As the chef is to food so the bartender is to beverages.

At least that’s the way Shayne Denton of Mimmo's Ristorante Italiano in Destin sees it. Denton said the craftsmanship and creativity behind the bar drew him to the job, and his ability to meet people of all kinds is what kept him there.

“My family had a restaurant all while I was growing up, but ever since I was 17, I just wanted to get in that bar,” said Denton. “I love cooking, but interacting with people is where I want to be.”

At Mimmo's, Denton said he shows his creativity by crafting cocktails based on the food special of the day.

“Chef De Lima and I, we play around with our ingredients, that’s what’s great about working here,” he said. “We like pushing the boundaries a little bit with what we are doing.”

In fact, Denton said his favorite cocktail at the moment is a twist on an old-school cocktail that he calls the Roasted Old Fashioned.

“I use a duck fat-infused rye whiskey that I infuse in-house,” he said. “I got the idea from our roasted duck special we were having. The duck fat gives it that nice subtle earthy flavor to it, but it doesn’t overpower the whiskey.”

As he described the drink, Denton pulled out a torch blower and began to burn wood-chips and smoke a drinking glass. Next he mixed his Roasted Old Fashioned, adding an apple simple syrup and bitters to the duck-fat infused whiskey and finally garnished it with orange rind and smoked rosemary.

Better come to Mimmo's soon if you want the Roasted Old Fashioned though, Denton warned, as it is limited to the whiskey bottle he infused last week.

So what’s the next specialty drink?

“You’d have to show up and see what we’ve got on special,” Denton laughed. “We have a lot of local ingredients, like local honey, herbs and produce. It’s really whatever is in season.”

When it comes to his drinks, Denton said everything he has learned about craft cocktails has come by hands-on experience and internet research, but the true secret to a good cocktail is found in the ingredients.

“My style is definitely simple, but we want to use the best ingredients,” he said. “We just want to give you a straight-forward cocktail that you won’t have to get a dictionary out to look up. Clean, simple cocktails.”

As for his signature sip, Denton said he is going with his tried but true cocktail the Lavender Bee’s Knees.

“The Lavender Bee’s Knees is definitely the most popular drink on the menu,” he said. “It’s from an old-school prohibition cocktail back when lemon and honey were used to mask really bad gin.

But don’t worry, this cocktail uses good gin — lemon rind-infused Malfy Gin to be exact — as well as fresh lemon juice, lavender bitters and local honey. And unlike the time-sensitive Roasted Old Fashioned, the Lavender Bee’s Knees is here to stay.

“It stays on the menu all year. It’s just too popular,” Denton said. “It’s floral, not too sweet; a summer sipper for sure.”