Zach Lombardo, a Cleveland native, has been at West Village newcomer Tremont for seven months. During his time bartending at the restaurant (51 Bank Street, 212-488-1019), the Randolph alum has tried to take advantage of the four seasons in designing cocktails. He talked to the Voice a bit about gin, juice, and hotness.
How did you become a cocktail bartender?
I started off as a barback at the Standard Hotel and Death and Company. That’s where I got my sea legs, if you want to call it that.
What would you say is key to bartending these days?
One of the big important things about the cocktail list is that you definitely want to have fresh-squeezed juices. It makes any drink a little better — actually 100 percent better. I see a lot of bars that have canned this and canned that. For a restaurant of this caliber, we’re going to give customers the best. It’s just putting a little bit more care into the drink that we actually provide.
What would you say is the “in” ingredient?
Anything that’s fresh-squeezed is a hot commodity. I try to use everything that we just have in the kitchen — I fresh-squeeze my own lime and lemon juice and fresh-squeeze my own orange juice. When you have something like that compared to what’s in a can it’s just awesome. A lot of bars are going that way. It’s not any particular ingredient on a hotness level, it’s just that anything that’s fresh-squeezed is pretty hot.
What’s one of the cocktails you’re mixing?
We have a really nice house Nolet’s negroni. It’s Nolet’s gin, Punt e Mes, sweet bitters, and grapefruit bitters, and we top it with a dash of grapefruit bitters, which makes it a real nice, refreshing gin bitter cocktail. It’s a real refreshing cocktail to have before your meal. It has a lot of aperitifs and digestifs in it, so it kind of opens up your palate for a good meal. We also do a lot of bucks. We have a spiced tequila buck with jalapeño, lime juice, and tequila. We muddle the lime, and we top it with Barritt’s Ginger Beer.
What got you interested in spirits?
I grew up in the Midwest, and I pretty much stuck with beer all the time. I always knew there was something better — something more crafted. So I did a little research, Googling cocktails, and I saw that there were better things.
Got a favorite beverage?
When I’m at work, I test the cocktails before I give them to anyone. On my days off, you will see me at the Standard with a light beer and a sipping bourbon, maybe a shot.
I’m a neat guy; maybe I wouldn’t say “shot.” I just recently bought a bottle of Bulleit rye, I should add. It has a nice warm spice to it.
What guides your bartending?
I consider myself a seasonal bartender — I like to work with what the weather permits. In the wintertime, you’re not going to find me with a lot of berries behind the bar. You’ll find me with a lot of cinnamon and cloves and hot butter for hot buttered rums.
Also: old-fashioneds, ryes. I just love to have really warmhearted cocktails, things that make people warm up. If you want a hot toddy, I have you covered on that.