Centrally located in downtown New Haven, Zinc Restaurant offers an innovative, locally-sourced and globally driven menu. Since opening their doors in 1999, has become a favorite spot in the growing New Haven food and craft cocktail scene. We recently had the opportunity to meet with bartender Sean D’Addio who has been bartending for nearly six years at Zinc. Sean is a big fan of our Straight Bourbon Whiskey and he built us a spectacular cocktail he calls The Birch Tree. Read on to get the recipe and to learn more about Sean’s Spirit of Hard Work.
Batchers: What is your official role at Zinc?
Sean: I serve as a Manager and the Bartender at Zinc New Haven.
Batchers: How long have you been slinging behind the bar? How did you get your start?
Sean: I’ve been slinging drinks for almost 20 years, on and off. I have been working at Zinc for almost six years. My start came at a young age working as a bar back. I was thrown into the fire one night at a flare bar and learned while doing. The owner saw me setting up for the evening and asked if I was a bartender there. I said no. He replied, “well you are now!” The rest is history.
When I started at Zinc, I worked alongside a talented and established bartender who ended up leaving a few months later. Afterwards, my role continued to grow and we’ve enjoyed a great partnership ever since.
Batchers: How did Zinc innovate to serve its customers during the pandemic?
Sean: Honestly, I could not be more proud to work for a place that cares so much about their clientele and community. Zinc gave back to the workers on the front lines by providing meals during the height of the pandemic. They constantly communicated with our employees to keep us informed and up to speed, even if there wasn’t much new information to share. For our loyal customers, the owners, management, and talented kitchen staff, offered what we called, “family meals.” Zinc took orders on Wednesdays and Thursdays, then the kitchen prepared everything for a Friday or Saturday for pick up and included instructions to cook and finish at home. It was a really nice way for us to be there for our customers during such a difficult time and provide a quality experience for them. We could not exist without our loyal and wonderful customers, which is why we treat them like family. We didn’t want to let them down. Also, with the new liquor regulations that were put into place, we were able to serve “cocktails to-go,” which was a great way to keep our craft cocktails in the mix.
Batchers: Do you have a particular creative process or philosophy you follow when experimenting with new drinks?
Sean: We try to provide a variety of different flavors and liquors that are not always your run-of-the-mill products. My personal process is to start with a base liquor and look at the products I have behind the bar. Then, I brainstorm what flavors would complement that base spirit and then begin to build the drink.
Batchers: What advice do you have for folks looking to improve their craft cocktail skills at home?
Sean: Over the course of my career, I generally give folks the same two pieces of advice: 1) Go outside your comfort zone and try things you might not normally drink. For example, I have never been a big fan of gin, but I appreciate what it brings to a cocktail. 2) Have fun, if you’re not having fun doing it, what is the point?
Batchers: Got a great story about a hard night behind the bar?
Sean: Getting slammed with multiple cocktails and customers at once is always the sign of a difficult night. But, it pales in comparison to finding out a regular customer and friend passed away too soon. The relationships you build in this industry are truly a blessing. Finding out one has moved on from this earth is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, this happened recently and it still weighs on me. It is an honor to serve and meet wonderful people. I am lucky to have that opportunity because I work at a place that considers their customers family.
Batchers: What is your favorite Litchfield Distillery spirit to work with?
Sean: Their four-year Straight Bourbon is great. It has quite a few hardy and spiced notes along with a nice bite on the finish. This makes it a very versatile spirit for a host of craft cocktails.
Batchers: What does The Spirit of Hard Work® mean to you?
Sean: Everything. There is no person on earth who can become great without a great work ethic. You earn everything you receive. I am truly grateful to work in a place where this philosophy is prevalent on a daily basis.
Sean’s featured cocktail is called The Birch Tree. The cocktail showcases our Straight Bourbon Whiskey and is a wonderful mix of complex flavors in perfect balance. We think it’s a perfect drink to enjoy during the Fall and upcoming holiday season.
- 2.0 oz Litchfield Distillery Straight Bourbon
- 0.50 oz New Leaf Maple Birch Syrup
- 0.50 oz Contratto Vermouth Bianco
- 0.50 oz Bonal Aperitif
- 0.50 oz Neversink Apple Brandy
- 2 Dashes Bitter Truth Bitters
- Orange Garnish
Method: Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir gently. Strain into a couple glass and garnish with orange.
Sean was kind enough to offer to make us a second cocktail. Of course, we took him up on his offer. Here’s his recipe for the Cherry Blossom — another cocktail built with our Straight Bourbon Whiskey. It’s a fantastic drink!
Sean invites you to follow him on Instagram. Be sure to follow Zinc on their Website and on Facebook or Instagram. The restaurant is located at 964 Chapel Street in New Haven. To contact or make a reservation please call (203) 624-0507.
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.
© 2021 Litchfield Distillery. Photography & Editing Credits: Tony Vengrove