Behind The Bar ~ Trattoria Il Mulino

Trattoria Il Mulino head bartender Logan Ronkainen knows a thing or two about rising to the occasion. When he pursued a career as an executive chef in upstate New York and encountered an owner who didn’t know much about running a restaurant, he decided to take things into his own hands. “I did everything from setting up the bar and wine list, to training the front of house staff and running the kitchen,” he says. After reading up on all things cocktail and taking a few classes, he headed down to Manhattan for a gig at Goat Town in the East Village. Now at Trattoria Il Mulino, he runs a beverage program that focuses on incorporating the bar’s vast inventory of Italian Amaros, Vermouths and Aperitifs into classic cocktails. Here, the Michigan native discusses his penchant for two-ingredient cocktails, the low-ABV drink he’s loving, and where he’s been eating dessert for dinner.

BoozeMenus: What’s your approach behind the bar?

Logan Ronkainen: I like to keep things as simple as possible with focus on proper — yet practical — technique and quality of ingredients. I'm a big fan of two ingredient cocktails.

BM: What kind of research and development do you put into your cocktail list currently?

LR: The research and development aspect of our menu is moreso around culture and sources of our ingredients. I think simplicity is something that gets overlooked in the beverage world a lot of times. I think the story behind why and how you imbibe something can be just as important as the product itself. We are in the hospitality industry after all, and by definition, we need to provide an experience. I want the music to be your season's obsession, the person you sit next to be your next best friend, the lighting just dim enough to let loose but not bright enough to distract your senses, the glass to be cold and your fingers to smell like the orange peel garnish you just played with.

BM: What cocktail has your name and drinking style written all over it?

LR: Aperol Spritz! I can crush these like nobody’s business. I like to add a touch of fresh lemon juice to mine, which practically turns it into Kool-Aid.

BM: What's the last cocktail you created you were really proud of, and how long did it take to create?

LR: I try to create cocktail concepts more than specific cocktails. I think my favorite foundation is an Ill Daisy: a four-ingredient cocktail based off the foundation of a margarita that can be any spirit — vodka, gin, mezcal, grappa, etc. — any amaro, fresh citrus and a little simple syrup of some sort. Ill is a term we use at the bar to name a style of a classic cocktail that we incorporate amaro into. In the case of the Ill Daisy, we are replacing triple sec with amaro.

BM: Whose bar do you love sitting at in NYC?

LR: I find myself at Cosme, eating dessert for dinner, way more than I should. Their bar team is stellar, and the food is unbelievable. Simple, fresh, invigorating and — most importantly — fun!

BM: Where do you turn for inspiration?

LR: My peers. The bar community is so unbelievably supportive and helpful. One post on Facebook or through the United State Bartender Guild, and I have 100 new ideas bounced off the wall.

BM: What are you most looking forward to in summer?

LR: Climbing, beaching and rose. Not necessarily in that order.

BM: Where can you be found pre-shift? What about post-shift?

LR: Pre-shift: the office. Post-shift: the office! Kidding, but not really. I tend to try and hit the climbing gym with some friends before going to the bar, if I can. Post-shift I usually keep it low key — maybe pay a visit to some friends who are on the bar or BQ's GOING UP at Von bar on a Tuesday night — another creative and fun industry party with different themes every week.

BM: What cocktail book could you not live without?

LR: I don't believe in cocktail books, per se. If I’m in need of inspiration or in search of knowledge, I’ll research flavors, compound and culinary techniques or visit my friends and ask for advice. I often read online cocktail news or Chilled Magazine for industry related events and news.


By Nicole Schnitzler

(Photos courtesy of Trattoria Il Mulino | From Left: Vintage Testarosa Cocktail; Logan Ronkainen; Steam Punk Sour Cocktail)