Downtown Fort Wayne’s Bartender Spotlight: Alyssa Torres of Copper Spoon

Fort Wayne is home to a budding craft cocktail scene—with local bartenders competing in (and winning) contests on the national level. In this series, I’ll be highlighting some of the bartenders who are making a splash, and who have helped put Downtown Fort Wayne on the mixology map.  

Meet Alyssa Torres of Copper Spoon!

Molly: Tell me about the beginning. What drew you to the world of artisanal cocktails? 


Alyssa: I’m from Indiana and grew up about an hour from Fort Wayne. I started in the restaurant industry as a busser when I was 15, and I’ve never left the industry since. I worked my way up through pretty much every front-of-house position there is, up until becoming a bartender. 


Right after high school, I moved to San Diego. I was there for about three and a half years, and that’s where I started bartending—literally the day I turned 21. I had been badgering my boss to let me in the bar, so when I was 20 he gave me homework: to spend the next year learning everything I could about classic cocktails and bartending. So I just started gleaning a bunch of information, hanging out with the bartenders at work, and then when I turned 21, I was ready to start bartending. 


I was lucky because the bartending style there and the bartending scene in San Diego were really craft cocktail-focused—like with most big cities. I never had to work in a dive bar; I was able to train somewhere that was already advanced. That made the transition to Copper Spoon easy, being one of the places in Fort Wayne that’s also really craft cocktail-focused. It was a good fit.


Molly: Can you describe your personal style when it comes to mixology? Are there any flavors you gravitate towards?


Alyssa: I definitely gravitate towards the unexpected. For example, for last summer’s house cocktail menu, I did a cocktail with rum that was fat washed with goat cheese and mixed with tomato, red pepper, and lemon shrub. I tend to try weird stuff like that. 

For the upcoming menu, I’m planning on doing something with seaweed, togarashi, furikake and a dry vermouth. As I progress and play around with more advanced techniques, I’m branching out into different textures and, hopefully, I’ll get to do some spherification, which creates a little ball that pops in your mouth when you drink the cocktail. 


As far as Copper Spoon’s bar program goes, we have 100 or so classics that we’ll always have. And those are delicious, but less on the adventurous side. So that’s why I like to get as experimental as possible with the house cocktails. We’ll always have the classics that we know will sell and people will like, so there’s no risk of alienating anyone by trying something new, even if it might not be for everyone. 


That’s my style right now—pushing myself to do things that are unexpected and uncommon. 


Molly: What, in your opinion, makes for a well crafted cocktail?


Alyssa: To me, a well crafted cocktail is really balanced. There are definitely all kinds of cocktails—dry, sweet, sour. A cocktail should be anything you want it to be, you know? But even if you like a sweet cocktail, you still want it to be balanced with other tastes, otherwise it’s just going to be overly sweet and syrupy. 


Everyone’s palate is different, and something I like might not be something you like. But if you have a cocktail that is well-balanced, then no matter your preference of sweet, sour, or dry, it’s going to be more palatable for more people. 


Molly: What’s your favorite spirit right now and why?


Alyssa: I’m going to say two because I can’t pick just one. I really love rum right now—I’ve actually always loved rum. At this bar, we have so many products to taste and experiment with. And what I’ve really come to love about rum is that there’s so much history behind it, and there are so many styles of making it based on geographical location. Rum can be so many different things, with a lot of variation in flavor. 


I also find myself gravitating towards mezcal right now. I love the smoke, but also the high salinity and gravel notes. Like rum, mezcal also has a lot of history behind it. 


The history, all the fun stories, and the terroir (the way environment and farming practices affect flavor) make both mezcal and rum super interesting to me.


Molly: Which spirit do you think is most underrated and why?  


Alyssa: Ooh, I’m going to say the most underrated spirits are pisco (Quechua for “bird”: pees-koh) and cachaça (Brazilian Portuguese: ka-SHA-sa). 


Pisco is so delicious. It’s fruity and bright, but still has a nice dryness to it that allows it to taste great in so many different cocktails.


And caipirinha (Brazilian Portuguese: kai-pee-reen-yah) is one of my go-to cocktails that will never get old. Cachaça is the main spirit in that. 


I think we might be the only bar in town that carries both pisco and cachaça, and I would love to see more of them on menus.


Molly: What’s the most unique or most memorable cocktail you’ve ever tasted, and what about it made it stand out?


Alyssa: I can’t think of any off the top of my head that are crazy unique, but I can think of cocktails that stuck with me over the years. When I first started going to cool new bars back when I was barely 21, I remember thinking, “Wow, this is what drinking can be. Drinks can taste really good.”


Two cocktails come to mind, both from when I lived in San Diego. One was at this hip bar called The Sycamore Den, where everything was dimly lit, woody, and warm. They had a popcorn machine there because they always offered free popcorn. Well, they used the popcorn butter-salt mixture in their house old fashioned. It wasn’t super advanced, but it was so good. It wasn’t overly salty, fatty or sweet, just really well balanced. That drink sticks with me because it was one of the first times I recall being surprised by a flavor combination. I would have never thought to put popcorn in a spirit-forward cocktail like an old fashioned, but it worked really well.


