Downtown Fort Wayne’s Bartender Spotlight: Chandler Vanous of Copper Spoon

Downtown Fort Wayne’s Bartender Spotlight: Chandler Vanous 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, 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. 


Copper Spoon’s been a heavy-hitter in the national cocktail arena for years, and last December, they added a new accolade to their list of accomplishments when their beverage director, Chandler Vanous, was named Top 100 Bartenders in the U.S. by USBG’s World Class —  the world’s premier bartending competition. 


As Chandler prepares to enter the next round of the competition (World Class’s Top 30), we stopped by to chat about what inspires her behind the bar.


Meet Chandler Vanous of Copper Spoon!


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


Chandler: My first bar management job was at a very whiskey-focused bar. They didn’t have much of a cocktail program. The owner let me design our first “real” cocktail menu, and I got completely lost in the research. I spent weeks learning about some of the best bars in the world, about cocktail theory, about spirits I’d never heard of at the time.


I think about that first menu a lot. It really put the passion I have for my career into motion.


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


Chandler: My style varies depending on the situation I’m in when making the cocktail. What really piques my interest are flavors that push me to get creative and help me develop my craft.


This season in particular, I’ve found myself designing more savory and kitchen-inspired cocktails with ingredients I wouldn’t naturally be acquainted with behind the bar — like using pickled beets and walnut in a cocktail to mimic the flavors of a salad, or using dijon and balsamic for acid where one might typically use citrus. 


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


Chandler: For craft cocktails, I think it’s important to taste every component listed on the menu and for it to have at least one ingredient or method of preparation that surprises me. Craft cocktails should be a bit more creative. For a classic cocktail, balance and accuracy are key. At the end of the day it’s all about balance.


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


Chander: Whiskey has always been a “favorite” in some way, because it’s something I’ve been working with extensively for most of my career. Being the director at Copper Spoon has really allowed me to appreciate whiskey all over again, in a new light. I’ve started teaching training classes for the team, and I’m working on a few private barrel projects. Both have me really excited about whiskey again this year.


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


Chandler: Definitely rum, especially in the context of a neat pour or in cocktails that aren’t tropical or tiki-inspired. It’s so versatile and flavorful. I’ve been tasting through our extensive rum collection here at Copper Spoon, and I can’t believe more people don’t order from that portion of the spirits menu. We have a lot to offer.


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


Chandler: One specific cocktail is really hard to single out, but I love when I get the chance to try things other bartenders are workshopping. Experiencing the evolution of flavors is always great.


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


Chandler: I spend most of my nights off with my son, so I’m a big fan of somewhere we can go to dinner together, and I can have a cocktail with our meal. Penny Drip’s Irish Coffee, Chance Bar’s Sherry Spritz, Nawa’s Rum Old Fashioned, and Mercado’s Squad Goals are some of my favorites. If I’m off on a rare night without him, it’s nice to grab a spot at my own bar and get to enjoy the experience from the other side occasionally!


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


Chandler: From the current house menu I really love Ooo Mami (a whiskey based cocktail with vermouth, espresso, miso, and peanut butter cream) and Heavy Burdens (a cachaça-based cocktail with bitters, maple, brown butter, egg, and porter). The flavors are perfect for winter in so many ways. 


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?


Chandler: I don’t make a ton of cocktails at home so this one is hard for me. I’ve been drinking aged rum and sweet vermouth, so I guess you could call that a rum Manhattan. It’s simple and only requires two ingredients. 



Chandler Vanous’ Rum “Manhattan”

Start with your rum. Your pour size should fully depend on how your day went. 

Then, add roughly half an ounce of Carpano Antica sweet vermouth. 

Stir with ice, strain, pour into your glassware of choice, and enjoy!

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.