What do you like to drink after a shift? “I’m a big fan of finishing the night with a glass of mineral-forward white wine or a nice cold gose.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? ““Purple Rain” by Prince.”
After all these years bartending and creating drinks, do you still enjoy going out to bars? “I always love going out and seeing what my colleagues are up to! It’s great way to experience drinking culture from a different perspective.”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “A Whiskey Sour with an egg white at The BarrelHouse Flat in Chicago.”
What book on cocktails or spirits is your go-to resource? “Definitely the Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock. I’m old school and it’s always fun to see how some of those cocktails stand up to the test of time and how they resonate with people in the modern-drinking age.”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “A gin French 75 and fish!”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “It’s a drink called the Magnus Maximus. Scotch, banana brandy, honey, ginger and Islay Scotch. Nothing too fancy but it was made for the first cocktail competition that I took first in. It really gave me a boost of confidence in my knowledge and ability to craft a drink and get others excited about it.”
Is there one person (dead or alive) you’d like to make a cocktail for? “Winston Churchill. I’m a big World War II nerd and Churchill was quite the drinker. That would give me plenty of time to ask questions!”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “High Life and Rittenhouse Rye.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “Got to have the gold Japanese jiggers because swag!”
Donavan Mitchem is the beverage director of Chicago establishments Moneygun and Saint Lou’s Assembly.
Interview has been condensed and edited.