Dushan Zaric

Mixologist, Restaurateur

New York

The master mixologist behind two of New York’s most famous cocktail bars — Employees Only and Macao Trading Co. — Dushan Zaric is a pioneer in the world of libations. He has revolutionized the art of the cocktail and takes inspiration from classic drinks and infuses a modern twist. As the co-founder of The American Bar Institute of New York, Zaric mentors and teaches all over the world, from his homeland of Serbia to the Caribbean. With two mixology-based books to his name, Zaric also develops cocktail products from non-alcoholic mixers to premium well spirits.

  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What are Dushan Zaric’s favorite New York brunch spots?

    Pastis — I was a bartender there. I fell in love with the place because it looked very European — there’s a plaza outside with cobblestones. It was the first kind of cool place in the Meatpacking District. When we opened Pastis, there was nothing around us. I think Pastis is an experience for brunch. It’s certainly a place where you can have a really classic New York-style, French bistro brunch and really enjoy it, and it doesn’t break the bank.
     
    I like to go mostly to local places in Brooklyn. There is a place close to my house on Vanderbilt Avenue called Le Gamin. It’s really nice. French food is what I like to eat for brunch, like eggs and omelets and croque monsieurs, stuff like that. Another great place for brunch that comes to mind is Bread in Soho on Spring Street. They have really nice Italian-style brunch, and they’re like real Italians with really cool food.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What are Dushan Zaric’s favorite New York hotels?

    Downtown, The James hotel is great. The Soho Grand Hotel or Tribeca Grand Hotel are awesome hotels close by, and you can explore the downtown area pretty well from there. The Greenwich Hotel is also really nice in Tribeca — Robert De Niro owns that one. It’s a really nice place — kind of on the expensive side, but you know you can get a really quiet time there.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What are Dushan Zaric’s favorite things to do in Brooklyn?

    Go check out Prospect Park. It’s one of the biggest parks in New York, and it’s beautiful. There’s a huge lawn there, and it’s not fenced off like Central Park is, so you can walk a lot — you can lay out and nobody’s going to bother you.
     
    Take a bike ride from Manhattan Bridge all the way to Coney Island. It’s a really cool thing to do because you are cutting through Brooklyn, and you are ending up at Coney Island. You can have a really cool hotdog there and authentic food. This trip is like a daytrip and not that hard to do both ways.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What does Dushan Zaric like best about his hometown of Brooklyn?

    There’s all kinds of things you can do in Brooklyn. Brooklyn has a much different taste than New York. People stay in Brooklyn for most of the rest of their lives; whereas in Manhattan, you are pretty much turning over just like turnover in a restaurant. Manhattan has this feeling of “come, do your thing and go because we need more young people with dreams like you to come and give us their life force.” Brooklyn is different in that respect — you choose to live in Brooklyn because you settle in Brooklyn. That’s why Brooklyn feels more New York to me than Manhattan today.
     
    Williamsburg is a study in transformation — it’s what New York is. If you want to witness impermanence in action, you go to Williamsburg because every week there is a new thing happening there — a new building is up, a new bar is up, a new gallery is opening. It’s just this vast amount of talented people and individuals who congregate in Williamsburg who make the energy of the place so addictive for me.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What is Dushan Zaric’s favorite airline?

    Virgin. It’s just so far ahead of anybody. They just do it right. The business class is great and better than most, but I think it’s just the attitude you feel that you are dealing with people who get it, who are traveling. It’s not comfortable to be in a seat for such a long amount of time, and you have to deal with TSA and security, and they get it. They actually identify with each passenger, and I think that’s important. JetBlue is kind of trying it a little bit, but they have a lot to learn from Virgin.
     
    And then there’s Singapore Airlines, obviously. They’re good — when you can afford to fly with them, it’s worth it. It’s just beautiful service and the food is awesome.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What does Dushan Zaric wear when traveling?

    I remember the time when you could smoke in airplanes. Back in those times, people would dress up nicely, and flight attendants were called stewardesses. Those times are kind of gone, so I try to dress up. For long flights over 12 hours in duration, I try to wear jeans or comfortable sneakers and a hoodie. But if it’s a business trip around the States, I try to wear a suit. If I have a meeting right when I land and I’m flying in business class, I do wear a suit.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What are Dushan Zaric’s tips for shopping in India?

    To successfully purchase things in India, you have to have negotiation skills or bargaining skills. You have to really be able to walk away from an item you want to buy and go back two days after that, because they won’t really take you seriously and show you the best merchandise until they see you are really worth buying it.
     
    For example, I use my wife as a partner in these negotiations, and she acts as bait and goes and gets all excited while I sit with the men and drink chai and smoke cigarettes. Then she comes back all excited with a bunch of stuff she wants, usually tapestries or statues. Then I enter into negotiations. In India, or anywhere else in Asia, the first thing that people do when they try to sell you something is they pull out a calculator. I love that game. I act upset and I walk away, and it’s this whole game and I enjoy it so much.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What does Dushan Zaric like most about Rajasthan?

