This is Daniel Cronin, otherwise known as Dan Draper, from Sudbury.
Dan is 35 years old and is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was born and raised in Philadelphia and moved to the suburbs for university. He stayed there until he moved to Canada for what was supposed to be a two years trip. Six years later, a child and a divorce later, he is still in Canada and about to become an official citizen. Dan studied Clinical Psychology and Human Sexuality and used to work as a therapist. He is now the general manager at The Alibi Room and has fully devoted his career to the world of cocktails.
Dan has been working in hospitality since 2006. He bartended through university and continued to do so part-time after he graduated. After working as a therapist for two years with a very challenging population to work with, his clinical work was starting to wear him down. He realized that he was making way more money, having much more fun, and finding it more rewarding to work as a bartender, so he decided to fully devote himself to his hospitality career. Shortly after giving his notice at the clinic, he was approached to open a Mexican restaurant called Diego’s Cantina in the suburbs of Philadelphia, with a big focus on tequila. There was nobody in that area with any kind of background in tequila, including himself, but since he had a good background in cocktails and spirits in general, he decided to dive into it. Dan had already been on the mission of bringing the cocktail culture to the suburbs of Philadelphia for a while, but opening Diego’s cantina was his first chance at bringing quality cocktails and designing his own bar program at the same time.
A couple of years later, Dan moved to Sudbury, Ontario. For the first few years, he worked at different bars that weren’t necessarily cocktail-focused, but he always tried to slowly bring the cocktail culture to town. About three years ago, he was presented with the opportunity of opening The Alibi Room and hasn’t looked back since then. As the general manager, he has a tremendous amount of input on the spirits side of things and he gets to write a good portion of the menu. Through his work there, he gets to teach an entire small city how to drink in a different way and it’s a big honor and responsibility for him. Like he reminds us, there is not a lot of cities where you can go and enjoy a Pappy Van Winkle 12 years, but you can do that here once in a while, or you can order a Wiser’s 25 if you want to drink a whisky that’s as old as you. These are things that people from big cities take for granted, but to be in a 160 000 people city and be able to do that or order a classic cocktail and have it properly made is quite an achievement.
Since the pandemic, Dan started a cocktail series called Drinking at the End of The World. His objective being to demystify cocktails and show that making drinks at home doesn’t have to be hard. You can make cocktails with what you have on hands and still call them craft cocktails. Overall, if there is one thing that he wishes to accomplish in his career, it’s to empower people to make their own drinks. Dan firmly believes that we are going to have better bars if we have better bartenders at home, just like we get better restaurants with better home cooks. He thinks that everyone should experiment and make a bad drink so that they know how easy it is to make a bad one, and then a good one. And if they try and need help along the way, he’s there and always happy to help.
A little bit more about Dan
The three words that describe him best: host – educator – guide
His favorite drink after a rough day at work: A whiskey and a beer. A beer to be refreshing and a whiskey to remember that sometimes things that are good burn a little bit.
How does he drink his Martini: Marguerite. 2:1 Plymouth to Dolin dry. Couple of dashes of orange bitters.
The biggest lesson that his job taught him: To lead with empathy. No matter what the table you approach you are going to start identifying who they are. They could be the most disdainful people on the planet to you but if you walk to them hoping that you can make something okay and that you can find something to love about them, then everyone’s gonna have a better time. And if you welcome a group with nothing but anxiety and hate in your heart, you're gonna end up with a terrible experience in every aspect and for everyone. You’re gonna make bad drinks, give bad service and you’re gonna get bad reactions, so why bother? If you can’t do it, send someone from your staff to do it.
A piece of advice for younger bartenders that want to bring the cocktail culture to smaller cities: Meet the community where they are. If you’re in a community that mostly drinks highballs, don’t force them on a Boulevardier, it has to be progressive. You can’t tell somebody that they’re wrong and expect a positive response. But you can say, “Cool you like that, can I give you something else that you might not have tried but I think you’re gonna like?”. And from there the world can change.