By CODY McDEVITT
The Press Bistro in downtown Johnstown is a bastion of creativity for both the chefs and bartenders who work in the establishment. And bar manager Adam Santichen is the resident Van Gogh when it comes to developing the cocktails available there.
“It’s almost like an art project. It’s a canvas,” Santichen said. “People like this and you try to do that. You have free creative control.”
Santichen, 27, started his bartending career at the Press Bistro more than two years ago. He is entirely self-taught, and he has become one of the most innovative bartenders in the city if the restaurant’s cocktails are evidence.
Some of the interesting things on the menu include a ghost pepper margarita, a caramel espresso white Russian, a ginger mojito and a blackberry old fashioned.
Part of the reason the bar program is so ambitious is because of how innovative executive chef and restaurant owner Jeremy Shearer is in the kitchen. They push each other, and those that patronize the restaurant reap the rewards.
“He’s great. He goes above and beyond,” Shearer said of Santichen. “Bartending used to be about speed. That’s what made a good bartender. People wanted more drinks. Now people don’t drink like that.
“Now they want something creative. And the cocktail list Adam puts together stands out from most other venues in the Laurel Highlands region.”
The craft cocktail scene in Johnstown is picking up, Santichen said.
“It’s pretty good,” he said. “The scene is starting to come around. People are trying to get out of the traditional cocktail mentality.”
Santichen thinks bartenders should not be afraid to think unconventionally. There are a million things you can do with one bottle of liquor, he said.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But success can come from failure, as Santichen said some of the best drinks have come about almost by accident.
“I think the biggest thing is to be creative,” he said. “If it’s something you want to do, keep playing around and keep experimenting. Some of the best drinks we have came about because of a mistake.”