026 – Christian Johnston, Cicchetti Bar at Tavola
What makes a good craft cocktail? What makes a bad one? I’ve been looking forward to *THIS* conversation for a while. I love cocktails, and many moons ago worked as a bartender. Lately though there are only mixologists and the bar resembles an apothecary with spices, oils, bitters, and tinctures prominently displayed. But do we really need artisanal ice? I’m talking with Christian Johnston of The Cicchetti Bar at Tavola to find out.
The Cicchetti Bar was created as a waiting room of sorts for Tavola restaurant. A place to sit and unwind while you wait for a table. It’s becoming so popular folks are using Cicchetti to wait for tables at nearby restaurants like Lampo. Or making it their primary destination.
Born in Jersey, raised in Charlottesville, Christian started out as a server but quickly discovered his place was in the kitchen. First at Mellow Mushroom then Boylan Heights where Chef Kelly Trip (of Restoration and Blue Light Grill) showed him how to care about ingredients, even if you’re creating a simple burger. This led Christian to work with Chef Justin Hershey at Zinc where he developed the palate needed to make himself a fantastic bartender. Circumstances let him to The Whiskey Jar then Blue Light where he met Micah Lemon the mixologist now creating ethereal nectars at The Alley Light. Micah mentored him and Christian started developing his own cocktails.
I wrote about bartending recently. How bars can become second homes if the bartender treats you right. If they look down their nose you might end up going somewhere else. We discuss this in depth. How it is the HOSPITALITY industry after all. Then we go into the flavor profiles of vodka, of which there are many believe it or not, and talk about his process for creating his peach-tea-infused Manhattan and his pink peppercorn gimlet which graced the cover of a recent C-VILLE Weekly. How was The Spice Diva involved? Why is vermouth having a resurgence? What’s his favorite cocktail? All this and more in this episode.
Christian took me to cocktail school and I’m so appreciative! Learned about cordials, shrubs, absinthe as an ingredient, and why vermouth needs to be refrigerated. Whoops! I loved this conversation and hope you do too. And Christian? Remind me to order a Corpse Reviver #2 next time I see you…
This episode is sponsored by In A Flash Laser Engraving.
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