The other cocktail that stands out to me is this beet cocktail I had at a speakeasy. It was sweeter, beet-based, and spirit-heavy with a spicy togarashi rim. It was surprising that I loved it so much because I hate beets. This drink was just so well balanced. It was sweet, spicy, and vegetal, and it sticks with me to this day because it transformed a vegetable I hate into something I really liked. I think about that cocktail often.


I wish that I could have both those cocktails again, but I’m sure neither of the bars still make them. So now they just live in my memory, and there’s a lot of beauty in that. 


Molly: When you have a night off, where are some of your favorite cocktail spots? And what do you order? 


Alyssa: What I’m ordering depends on where I am. Even though Fort Wayne has come a long way in terms of craft cocktails, there still aren’t a lot of places doing advanced cocktails. So I have a small handful of places I go for a nice drink. 


I love going to Mercado, and there, I’m definitely getting something with mezcal. I might try a pour of something I’ve never had. I’m also really big into ordering house cocktails at my trusted places. It’s fun to see what different people come up with. Even using the same ingredients, different bartenders have different takes, and I would trust any of the bartenders at Mercado to come up with an awesome house cocktail.


Another favorite of mine is Penny Drip, where I definitely go with a coffee-based cocktail, like an espresso martini. But again, I trust them. So if they tell me to try any of their house cocktails, I’ll try it. I’ll try anything once, you know? 


I’m very excited about Be Better Hospitality’s new spot on The Landing. It’s not open yet, but I can already tell I’m going to frequent it. 


Since we work late here, most places are closed by the time we’re off. So when I’m looking for a late night spot, I go to Henry’s. There, I order something simple—beer, a shot, or a gin and tonic. 


So short answer, if I’m somewhere that does craft cocktails, I try something experimental from their house menu. If I’m out at a regular bar or restaurant, then that’s a “beer, shot, or gin and tonic” situation. 


Molly: What are some of your favorite cocktails on Copper Spoon’s menu right now?


Alyssa: One of my favorites this season is from my co-worker Kris. He made a cocktail called “the pear necessities” which has mezcal, chartreuse, pear brandy and a bunch of other stuff. It’s extremely spirit-forward, but it’s still super fruity and juicy. It’s really refreshing and aromatic. It’s heavy on the pear. He did such a great job with it. It’s strong and refreshing, which is hard to pull off. 


On our classic cocktails menu, I really like this cocktail called the Chartreuse swizzle. It has Chartreuse, pineapple, lime and falernum. It’s on the sweeter side, but has a bit of heat behind it from the Chartreuse. It’s herbaceous, tropical, and even has some spicy clove notes. I love it and try to push it onto everyone. I get that not everyone loves Chartreuse, but everyone should try this drink. Chartreuse is another spirit that’s underrated, for sure.  


Molly: You’ve shared one of your personal recipes (below), so that readers can experiment at home. What‘s special about this recipe to you, and why should people try it?


Yeah! Espresso martinis are really having a huge moment right now. We make so many of them at Copper Spoon. They’re all over the internet. They are definitely one of the most popular cocktails in existence right now. They’re having this renaissance. 


Typically espresso martinis are vodka based, and at Copper Spoon, people are always asking for vodka drinks. So I wanted to make an espresso martini riff that’s hopefully going to encourage people to try other spirits, other than vodka, that they normally wouldn’t drink. I love mezcal, and even though it’s really in right now, it’s still one of our least-ordered spirits. So I wanted to make something approachable and familiar, like an espresso martini, but with a mezcal base to try to help people to branch out a bit. 


My partner works at Utopian Coffee, and a while ago, he had the idea to make a citrusy coffee drink. I took his idea and made a spirited drink. I actually pitched it for last summer’s menu. We all tried it and figured it would fit better in a fall or winter menu. It also had a few kinks in it, so it wasn’t quite ready. I took some time to play with it, and it evolved into the cozy, smoky cocktail that’s on our house menu now (through February). I hope you enjoy it!


Alyssa Torres’ Midnight in Oaxaca 

2 oz Mezcal (We’re using Verde Momento) 

1/4 oz Orange Juice

3/4 oz Tawny Port (We’re using Quinta de la Rosa) 

3/4 oz Burnt Orange Syrup (recipe below)

2 dashes Orange Bitters

1 tsp Instant Espresso or Coffee Powder (We’re using Trader Joe’s Instant Cold Brew)

Burnt Orange Syrup

  1. Halve your oranges and grill them until they have a nice char on the cut side. 
  2. Once cooled, juice the oranges. 
  3. Combine the orange juice and sugar in equal parts by weight, and heat on the stove until combined and homogeneous.
  4. Done and ready-to-use once cooled!

Molly Conner is a Fort Wayne native and freelance writer. Having lived in Downtown Fort Wayne throughout her twenties, she loves watching her stomping grounds grow. With her love of storytelling and community in tow, she’s eager to tell Downtown Fort Wayne’s story piece-by-piece—exploring the people, spaces, and organizations that make it thrive.