Downtown Fort Wayne’s Bartender Spotlight: Jeorgia Fortney of Penny Drip

Fort Wayne is home to a budding craft cocktail scene—with local bartenders and establishments getting recognition on the national level. In this series, we’ll be highlighting some of the bartenders who are making a splash, and who have helped put Downtown Fort Wayne on the mixology map.  


Most recently, local favorite Penny Drip was a top honoree for The Spirited Awards’ ‘Best New US Bar’. And one of Penny Drip’s visionaries behind the bar was gracious enough to share her story—and a personal recipe.


Meet Jeorgia Fortney of Penny Drip!


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


Jeorgia: My first job ever was at a pizza place. Right after that, I started hosting at a more upscale business that served cocktails and food. I wasn’t super into cocktails—I was under 21, and had yet to understand the importance of a well-crafted cocktail—but bartending piqued my interest. Bartenders always had the best relationships with the guests, and I respected their work.


Years later, I worked at Old Crown (roastery, restaurant, cafe, bar, coffee shop). I got really into the coffee aspect and crafting drinks for guests. Alongside their excellent coffee program, they have a respectable bar program. The transition became seamless as I started to learn about different spirits and what it meant to make a legitimate cocktail. It opened my mind to the world of cocktails and changed a lot of what I thought I knew about the bar world. I started bartending there on the weekends and was lucky to have access to many interesting spirits there. I was there for about four years before taking a job at Copper Spoon.


Although I didn’t bartend, I was surrounded by some of the best bartenders and coworkers, all with incredible passion for cocktails and spirits, and my world opened up even more. It was there where I met my amazing business partners, and I’m so fortunate that in our present venture, my passion for coffee and cocktails has come full circle to mesh into the unique place that is Penny Drip! 


Molly: Speaking of everyone’s beloved coffee and cocktail bar, what are some of your favorite cocktails on Penny Drip’s menu right now?


Jeorgia: One of my favorite cocktails we have right now is the Surfer on Acid 2.0. It has coconut rum, pineapple, lime, and Jagermeister cold brew poured on top. Coffee and pineapple taste so good together, and this cocktail plays on that. I also love anything coconut!


My other favorite cocktail right now is the Bitter in Pink. This cocktail has hibiscus gin and lavender, which add a fruity floral element. It also has Campari and pink peppercorn, for a bit of bitterness and spice. Add some lemon for brightness, and some bubbles from our fancy highball machine. It’s tasty and refreshing!

My favorite coffee cocktail is the Carajillo. Start with a fresh pull of espresso and Licor 43, shaken and served over a large-format cube. The flavor is incredible, and it takes on this fabulous fluffy texture. It’s perfect for a pick-me-up or the first cocktail of the night.


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


Jeorgia: I take on a lot of culinary elements when crafting drinks. I like to take food items I love and turn them into coffee drinks and cocktails.


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


Jeorgia: I think any bartender would say that a well-crafted cocktail is always balanced, but ice is also critically important. For the proper dilution and temperature, you need quality ice to shake or stir a cocktail. Nothing is better for an on-the-rocks drink than a large-format, solid clear ice cube. 


Molly: Agreed. I love a nice cube in my drinks! So what’s your favorite spirit right now and why?


Jeorgia: I love experimenting with rum. There are so many types of rum and so much variation of flavor. You can take a simple cocktail like a daiquiri and change the rum in there, and you’ll come out with a completely different end product each time. It’s one of my favorite cocktails to change up and get something new.


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


Jeorgia: I don’t know if it’s underrated, but Scotch. A lot of people automatically think it’s going to be this rough smoky overpowering flavor; however, it can be great at balancing a cocktail or adding something to it that you didn’t know you were missing. 


Molly: You’re so right. Scotch can be polarizing, but I’ve had a few great Scotch-based cocktails that surprised me. What’s the most unique or most memorable cocktail you’ve ever tasted, and what about it stood out to you?


Jeorgia: I remember the first milk punch I ever had. Before I worked there, I had Spencer Maule’s clarified banana daiquiri at Copper Spoon. It blew my mind. The care and process that goes into making them is an art.


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


Jeorgia: I will always love to head to Copper Spoon for a fantastic cocktail, and they never miss. I also love traveling and experiencing new cocktail bars in different cities. If I’m at a dive bar, though, I always get a gin and soda or a beer.


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


Jeorgia: One of my favorite personal recipes is a variation on an Airmail that I’ve been working on. Instead of regular honey, I use a spicy fermented garlic honey I’ve been making for years—I like to have it on toast, veggies, salmon, pizza, everything! It adds a kick and an intriguing savory element to the cocktail. To make it, I take raw, unfiltered local honey, a whole head of garlic (loosely pulled apart and excessive husks tossed out), and three-to-five dried hot peppers of choice. Put this all in a jar with a loosened lid, and it will start to bubble and ferment after a few days. Every day, ensure that the top is loose and that air can escape as needed. After about a week, you can start using it, and the flavors intensify even more as time goes on. 


To make the cocktail, combine the following:


Jeorgia’s Bad Samaritan

  • Tajin rim (optional)
  • 1 oz spicy garlic honey
  • .75 oz of fresh lime juice
  • 2 oz Angostura 5-year Superior (or any Caribbean rum of choice)
  • pinch of salt

Combine, shake, and strain.

Top with dry sparkling wine, and enjoy!


Spicy Fermented Garlic Honey:

  1. Add local, raw, unfiltered honey to a lidded glass jar.
  2. Remove loose outer peel of a whole head of garlic, separate loosely, leaving the cloves connected. Submerse in the honey.
  3. Add 3 to 5 hot peppers (any variety) to the honey.
  4. Cover loosely with a lid to allow air to escape. Leave for at least one week.

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.