    Rajasthan is in western India mostly, and it’s beautiful. The people there are taller, they have big mustaches. The men have big turbans, and the women have the most colorful saris and jewelry. All the cities were built around forts that used to be on the Silk Road, so every fort is a different color. My favorite is the golden fort in Jaisalmer out there in the dunes. There is a hotel there that is pretty much one of my favorite places in the world. It’s Hotel Killa Bhawan. It’s a boutique hotel, and it’s just stone and silk. It’s beautiful there.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    Where does Dushan Zaric like to shop when traveling?

    It has to be something specific to the place where I am. My favorite country to shop in is India. You’re constantly thrown between a dream and a nightmare in India. I actually like that because I’m not falling asleep in India. I’m always aware. I’m always conscious of what’s going on, and everybody’s trying to show me their India, and everybody’s trying to sell me all kinds of stuff and it’s very attractive to be there. Although sometimes it can be very challenging for a Westerner, I have found ways to really enjoy India.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What are Dushan Zaric’s favorite things to bring home from his travels?

    I like to bring home gifts for my daughters. I kind of like to bring stuff that they cannot find in New York. For example, from Russia I always try to bring them something they can play with, like a very specific Russian arts-and-crafts game or a make-your-own-doll set with a babushka. They sell a set of babushkas that are blank, and you can paint the faces the way you want. If I am in Mexico, I like to get them Mexican dresses that the peasant ladies are wearing.
     
    And then I’ll bring home the local booze. If it’s unavailable or illegal in the States, I’ll try to bring it in. Absinthe used to be illegal, so whenever I would go to Spain, I would bring a bottle of absinthe back and pray that I wouldn’t get caught.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What does Dushan Zaric always travel with?

    My coffee thermos — I definitely bring my coffee thermos with me. I have a flask where I keep my tequila, in case of an emergency. I also always have a wine opener with me and a flashlight.
     
    When I left Serbia, there was a war going on, and I was just used to carrying a flashlight with me because the power would go out once in a while. It became a habit, and it came in handy traveling the New York subway. Once in a while, you need it. And then I have an extra charger or battery pack for my cell phone, but other than that, I don’t carry much with me. It’s just the way I travel. I like to travel light.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What does Dushan Zaric love most about hotels?

    I’m not interested in spa services, pools, gyms or any of that stuff. I just want an Internet connection. I need a decent mini-bar and a good bathroom, and that’s pretty much it. One of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever stayed in, as far as services and feeling, is the new Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver. That was built for the Winter Olympics there. It’s a deliciously beautiful hotel, with really comfortable, huge bathrooms — I did my yoga in a bathroom.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What are Dushan Zaric’s favorite hotels?

    My favorite place to stay is The Zetter Townhouse in London. You feel like you’re in somebody’s home. There is no front desk; there is only a laptop. There is a cordless phone, and basically the waitress is the host and the receptionist and the maître d’, and she will receive you. I think there are only five or six rooms in the whole place, and every room is unique.
     
    The bar program is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, and the rooms are deliciously designed. The mini-bars actually have bottled cocktails from the bar downstairs, so you only need ice and a little shaker — you shake it up and have your own custom cocktail in your room. It’s just a very personalized experience and very natural. You don’t feel like you’re in a hotel. It’s very beautiful to me.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What are Dushan Zaric’s favorite cities to visit?

    Barcelona is No. 1 — the lifestyle, the energy. What I like about the city is how it vibrates. Cities don’t sit well with me if they’re too organized, if everything is forbidden. Singapore is definitely not one of my favorite places — if you have too many strict laws, you can feel the presence of the big brother and that’s not for me. Canada, too. As much as I love Canadian people, it tends to be too civilized for my taste. Everything is organized. It has nothing to do with Canadian people — it’s just how they put it into practice.
     
    I like more places like Cartagena in Colombia, Mexico City or New Orleans, where you can feel the soul of the city, the history of the city is still very much alive and you can get in touch with it.
  • On November 7, 2012
    Dushan Zaric answered the question: Dushan Zaric

    What are Dushan Zaric’s favorite Belgrade restaurants?

    The one that I really like the best is called Zaplet. It’s one of the best restaurants in general because the combination of the experience of food and beverage is just fantastic. They guide you through their own particular gastronomical experience really beautifully. It is rooted in Serbian food with contemporary twists on certain dishes. Serbia is a place where you still go and shop at farmers markets, and there are places where you get the best quality food for only a little money. It’s not like in New York, where it’s really expensive. There is no other food than seasonal food. There is no other food than food grown organically. It is very Old World, and that’s a privilege these days.