Community Is Everything: A Q&A With Bryan Boyce, Zarletti

Downtown Milwaukee’s Zarletti serves up inspiring fare in an elegant yet comfortable space. In addition to their extensive wine list and full bar, they also serve up an innovative selection of non-alcoholic cocktails designed to pair just as easily with the Northern Italian cuisine they’ve become known for. So when we received our first bottles of our Limited Release Gentiana Tonic, we knew immediately that we had to get some into the hands of Zarletti’s General Manager Bryan Boyce. His knowledge of classic Italian flavors and culture resulted in an incredible Non-Alcoholic Spritz.

Watch Bryan’s live Highballs at High Noon session on Instagram and be sure to stop into Zarletti for more non-alcoholic spritzers and incredible food.

Download the free highballs at high noon e-book here!
Bryan Boyce, Zarletti General Manager

Q: What was it that first got you into cocktails?

Bryan Boyce: I've been behind the bar since 1999. Having grown up in the Wisconsin Dells, I learned at a young age that cocktails are a big part of social norm. However, learning from a very seasoned bartender how to be efficient, work the crowd, and try to customize drinks to make guests feel involved was the turning point. From then on I was involved with building cocktail lists, learning classic drink recipes, and getting to know the trends.

Q: What new cocktail discoveries are you exploring right now?

BB: The "New - Old School"  is a trend of rediscovering and reimagining classic cocktails. With old vermouth recipes being revived and the quality of products becoming very popular, drinks have become elegant and complex.

Q: Why do you think people at home might be intimidated by making cocktails?

BB: The short answer is: the at-home bartender is crafting a drink to share with others. If the recipe isn't good, ingredients outdated, or a drink made too strong, the reaction is immediate. This might inhibit people from exploring new flavors. For instance, a family member saw that I had a Campari poster, so she bought a bottle thinking it was wine. After tasting the bitter Campari, she dumped it thinking it was corked!

Q: What are some of your favorite cocktails and/or mocktails to make at home?

BB: Boulevardier & whiskey neat for my wife and I are the most popular, currently.

Q: What do you take to a party?

BB: Always wine. Sparkling is always a hit. Sometimes Amaro.

Q: Where do you think the cocktail and bar industry is headed?

BB: It has become clear over the years that drinking and enjoying a bar are two different things. My hope is that more drinking establishments serve food and have fun pairing great food with their drinks. I have no problem drinking in a corner bar, but I always find myself wanting a bite to eat. In addition, the N/A sector is growing exponentially, and the public is demanding better quality.

Q: What has the pandemic taught you?

BB: Community is everything. Never hesitate to reach out to others for inspiration and support. We are resilient, and we can always find ways to serve guests better and find new customers. Relationships are so important.

Zarletti is open now for socially-distanced dine-in as well as curbside pickup. (Image credit: Zarletti Milwaukee)

Follow Zarletti on Instagram.

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