Q&A: St. Elmo bartender’s creation now found in stores

Keywords Bars/Taverns / Retail

Candace Anastasio, St. Elmo Steak House
beverage manager (Photos courtesy of St. Elmo Foods)

With a 120-year history of serving steaks and shrimp cocktail, St. Elmo Steak House is an instantly recognized name in central Indiana. In recent years, its brand has spread nationwide, thanks to a growing line of packaged food and beverages that includes cocktail sauce, seasoning, steak sauce, salad dressing, condiments and cocktails.

The latest product to join the portfolio is the St. Elmo Old Fashioned, also known as Pop’s Old Fashioned, a signature drink at the restaurant. St. Elmo’s version of the classic cocktail of bourbon whiskey, orange and bitters was created in 2010 by then-bartender Candace Anastasio, who is now beverage manager. A ready-to-pour version of the cocktail is now available in 750-milliliter bottles at liquor and grocery stores for about $30 to $40.

Anastasio, 40, talked to IBJ about her creation and 15-year career at St. Elmo.

St. Elmo’s Old Fashioned blends bourbon, orange and bitters.

Where did you get the idea for the Pop’s Old Fashioned?

Every year, for Devour Downtown, there’s a drink competition. And so that year, for the contest, I was playing around with different bitters, and I was like, “Let’s go back to that old-school, old, Old Fashioned. So, I tried all these different recipes, different bourbons, different amounts of bitters, and finally perfected it.

Where did the name Pop’s Old Fashioned come from?

This is the super-special part of this story. One of our managers, Kerry Wafford, who’s the longest-tenured employee with us right now, had just lost his father, and he referred to his dad as Pops. And so, the name was a kind of tribute to his father. His dad liked bourbon, and so the name was fitting.

What kind of bourbon do you use?

In house, we’re now using our rare St. Elmo rye. That’s something, with our new distillery, we’re actually making ourselves.

Now that it’s available in stores and you came up with it, do you get a cut of the proceeds for every bottle that’s sold?

No, no. I’m just honored to be recognized for it being my recipe and everything.

What is the most popular drink at St. Elmo?

The Pop’s Old Fashioned and the Elmo Cola are the top-selling cocktails on the menu.

What’s kept you at St. Elmo for so long?

We work for the best people, who take the best care of us. It’s all about our work family, on top of our guests, all those familiar faces. I think a lot of us see each other at work just as much as we see our own families. And when you work for great people, you want to continue to work for them.•

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