Nicholas Zaveloff went to culinary school, but he prefers cooking up exotic cocktails. The Columbus native moved to Chicago to work as a chef but ended up spending his last five years there tending and managing bars. He returned home last summer and, after a stint at Sugar Bar and Park Street Patio, he was tapped to help create and operate encore, the new speakeasy upstairs of Handke's Cuisine.

Neighborhood: New Albany

Hometown: Columbus

Years behind the bar: Eight

Nicholas Zaveloff went to culinary school, but he prefers cooking up exotic cocktails. The Columbus native moved to Chicago to work as a chef but ended up spending his last five years there tending and managing bars. He returned home last summer and, after a stint at Sugar Bar and Park Street Patio, he was tapped to help create and operate encore, the new speakeasy upstairs of Handke's Cuisine.

Where did you start bartending?

I first started here in Columbus at the Bier Stube. Then I went to culinary school in Palm Beach and I had to bartend to help pay for school.

Why did you go back to tending bar?

I've always loved bartending. In Chicago, I was a sous chef working 80-some hours a week, barely getting paid 30 grand a year, and I kind of just got tired of it.

Could you describe the scene at encore?

The lights usually dim down, there's candles lit all over the place and you feel like you're sitting in a really old-school, swanky lounge. Due to the different age groups and clientele, I kind of mix up the music with big band, some cool jazz, blues and newer stuff like Sneaker Pimps, Kings of Leon.

What are people drinking?

We don't get many Jack and Cokes, because they take a look at the menu and see all the mojitos, martinis and all these amazing drinks they've never tried. I named many of the drinks after '30s-era music people.

How does the bar menu look?

It's almost like a tasting menu. Two or three people can sit down and share things - like one of our gourmet pizzas or the Truffled Frites. They're not big portions, so you can still sit and drink without feeling top-heavy.

What do you do in your free time?

I like to cook dinner and go out with friends whenever I can take a break from work. I love going to dinner in Columbus. I think the food industry is so underrated compared to some other cities I've lived in.