Our latest Mixology Spirit conversation took us to Conspiracy in Middletown, CT where we chatted with Dustin Amore as he built us his “Lucky Me” cocktail. We admire Dustin not only for his bartending skills, but for his appreciation of embracing the hard work required to constantly improve and grow. If you love a Manhattan, you’ll definitely want to try the Lucky Me. It’s well-balanced and wonderfully aromatic — and we can’t wait to return to enjoy another!
Batchers: Where do you work and what’s your role?
Dustin: Hi, I’m Dustin Amore and I’m the bartender at Conspiracy in Middletown, CT.
Batchers: How long have you been bartending? What was it like starting out in the business and where did you really learn to hone your craft?
Dustin: I’ve been tending bar for 12 years. Starting out, I poured a lot of beer, wine and shots in small hole-in-the-wall establishments. “The Cook and the Bear” really helped me sharpen my skills and ignite my passion for craft cocktails. I had a great teacher, Aaron Stepka, who took the time to teach me and help direct my interests.
Batchers: Tell us a little bit about Conspiracy. What makes it unique?
Dustin: Conspiracy is Middletown’s cocktail bar. We have a drink menu that is driven by advanced culinary techniques with a scientific approach. The environment is intimate and lowly-lit, encouraging people to enjoy the company of the people around them. We’re cocktail driven from a sales point of view, building hundreds of hand-crafted cocktails a night.
Batchers: How has Conspiracy innovated during the pandemic to keep the restaurant open and viable?
Dustin: The very first weekend of the shutdown we pivoted to sell kits for people to make cocktails with our syrups, fresh juices and bitters. This was before we could sell alcohol to go. As the laws evolved, we moved with the changes and started selling to-go kits built around 50ml bottles, selling fully composed cocktails. Recently, we started to can our own handmade cocktails. In regards to dining, we worked with the town to create a makeshift satellite patio before we could serve indoors. We did everything we could and continue to do anything we can to keep the ship moving forward.
Batchers: Has that experience changed your perspective on teamwork and leadership?
Dustin: The whole experience has definitely reinforced my views on the importance of teamwork and leadership. The owners of Conspiracy, Mark and Jen Sabo were committed to staying open and making it through the tough times. As leaders, they provided us with family meals, took on PPP loans and made us a part of the process. Teamwork is what got us through the pandemic.
Batchers: Got a good story about a really hard night behind the bar?
Dustin: One night I did a pop up at Brinx Kitchen and Bar in Torrington. Dylan, Alfredo and I created a fun 90’s-themed menu. We weren’t expecting it to be too busy since we only promoted the event for 2 weeks. But we were wrong! The place was so slammed the walls were sweating and we had to move some of the tables outside to fit more people inside. I kept my head down and pumped out drinks from the service bar while Alfredo took orders and managed tables. My feet never left the service well. All that could be heard was the clinking of jiggers spinning between my fingers, the sounds of bottles slinging in and out of the rail, the tins constantly shaking, and Backstreet Boys turned up to 11. We had a ton of fun and really connected with the crowd. It was a great night.
Batchers: What advice would you give folks just getting into the craft cocktail scene? What should they do and not do when building their own cocktails?
Dustin: Take the time to learn the classic and neoclassic cocktails. Have fun and experiment using existing cocktail “formulas” by using the plug and play method–put your own spin on a drink by replacing an ingredient with another. Read books and articles about the craft. If you’re just starting out as a bartender, be sure to stay service focused, don’t take yourself too seriously.
Batchers: What is your favorite Litchfield Distillery spirit to work with?
Dustin: I love Litchfield Distillery’s Vanilla bourbon! Bourbon and vanilla are a beautiful combination and this bourbon is very versatile for building cocktails.
Batchers: What does The Spirit of Hard Work® mean to you?
Dustin: The Spirit of Hard Work means being innovative and never giving up. It means doing the hard work of studying and learning how to get better. It’s climbing the flight of stairs 60 times with a tray of very full coupes. It’s trying to find creativity and patience when you’re exhausted from the aforementioned stairs. The Spirit of Hard Work means being self motivated in the face of adversity.
Dustin’s featured cocktail is Lucky Me. He chose the name in honor of a Big Sean song about hard work. It is really amazing, well-balanced, and wonderfully aromatic. If you love a Manhattan, you’ll definitely want to try this!
- 1.5 oz Litchfield Distillery Vanilla Bourbon
- .75 oz Oloroso Sherry
- .25 oz Campari
- .25 oz Creme de Cacao
- 2 dashes angostura
- Absinthe for atomizer
Method: Combine all ingredients into mixing glass. Fill mixing glass with ice. Stir for 30 revolutions. Strain into a chilled coupe glass or Nick and Nora. Mist absinthe over the top of the glass.
You can see more of Dustin’s great work on his Instagram page. Please follow Conspiracy online on their Website, Facebook or Instagram or stop by the restaurant located at 350 Main Street, Middletown, CT. To learn more or to make a reservation, call 860-236-0211.
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 email@example.com.
© 2021 Litchfield Distillery. Photography & Editing Credits: Tony Vengrove