While picking up a few shifts at the legendary (and now departed and sorely missed) Del Rio Bar, Zack Zavisa found his higher calling: sustaining thirsty Ann Arborites, one perfect cocktail at a time. Now as lead barman at The Ravens Club, past the mini museum of bar tools, between the moody bartop lamps and the handsome barback mirror, Zavisa answers his calling, serving up first-rate classics, mixing regional spirits, and doing some seriously delicious things with raw eggs.
What’s your favorite Ann Arbor bar (other than TRC)?
Without a doubt, the bar at 327 braun court. Everything there, as far as quality goes, is on par with or trumps any bar program around, period. But its the bar’s personality that sells me. It can be hard to find a bar these days that isn’t a conceptual model of something or a place that doesn’t play on a theme. 327 is a reflection of the people who spend time there and the folks who work at the place. And by the look and feel of the space, they’re totally rad folks.
What’s the most underrated spirit?
Three years ago I would have said something like Benedictine. Two years ago I would have said Laird’s Apple Brandy. One year ago, maybe Averna. But these days, the public’s product knowledge and spirit awareness are at an all time high. Right now I’m into something that has gone by the wayside a little bit: Amaretto. You really don’t see it on many menus in cocktail bars, but its a guilty pleasure of mine. Try an Amaretto Sour with equal parts Bonded Whiskey and you might agree with me.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever seen happen
in a bar?
I’ve been working behind bars for well over ten years now, and certainly you get to observe lots of, say, obscure and different behaviors on every level of legality and comfort. That kind of stuff gets lumped together and goes to a dark private place that really needs no attention, just a part of the job I guess. I love what I do and the craziest thing I’ve seen (positive stuff here, people) is, by far, Wynton Marsalis strolling in The Ravens Club one Sunday night and joining the Heather Black Project for a 50 minute set. I couldn’t have been more proud of and excited for my friends who went note for note with the Jazz legend.
What’s your preferred hangover cure?
My dogs, my couch, windows open and the Tigers on a Sunday day game… and a Tigers win, if I can have it all my way.
What is everyone ordering at TRC these days?
We sell a ton of Old Fashioneds—six cases worth of whiskey a week. From 5-6pm you can get one for $4, a gin and housemade tonic, too. While its always that Old Fashioned time of year at TRC, gin season is upon us now, and Gin and Tonic is definitely suggested and ordered… and reordered.