Cody Cruz has a new gig. It’s one the now-experienced bartender has spent nearly 10 years working towards.
“My first job ever was at The Cove at age 16,” says Cruz. At 18, he was reading Karen MacNeil’s “Wine Bible.” By age 19, he claims to have been a “regular” at SOHO, ordering 20-year scotches. The trick to getting served? “You walk in wearing your restaurant uniform and order with confidence,” he says.
That early confidence only increased with a little more experience on both sides of the bar. During a stint in the Navy he’d go into NYC from Connecticut, where he was stationed (“I wanted to see the world but it didn’t work out that way,” he admits), to check out bars such as Momofuku’s iconic Booker and Dax. Back in SA, he spent some time at the late Lüke, apprenticed at The Brooklynite under Javi Gutierrez, then moved over to Park Social with David Naylor.
“David helped me develop for almost two years; that will always be a special place,” he says. Just before the closing of PS, Cruz parked himself at Frank’s St. Francis bar, where he was until last week. Thursday will be his first night behind the bar at Dorcol Distilling.
Cruz’s first contact with Kinsman, the apricot rakia made by Dorcol on South Flores, came at Lüke; at Park Social, he was familiar enough with it to develop the popular Clear Skies Ahead, pairing the clear spirit with clarified lime juice. In his new gig, where he follows in the footsteps of Nick Kenna and Valentino Lucio, “he’ll be in charge of creative and also involved in brand development,” says Dorcol partner Boyan Kalusevic. “I’ve always been intrigued by fermentation, the expressiveness of it all,” Cruz offers — a good thing as he’ll now live and breathe it. Literally.
“I’m familiar with pretty much everything on the current menu,” he adds. “I wouldn’t want to change Nick or Val’s classics, but we might retire some to make room for a few new things.” Think cobblers, something with a tiki twist, maybe a julep or two. He admits that working with a single spirit can appear to be a challenge, but prefers instead to think of it as “a built-in excuse” to do as much as you can with one thing and not too many modifiers. Change will come, but it will come slowly.
Realizing that there’s more to being a bartender than knowing spirits and recipes, and recognizing that he’ll become a prominent face of Dorcol both behind the bar and around town, Cruz willingly agreed to a change of a quicker and more personal nature — one made easier by the current relaxation of the formerly formulaic bartender get up of vest, expressive ‘stache and cap of some kind. The ‘tender can now feel free to tailor his look to the venue. The tattoos will stay, of course, as will the ear studs. The ball cap may go. But some hair was confidently shed for the cause, courtesy of Leland Stone, his classy tonsorial parlor at the Roosevelt Library, and creative barber Eric Gutierrez.
“My mom will be happy,” admitted the once wildly beardy Cruz. So will many of his patrons.