Brooke Rodwancy at the Gristmill in Port Clinton (photo by Karin McKenna)
Food + Drink

A Bartender to Know: The Gristmill’s Brooke Rodwancy

Her Port Clinton cocktail bar offers a drink lineup featuring fresh ingredients and house-infused spirits.

Brooke Rodwancy got a taste for doing her own thing while working as a bartender at a local yacht club in Port Clinton, where she took a neglected poolside bar on the property and turned it into a spot where she experimented with mixology using fresh ingredients to make cocktails.

“It was a place where people wanted to be and come and have my cocktails and experience what I had going on out there,” says Rodwancy, who now owns The Gristmill in Port Clinton.

The poolside bar is also what inspired her to strike out on her own and open The Gristmill in what was an abandoned gas station.

“I’ve always wanted to own my own business,” Rodwancy says. “But I never thought it was going to be a bar!”

It’s proved to be a potent concoction. Since opening in August 2020, Rodwancy’s bar has developed a devoted following eager for cocktails such as margaritas made with fruit-infused tequila, a lemonade made with raspberry-infused vodka and more. Rodwancy was also named a finalist for bartender of the year at Bar & Restaurant’s Industry Excellence Awards 2022. We caught up with Rodwancy to talk cocktails, how she picks base spirits and more.

Colorful cocktail and Brooke Rodwancy at the bar at The Gristmill in Port Clinton (photo by Karin McKenna)

What do you love about making cocktails?
It allows me to employ my creativity. The main thing that we wanted to do when we opened The Gristmill was to create something different that our community doesn’t have. We take a very fresh and innovative approach to crafting the perfect cocktail using fresh-pressed juices in our house mixes, infusions and fresh herbs. I create every recipe from scratch.

How do you pick spirits to make your cocktails?
I think it’s fun to pick spirits that people aren’t always interested in right away. We have a few cocktails that call for gin on our menu. There are always people who say they don’t like gin. I tell them to just give it a try. I’ve also really been focusing on our tequila selection. We are very well known for our color-changing margarita flights, four different margaritas that are all made with our fresh, house-made purees and infused tequila.

There always seem to be new cocktail trends. How do you handle those?
I like to kind of put my own twist on things, so whenever there are new trends going around, I always communicate with the staff that people may be coming in and asking for the new trendy thing and try to give them our take on it.

How did it feel to be a finalist for bartender of the year?
Having been recognized by so many successful bar and restaurant industry leaders was quite the honor and really just encouraged me to keep working hard and doing what I’m doing — but find better ways to do it every day. It was cool to put myself, my bar and my community on the map.


Brooke Rodwancy’s Faves: When she’s not behind the bar at her spot, The Gristmill, owner Brooke Rodwancy likes to keep it local when she goes out. She’s a big fan of the Orchard Bar + Table on Catawba Island. “They also take a fresh and innovative approach to cocktails and food pairings,” she says. “They source a lot of their juices from like local farms. I know I can get a great cocktail there. I love margaritas — that is definitely my go to when I’m out and about — but I also enjoy a good old fashioned or cosmopolitan.”

Proof Magazine is for Ohio spirit lovers. It is produced by Great Lakes Publishing three times a year. Dont miss an issue by subscribing to Ohio MagazineView a digital version of the Proof Magazine Summer 2023 edition here