At the end of last year (2017) we scoured the state, looking for the bartenders that Connecticut residents think are the absolute best.

A study published by a few years back says that the Nutmeg State has been listed as having a whole bunch of drinking establishments per capita — one bar for every 11,225 people. That’s a lot of places to throw ’em back, so naturally, the responses were tremendous, resulting in over 10,000 submissions.

We've narrowed the submissions down to the people who received the most votes, and now it's time to meet the top five bartenders according to the people of Connecticut. These five drink-slingers are at the top of their game, and the patrons agree.

Congrats to all who've were nominated, and each of the top five bartenders will receive a commemorative plaque courtesy of and Crown Trophies in Brookfield.

Let's meet the five bartenders who received the most votes as they tell us a bit about themselves and their craft:

  • 1

    Jim Purdy

    O'Connor's Public House - Brookfield

    If you look through history, anybody who has ever won anything or achieved anything has been surrounded by a great team.

    Whether it be a commander in war surrounded by soldiers or an athlete surrounded by their team or coaches, you can become good on your own, but in order to achieve greatness, you must be surrounded by a great support system or team. This is my second year making it onto this list and none of it would even be possible without the team that surrounds me.

    I want to thank Chelsea O'Connor, Gwen Banta and Sam Pool. If I didn't work with these great people, work wouldn't be as fun as it is. I especially would like to thank my wife, Alex, who splits the duties with me of running the restaurant/bar, as well as doing so much more at home raising our daughter. This has been a great year for me from the birth of our daughter to now making it back onto this list. I would also like to thank all of our regulars who are more than just my regulars, they are part of our family, and we are lucky to have them as part of our lives.

    So come on down and check us out any day the week at 317 Federal Rd. in Brookfield Connecticut, with weekly specials and the tap list of 23 beers always rotating and become a part of this great family that we have.

  • 2

    Christine Short

    Zaragoza - New Milford

    My passion for food and drink was inspired at a young age by my Grandmother, Rosemarie. I grew up cooking beside her on her 1970s avocado green double oven stove with my Great Grandmother's cookware. She owned a restaurant called The Harvest Moon and was a Pastry Chef. She taught me the basics I needed to get my foot in the door of the food service industry, with a cake decorating degree obtained from under her dining room table.

    The first time I wore a Chef's coat was when I was 15-years-old as a Cake Decorator, and shortly after was written about in the small town Pawling, NY newspaper as a young Chef.

    I have a degree in Commercial Art and Advertising Design, that has become very useful in areas of plating, drink garnish, and pastry arts. I expanded my knowledge in the restaurant Industry as a fry cook, slowly moving my way up the line behind the pass, until I was old enough to get behind the bar, and serve alcohol. For most of my 14-year career, my time has been split equally between the kitchen and bar. I became the Sous Chef at Gifford's Restaurant Kent CT, under Chef James Neunzig and Michael Moriarty. It was here that I retained my knowledge of food and wine pairing along side Chef Matthew Jones. Cooking with different alcohols, given the leeway to experiment with molecular gastromomy, resulted in expanding my experience as a mixologist and Chef. I competed in the Kent CT Gingerbread House Festival and won second place with a to scale 6'x4' gingerbread house replica of Gifford's restaurant. I decided to round out my experience by finding a full time bartending job, landing a part time gig at Zaragoza Restaurant, New Milford, CT. Part time hours were supplemented by kitchen hours, and before long I was a full time team member behind the bar 5 days a week and trained to cook the entire tapas menu including desserts and holiday dessert specials. I worked with Chef Ruper Cardenas, and Owners Artie Praino and Bill Hart to over time pair my knowledge of cooking and pastry arts with Zaragoza's Craft Cocktails. At Zaragoza I was given the support to develop new ideas and the encouragement to broaden my professional horizons. I competed in The Litchfielder cocktail competition hosted by Litchfield Distillery and was awarded the first ever Distillers Award for my work. Frequently, I utilize local hand made ingredients in my signature cocktails served at Zaragoza, from TwinStar Community Apothecary in New Milford CT. Tinctures, Elixirs and locally sourced flowers and herbs from TwinStar are commonplace in my recipes. I am a proud member of The United States Bartending Guild, which has enabled me to gain more accreditation and certifications. I believe that a large part of my success is not only due to diligence, consistency and hard work, but also to impeccable customer service, customer relations, innovative resiliency in problem solving and a team oriented work environment where every employee is family.

    I am honored to serve my clients and look forward to sharing my passion with you at Zaragoza Restaurant in the future!

  • 3

    Darlene Reza

    Colosseo Bar and Ristorante

    I have had the pleasure of experiencing many different careers. From service writing to mortgage underwriting, I have to say that bartending and managing bars over the past six years has been most rewarding on so many levels.

    Throughout the years, I have seen and experienced a wide variety of events some you would have to see to believe. I am truly lucky to have established relationships with so many of my patrons who I consider family. Together, we have shared several happy hours, holidays, and organized charity golf outings. I am grateful for each and every one of them, and the establishments along the way that have given me the opportunity to help develop a higher profit margin and better bar scene for them. Within each of these places I have met amazing individuals who are now forever friends.

    I pride myself on the great service I provide and good food we have to offer, but my passion as a bartender, hands down, is the relationships I have forged with my patrons. So here is to you all! Without you, this recognition would not be posssible. Cheers!


  • 4

    Jen Sar

    Square One Bar & Grill - Danbury

    I have been in the restaurant industry for almost 14 years. I started out as a server at the former Marcus Dairy diner, which is now transformed into a plaza.

    My first bartending experience was at ‪Panchos and Gringos in Brookfield, Connecticut. I got the job through a friend who knew the owner. After ‪Panchos, I ended up down the road at the Table Restaurant, and quickly made my way to Mill Plain Road in Danbury, where all the action was.

    I bounced around a couple of different locations, but as soon as I was hired at Square One, the rest was history. I started at Square a few months after they opened and ended up staying there the longest — a duration of three years.

    Wanting a change in scenery, I moved to Brooklyn, New York, where I opened a small Vietnamese restaurant in Bushwick. After a couple of years, I decided that New York just wasn’t for me. I moved back to Danbury and needed to get back into a social atmosphere. What better way, than to start where I left off. My home away from home, Square One.

    My thoughts about bartending: I can honestly say that bartending has been such an amazing experience for me. It taught me so much the past 14 years. It taught me to open up to people, to be kind, friendly, funny, sarcastic, etc. It has helped me grow as an individual. I used to be very shy growing up, but becoming a bartender, I was forced to interact with people on a daily basis. Coworkers became family, and customers became friends. It is a great way to interact and to become social with the world around you.

  • 5

    Lizz Cortinhas

    Lancers Cafe - Bridgeport

    Hi Everyone! I'm currently tending bar at Lancers Café in Bridgeport. It's funny how I got into bartending. I purchased a vehicle from a friend, and we had a minor issue with paperwork, so I showed up at the bar he owned. I walk in, and he asks me to watch the bar for him while he picked up his kids from school, because the day person recently quit. I had never poured a drink in my life, but it was a great start, and I've tended bar on/off ever since.

    Thoughts on bartending: It's a good gig provided that you have a thick skin. You have to know when to be deaf and when to be blind. Oh, the stories we could tell!


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