Beginning this week, Zócalo Food Park, 636 S. 6th St., has opened up its tavern to a brand new collaboration, which will showcase the talents of mixologists across the city, as well as offer guests creative new drinks to enjoy with their choice of delicious fare from resident food trucks including Anytime Arepa, Hot Box Pizza, Mazorca, Modern Maki, Ruby’s Bagels and Triciclo Peru.
That’s thanks to a new Mixologist in Residence program, the tavern will feature three new cocktails every month, created by one of Milwaukee’s many innovative bartenders.
Community through collaboration
“When we founded Zócalo, the goal was to build a community of food entrepreneurs,” says co-founder Sean Phelan. “But that’s naturally flowed into collaborations with so many different people. And we are always looking for ways to expand the ways that we collaborate, whether it’s with organizations, musicians, artists or other entrepreneurs.”
Co-founder and Mazorco owner Jesus Gonzalez agrees.
“Our purpose at Zocalo is to constantly collaborate and share our space,” he says. “In 2020, we collaborated with John Dye to present his Tom & Jerry pop-up, and continued working with him in 2021 for our Armonia pop-up. And we wanted those types of creative collaborations to continue. So we put our heads together to think of ways to get others to come to our space and use it as their lab.”
Each month a new Mixologist in Residence will be chosen to create three new cocktails, which will be served exclusively at Zócalo for a month’s time.
“Part of the goal for this is supporting mixologists in their craft,” says Gonzalez, “So there will be a revenue share that goes back to the cocktail creator for each drink that’s purchased.”
March Mixologist: Brandon Reyes
The first Mixologist in Residence will be Brandon Reyes, an accomplished artist who studied at MIAD and a cocktail expert whose astute palate earned him a role in research and development for Bittercube and co-owner of the Heirloom liqueurs brand.
He is also the talent behind 1-800-Cocktails, a nascent fashion brand geared toward industry professionals.
“I was very interested in the idea of designing a cocktail for another venue that would be executed by someone else,” says Reyes. “It really challenged me to get my brain out of the Bittercube Bazaar and design cocktails that match the vibe at Zócalo, are easy to execute and really deliver on the expectation a person has when they drink at that bar.”
Reyes says that meant taking a look at the food offerings at the park and thinking about how those foods might pair with the cocktails he was creating.
Ultimately, he came up with three simple drinks that reflect his style, but are also fitting for the casual, South Side food park.
- Greendog (apple brandy, tequila blanco, lime, agave nectar, olive brine, orange bitters): "Have you ever wondered what would happen if a Margarita and an Appletini were fused together? Probably not, but now you’ll never have to." Drink features grassy herbal notes balanced with fruit, citrus and a little salt.
- Stunt Pilot (purple gin, lemon, creme de flora, maraschino liqueur, seltzer): "This cocktail tastes like a summer breeze, but don’t be fooled, it clocks in at Mach 3 speed. After a couple of these you’ll believe you can fly." The Stunt Pilot is floral, citrusy, fresh, clean and “too easy” to drink.
- Diablito (funky rum, Alchermes Liqueur, Lime, coconut water, Disco Inferno): "All the elements for a great hangover cure." In this creation, light and tropical notes flirt with a spicy, slow burning heat.
“We are definitely excited to feature Brandon [Reyes] as our first Zócalo Mixologist in Residence,” says Gonzalez. “He is not only an amazing character, he’s an artist, both literally and in terms of how he approaches cocktails.”
Reyes’ cocktails will be featured at the tavern through the end of March. Guests can enjoy the new creations at the bar, outdoors on open air picnic tables or in the food park’s greenhouses, which are available to reserve for a minimal fee.
The Zocalo Tavern is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 to 10 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. View their website for specific food truck hours, to purchase swag and get information about upcoming events.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.