Downtown Fort Wayne’s Bartender Spotlight: Chontel Johnson of Proximo

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.  


Meet Chontel Johnson of Proximo!


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


Chontel: The beginning seems so long ago! Unfortunately, the start wasn’t as cool as the journey. Bartending first came into my life when I worked at Logan’s Roadhouse. I had turned 21, and the next day, I was training in the bar. From there, I continued to move up in the local bar scene—ending up at more upscale bars like Black Canyon, and now, Proximo.


I feel like I never really flourished as a bartender until I moved to Proximo, though. I got to train with a lot of really cool people who had been practicing the art of bartending for a long time. I’ve learned a lot from them. They helped me develop my own unique sense of bartending.


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


Chontel: I’ve never really thought about my own personal style of bartending before. I’d say that I take a contemporary, fun approach to making drinks. I love winging drinks and figuring out what works. Sometimes, I feel like a scientist behind the bar, running experiments. You never know what works or what flops until you try it, you know? 


I wouldn’t really say that I use any specific flavors regularly. I just love experimenting and trying new things.


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


Chontel: I love balance when it comes to cocktails. A nicely balanced cocktail always leaves you wanting more—which is one of my specialities!


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


Chontel: Honestly, I enjoy experimenting with all spirits, but I probably use rum and vodka the most. They’re both so versatile, and they’re fantastic for infusions. 


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


Chontel: If you ask me, the most underrated spirits are probably brandy and tequila. In my experience a lot of people haven’t branched out much from the classics, like the margarita, paloma, sidecar, brandy Alexander, or the metropolitan. There are so many interesting drinks you can make with either of these spirits. 


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


Chontel: On my nights off, I like to go see my favorite bartenders, who also happen to be my friends! I love to have them surprise me. I trust them, so I know whatever they make will be great. Some of my favorites are Mercado, Nawa, and Henry’s. 


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


Chontel: Próximo’s cocktail menu changed recently, and we added a lot of new drinks, like the Cassiopia, which is a favorite of mine right now. Some of my favorite classics are the milk punch and barrel-aged whiskey sour. If you want to try a handmade concoction from one of our bartenders, ask for something from the secret book!


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


Chontel: The Peachy Komet! I hold this cocktail close to my heart because it’s one of my drinks from Science Central’s annual Mixology event. It was my first year competing, and I won ‘People’s Choice’! 


The Peachy Komet is a twist on a classic cocktail—the old fashioned. I took Buffalo Trace and infused it with peaches for about a month. For even more of a twist, I replaced the Demerara sugar (typically used to make an old fashioned) with a peach jam, which added sweetness, but also brought out more vibrant flavors from the infused bourbon. Then, I added cherry bark and vanilla bitters, stirred it up, and garnished it with a toasted orange peel. 


If you take the time to make this cocktail, you will not be disappointed!


Chontel Johnson’s Peachy Komet


2 ½ oz peach infused Buffalo Trace (or bourbon of choice)

3 dashes of bitters 

½ oz of peach jam

Orange peel for garnish


Add bourbon, jam, bitters and stir. Serve with a big chunk of ice and orange peel garnish. 

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.