In this edition of Mixology Spirit we return to New Milford’s Zaragoza restaurant to chat with Christian Mendoza. He built us a wonderful cocktail that is a spin on a traditional Gin Gimlet. We really enjoyed it and think you will too! As you’ll read below, Christian is a creative guy who pursues his creativity both behind the bar and behind his DJ mixing table.

Batchers: Where do you work and what is your role?

Christian: Hi, my name is Christian Mendoza and I’m currently working as a bartender at Zaragoza Restaurant, located in New Milford, CT.

Batchers: How long have you been working as a bartender? How did you get started in the business?

Christian: I’ve been working as a bartender for about year and a half. I started out as a barback and worked for a full year before I felt comfortable working on my own. Zaragoza’s bar manager, Christine Short, recruited me. She saw me DJing one night at a local bar and saw the joy and passion I brought to my music. She went to the owner of Zaragoza and said, “We need this guy’s energy at the restaurant!” That’s how I landed the gig and got the opportunity to train with Christine who has taught me so much.

Batchers: What is it about the craft that you love so much?

Christian: I love to experiment with different ingredients and use my creativity and knowledge to come up with new twists on traditional cocktails, kind of like what I did for the cocktail we’re featuring in this post. It’s a great feeling when you put the time in to get the recipe just right and you get great feedback from your customers.

Batchers: Tell us a little bit more about your DJ pursuits. How would you describe your style of music making?

Christian: I suppose my style of mixing music is very similar to how I approach cocktail recipes. I enjoy classic cocktails and I love classic songs. As a DJ, I love taking great songs and weaving them together into something new. For example, I can take Mary Janes Girls’s, All Night Long and mix it with LL Cool J’s Around the Way Girl and create a great vibe. When I take this approach with cocktails it gives me the opportunity to reignite a traditional cocktail without straying too far from the original recipe—and that’s the creative constraint I enjoy.

Batchers: It seems you love creativity. Do you get the same kind of rush working behind the bar as you do behind the turntables? Or is it a different vibe?

Christian: Actually, I do get the same rush. It kind of starts with a bunch of nervousness and even some shakes as both are a type of performance. I feel I’m the center of attention and under the spotlight, but it’s all pressure I put on myself. When the big rush begins at the restaurant, I take a deep breath, gather my thoughts, and focus on a seamless run behind the bar. When DJing, there’s no better feeling than having smooth transitions throughout your set, and it’s the same when working behind the bar—but in this case we’ll say, “throughout your shift.”

Batchers: Got a particularly interesting story about a hard night behind the bar?

Christian: I remember a time long before the pandemic started when I was just starting to feel more comfortable behind the bar. I was still in training mode and my afternoon shift began as any normal afternoon would. There were only two of us working that day: my manager and me. Without any warning, the restaurant filled up super fast and suddenly was packed. It was the first time I experienced the chaos of a huge rush while being understaffed. It was crazy, but it was an awesome experience. What stood out for me was that even though there was a constant rush, the two of us were able to move back and forth without missing a beat. It was an amazing combination of adrenaline and being completely present in our work.

Batchers: What is your favorite Litchfield Distillery spirit to work with?

Christian: My favorite Litchfield Distillery Spirit to work with is their Maple Bourbon. I enjoy my drinks on the sweeter side, and this Maple Bourbon has just the right amount of maple sweetness to it. It’s perfect for a classic Old Fashioned.

Batchers: What does The Spirit of Hard Work® mean to you?

Christian: To me, The Spirit of Hard Work means being inspired to create. When I’m creating a new cocktail, I’m bringing all my passion and perseverance to the table. The same goes for my music. I set out to pursue the best but know that greatness is an ideal. As much as we try to achieve it, there’s always room to be even better. Striving to create the best flavor combination, cocktail presentation, or mix between songs is what The Spirit of Hard Work means to me. It’s all about the pursuit of greatness and being willing to put in the hard work and time it takes to get there.

Christian’s featured cocktail is called Litchfield’s Not-So-Traditional Gin Gimlet. The fresh honeydew melon juice,  muddled cucumber and agave nectar add a really refreshing, earthy taste that’s not overly sweet. This will be especially refreshing when the spring and summer weather arrives soon!

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 oz Litchfield Distillery Gin
  • .75 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • .75 oz Honeydew Melon Juice** 
  • .50 oz Agave Nectar
  • 2 Slices of Cucumber
  • Garnish: Lime Slice and Tajin Classico Seasoning

Method: Muddle 2 cucumber slices in a shaker. Add gin, lime & honeydew juices, and agave nectar. Add a scoop or so of ice and shake hard for 20-30 seconds. Strain into rocks glass and add a couple cubes of ice. For garnish, take a lime wedge and sprinkle half with Tajin seasoning, place on the rim.

** Making honeydew melon juice: Peel the honeydew melon and remove the seeds and cut into pieces. Place into a blender or juicer, blend/liquefy the melon. Once the honeydew is fully blended, strain into a container. There will be a lot of pulp, so use a spoon to whisk.

Be sure to follow Christian on Instagram. Please follow Zaragoza online on their Website, Facebook or Instagram or stop by the restaurant located at 31 Bank Street, New Milford, CT. To learn more or to make a reservation, call 860-350-0701.

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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 info@litchfielddistillery.com.

© 2021 Litchfield Distillery. Photography & Editing Credits: Tony Vengrove

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