a lot. First, I learned to prioritize — set up a system on how to do things, which helps with speed and consistency. Second, I learned to bartend with my “head up,” always making eye contact with customers; a nod to the guy three persons back acknowledges his patience and also buys you time. Most important, I learned not to panic! Even now on the nights when I get crushed, I remind myself to always be calm on the outside because once you begin to get flustered mistakes start to happen and things can go downhill quickly!
Batchers: Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing at Barnwood Grill in Newtown. Describe for us the establishment’s approach to craft cocktails.
Crone: When I began working at Barnwood I was making a fair share of cosmos and variations of them. I slowly started to push the focus to classic cocktails, whiskey in particular. Luckily, my partner behind the bar, Ben, also has a passion for great cocktails. Over time, we developed a reputation as a serious cocktail and whiskey bar. My sales job requires me travel to many great bars and restaurants, which in turn, helps me see current cocktail trends and techniques in real time, which I can bring back to Barnwood to put our unique twist on things. I think this is what helps set us apart.
Batchers: For those trying to make better cocktails at home, what is one common mistake people should stop doing immediately?
Crone: Stop being afraid to SHAKE! My customers always watch me shake cocktails and they always say, “That’s why my drinks come out different! I don’t shake like that!”
Batchers: You recently launched your own online cocktail experience called The Ant Bar. What’s your vision for it and how can folks engage with you there?
Crone: While I was furloughed during COVID and Manhattan shut down, I started making some Facebook videos of myself creating cocktails. A friend of mine, Jennifer Stolz of JBird Web Design, helped me create a website. It began as a way to keep in touch with friends and customers during the lockdown but led to a couple of corporate events, Zoom happy hours and a few private functions. My hope is to expand it and add some fun, educational aspects as well. People can check it out at www.theantbar.com.
Batchers: What is your favorite Litchfield Distillery spirit to work with?
Crone: We had a Prohibition Party for Repeal Day and I made some great classics with the Litchfield Gin. However, being that we are a big whiskey bar, the flagship bourbon is probably what we use the most of in Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. I am a huge fan of a Revolver, which is like a Manhattan but made with Kaluha instead of sweet vermouth. My guilty pleasure is the Litchfield Distillery Coffee Bourbon, which is like a great Revolver right out of the bottle!
Batchers: What does The Spirit of Hard Work mean to you?
Crone: It means doing what needs to be done, even when no one is looking. During a bar shift I am having fun, engaging with customers, but at the same time I am cleaning, restocking, checking on orders. It goes back to what I said about prioritizing, which goes for any aspect of life, or any job. Figure out what needs to be done and then figure out what needs to be done next. Don’t wait to have to be told what to do. Work hard and smart. People will notice and it will pay off. It is what helped me go from service bar to head bartender, to bar manager and eventually led to the job I have now, which has provided so much for my family and myself.
Gary’s Featured Cocktail is called, “No Egg/All Nog.” It’s a delicious, creamy cocktail with a taste and texture similar to egg nog, but without any egg ingredients.
1.5 oz. Litchfield Distillery Vanilla Bourbon
1.5 oz. Litchfield Distillery Maple Bourbon
2 oz. White Creme de Cacao
2 oz. Heavy Cream
3 Dashes Black Walnut Bitters
3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Method: Combine all ingredients into shaker and dry shake. Add ice and shake again. Double strain into a coupe and dust with nutmeg for garnish.
Please follow the Barnwood Grill online on Facebook or Yelp or stop by the restaurant located at 5 Queen St., Newtown, CT. To learn more visit their Website or call 203-491-2215. And, don’t forget to follow Gary’s “The Ant Bar” project: website, Instagram.
About Mixology Spirit:
Mixology Spirit is a Litchfield Distillery blog series dedicated to sharing the stories of creative and passionate mixologists who embody The Spirit Of Hard Work . Think you got what it takes to be featured? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2020 Litchfield Distillery. Photography & Editing Credits: Tony Vengrove