Beverage Media
August 2013
The Beverage NeTwork:
At first
you were skeptical of Tales of the
Cocktail, but it turned out to be
transformative. What did you learn?
STeve CarpeNTieri:
I found out we
were never going to be able to rebrand
ourselves, because I didn’t want to stop
being who we are; we are Dunville’s. We
felt that the cocktail program was a great
way of not reinventing ourselves, but put-
ting a little polish on to hopefully attract
new people who wouldn’t just want to go
to the corner bar.
So how did you successfully
implement a craft cocktail program
among a rum-and-Coke clientele?
We didn’t change anything. I love
people who order a beer and a tequila
shot. Most important is knowing our cus-
tomers. At the Employees Only and PDTs
of the world, all the drinks are amazing—
and which in my neighborhood no one
would order. We always served cocktails,
but now that we are progressive—actu-
ally using fresh ingredients, making our
own lime and lemon juices and simple
syrup, infusing drinks with spices and
growing herbs in our garden—people
are taking notice.
What are some of the cocktails that
have made a splash with customers?
Most local bars don’t make fresh
margaritas. They pour the tequila, add
the sour mix and Rose’s lime juice and
shake it up. That’s something we can
very easily improve upon. I use Milagro
Tequila infused with Solerno [blood or-
ange liqueur], fresh lime juice and simple
syrup. When I make it the old way and
the new way side-by-side, customers
taste the difference. We’re also making
a cucumber and mint limeade with Hen-
drick’s Gin, fresh simple syrup and lime
juice, muddling fresh mint and topping it
off with club soda.
Was it a time-consuming adjust-
ment from your normal rhythm?
It does slow you down a bit while
you’re learning. Now I’m back there on a
Friday night and when someone orders a
craft cocktail I have no problem. I didn’t
want to scare my staff with five-ingredient
drinks and a blowtorch, and I wanted to
keep it basic for our clientele. I don’t think
our bar will have more than six or seven
cocktails on the menu. We’re a small
place and a couple of classics—like a
Sazerac and a Manhattan—along with
some original drinks are perfect for us.
How did your experience in the
film change your perception of the
I’ve been going to different screen-
ings of the movie, and it’s been interesting
to go around the country and see different
cocktail cultures—where it’s thriving and
where it’s in its embryonic stages. Cocktail
lists are everywhere, even the chains. You
walk into a LongHorn Steakhouse or TGI-
Fridays and they actually have a menu. It’s
only a matter of time before they hit Corner
Bar USA. I was guilty four or five years ago
of going to a place and looking at the drink
menu and saying it’s great, and getting a
beer. Now I try something. It’s an opportu-
nity for the bartender to practice his craft.
What is one lesson you learned
while embracing this new approach?
Hospitality is key to our success. We
have a fantastic staff. You’re as good as
the people you have around you, and if
they’re right they are going to attract the
right people and loyalty. The bar is the un-
official town hall and the bartender could
be the mayor. We’re lucky because Dun-
ville’s is white collar and blue collar. We
have no rules; we’re just ladies and gentle-
men. Bartenders have the ability to change
someone’s day and that’s not something
to take lightly; that’s a responsibility.
A Corner Bar Gets Crafty
Steve Carpentieri, Dunville’s,
Westport, Connecticut
By AliA AkkAm
mong the bright spots of
Douglas Tirola’s documentary
Hey Bartender
is getting to
know one of its protagonists, Steve
Carpentieri, the longtime owner of
inviting, low-key Westport, CT, restau-
rant and bar Dunville’s. After a fateful
first trip to Tales of the Cocktail in
2011, “Carpi,” as he’s affectionately
known, decided to add craft cocktails
to the neighborhood institution—all
the while ensuring his loyal custom-
ers continued to feel at ease.
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