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Behind the Bar: Summer cocktails with Venturi

Flavor 574 is sitting down with bartenders across Michiana for secrets to the best drinks of the season. Next up is Venturi, Goshen’s famed Neapolitan pizza restaurant.

For Troy Pippenger, it all goes back to a bottle of Campari. Before he opened Venturi, 123 E. Lincoln in Goshen, with Justin Venturi and Eric Kanagy in 2011, his interest in cocktails was slim. But a bottle of Campari that Justin brought in to the restaurant changed Pippenger’s mind; he became “completely obsessed” with the art of drink-making.

Pippenger has served as primary bartender ever since. Though Venturi now has several other bartenders as well, Pippenger creates and manages the drink menu. There are 19 original cocktails all year round, as well as two seasonal ones. Most drinks run $7-10.

“Our drinks follow the Italian philosophy,” Pippenger said. “It’s about simple, fresh ingredients. That makes all the difference in the world.”

Featured summer cocktail:

Rhubarb Collins

  • 1 to 2 dashes of rhubarb bitters
  • ¾ ounces lemon juice
  • 1 ounce rhubarb hop syrup
  • 1½ ounces Bombay Sapphire gin
  • Top with club soda


“It’s a great variation on the Tom Collins,” Pippenger said. “The drink has a cleaner, fresher flavor.”  

The secret to a perfect cocktail: Quality ingredients and technique are the secrets to a really good cocktail. So many bartenders go for the flashy or fancy or what will draw attention. We try to make drinks that others will find palatable; it’s not just about us. It’s about the flavor first, and sticking to the classics. I tend to avoid vodkas because I think there’s no flavor to them.

For summer in a glass: Any fresh fruit is good for summer. We also have a few variations on the mojito, such as the Massa Mojito made with Limoncello or the Campari Mojito invented by Eric [Kanagy] when we first opened. Campari stands in for rum with lime juice and fresh mint.

The best perk of being a bartender: I’ve really gotten into barrel cocktails and spirit-forward drinks. We do an oak barrel-aging process in the back room, and age a three-liter batch of cocktails at a time. There’s a Negroni with gin, Campari and sweet vermouth – that ages between three to eight weeks. The gin adds an oakiness and softens the edges. You know it’s finished by taste.

What you wish you didn’t have to deal with: We have a small bar and it can be stressful when you have lots of customers who all want drinks at the same time. There’s sometimes long and late hours. 

What most people don’t know about bartending: I think a lot of people think it’s glamorous. They think everything’s a party or you get all the dates, but it’s not. But I enjoy coming up with the drinks, crafting and making cocktails.

Venturi is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 4 to 7 p.m.

Did you miss our last Behind the Bar? See what The Mark Dine & Tap had to say about summer cocktails.

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