While he worked at one of the world’s best bars, perhaps it was the humble years Kirill Kuznetsov spent growing up in Tver, Russia, that have had the greatest impact on his cocktail-making skills. Or, more specifically, the summers Kuznetsov spent in the garden of his family’s country home where his passion for nature first took root. His knowledge of ingredients and their individual flavor profiles plays a vital role in the unique cocktails he creates.
And that’s even more relevant in his current role as lead bartender for Smyth + The Loyalist, where the West Loop restaurant’s exclusive relationship with a Bourbonnais farm serves as inspiration for the always evolving menus of chefs John Shields and Karen Urie Shields. “The main inspirations for my cocktails are the local seasonal ingredients available and my travels and experiences in the countries I lived,” says Kuznetsov.
At age 17, Kuznetsov moved to Tel Aviv, Israel, where his first job after the army was a dishwasher. After improving his language skills, he moved to front-of-the-house positions, including as bartender in a number of top Tel Aviv bars and restaurants, such as Taizu and Jajo Wine Bar. In August 2014, he began working at Bellboy Bar, considered one of the world’s best bars, first as a bartender and a few months later, as bar manager. At Bellboy, Kuznetsov worked hand in hand with owner and cocktail pioneer, Ariel Leitzgold.
Kuznetsov is also a certified Martial Arts instructor from Windgate University in Netanya, Israel. He transports the rigorous and equilibrated forms from his martial arts training into his cocktail making technique.
In October 2015, Kuznetsov moved to Chicago with his Italian-American wife. He first staged at the Aviary before moving on to Roister, where his “dealer’s choice” bartending style found a welcome home. “I most like to feel challenged and come up with something unique and spontaneous,” he says. Kuznetsov also did bar duty at Billy Sunday in Logan Square.
Kuznetsov joined Smyth + The Loyalist in October 2016 where he began creating culinary-inspired cocktails that would best accompany the avant-garde, ingredient-driven multicourse meals at Smyth. In January 2018 , he took over the cocktail program at The Loyalist, the more casual lounge located one floor below. In addition to his seasonal cocktail menu, Kuznetsov has also built a selection of after-dinner, vintage spirits and drinks.“I want to keep the menu approachable yet at the same time have two to three more sophisticated drinks for those who feel adventurous.”