After graduating high school, Macao Trading Co. bartender Danilo Dacha Bozovic was on the lookout for any job he could get. It was only when he reflected on his encounter with a family friend and lifelong server in Finland that he began to consider the food and beverage world as an option. “I was deeply intrigued by his knowledge and life experience,” he says. “It struck me how amazing it was, for instance, that every drink had a special name and unique recipe — that stayed with me for a long time.” After six months of serving he stepped behind the bar and hasn’t left since. These days he can be found at Macao Trading Co., a Tribeca drinking den inspired in its cocktails and décor by 1930s Macao. If Dacha Bozovic isn’t there, check Miami — or the bookshelves: He’s a partner in the upcoming Florida location of Employees Only, and his book Barkeep recently hit stores as a modern guide to bartending and hospitality. Here, the Belgrade native chats about his favorite Campari pairing, the best night to tend bar, and the skillset he’s working on for 2016.
BoozeMenus: What’s the first thing you do when you start your shift?
Danilo Dacha Bozovic: I assess the bar and see how busy it is. By doing so I know how much time I have for arranging the elements behind the bar, and where to prioritize.
BM: What is an ingredient that you’ve really loved working with lately?
DDB: Lately I've been working a lot with coffee, strawberries and sage. They are amazing ingredients, and their possibilities are endless.
BM: What about a spirit?
DDB: Pisco is a great and interesting spirit. I have been working with Pisco a lot. One thing that I always play around with is Serbian Slivovitz, which is a plum brandy spirit from Serbia.
BM: Which cocktail on the menu has your name written all over it?
DDB: Madame Hong. You can find it on the menu at Macao Trading Co. There is something about strawberries and Campari that is a dream come true.
BM: What night of the week is your favorite to work?
DDB: I've started to be fond of Monday nights. They are fun and always filled with interesting stories from the weekend.
BM: Where’s the last place you found inspiration for a cocktail?
DDB: Mexico. Mexico has unbelievable ingredients and many very tasty cocktails. Maybe too many.
BM: Whose bar in the city do you love saddling up to?
DDB: I like going to Belle Reve, which is owned by one of the founders of Employees Only and Macao Trading Co., Billy Gilroy, as well as other members of the EO family. It is cool and relaxing, and they have my favorite dish in NYC: the Throb Salad.
BM: What’s something you hope to learn over the next year?
DDB: I would like to learn more about writing and publishing. I've always had a passion for it, but completing my first book Barkeep changed everything. I'm addicted, and I just need and want more.
BM: What cocktail tool could you never live without?
DDB: The mixing glass. We use it so much at Macao Trading Co. and Employees Only - without it I would be lost.
BM: What’s a piece of advice you would give to someone entering the bartending industry?
DDB: Find a good mentor and a bar you would love to be a part of to work and grow in. In time, money will come, but the foundation needs to be right.
By Nicole Schnitzler
(Photos from left: Interior by Srdan Kalinic; No Mames by Srdan Kalinic; Danilo Dacha Bozovic by Srdan Kalinic)