Alicia Ekeler-Valle, First and South, Greenport

Long Island Pulse: Why are you a bartender?
Alicia Ekeler-Valle:
 This was only a bill-payer until I enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America. Then it became less about nervously memorizing The Bartender’s Black Book and hoping someone doesn’t order a Harvey Wallbanger to having the confidence to try new things, even if they may not work. This is an outlet for my creativity and culinary school unlocked that next level.

Pulse: What is that next level?
 I’m an infusion hoarder now. I always have 15 to 20 jars of experiments behind the bar. We have such a bounty on the North Fork, I always try to get ingredients from our local farms. Our sous chef, Kyle [Fiasconaro], is a forager and he brought back some sarsaparilla and sassafras for the root beer they were making for the restaurant. I steeped them in vodka and added some vanilla bean and simple syrup. I’m going to do a root beer cocktail with it.

Pulse: Any other infusions?
I was getting a lot of requests for Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, so instead of ordering it for the bar, I made it myself. I use Atomic Fireballs candy, cinnamon sticks and some Early Times Kentucky Whisky.

Pulse: What’s your favorite cocktail on the menu?
Bigmouth Strikes Again. We’ve named most of the drinks after songs, and this is our homage to The Smiths. It’s Brooklyn Gin, Chartreuse, lime juice and an egg white. I love egg whites in cocktails.

Pulse: Why?
They impart such great body—it’s not thickness, but more like an unctuous mouthfeel. It’s also very theatrical. People see you cracking an egg in their drink and totally freak out. I enjoy that a bit. [Laughs] They’re tricky, though. For Bigmouth, you need to shake the egg white and the lime juice first, because the acids in the lime juice break down the protein in the egg white, which allows it to foam. That gives you the frothy feel of a beer at the top. If you mix it all at once, it’s a sloppy mess.

Pulse: You mentioned the bounty on the North Fork…
I came to work one day and found a brown paper bag with my name scrawled on it. It was a bag of figs from Donna [Gruber], who owns a bed and breakfast [Ruby’s Cove Bed and Breakfast] down the block. She picked them from her fig tree. I was automatically like, “Let’s make a drink.” The Getting Figgy With It is vanilla vodka, figs, lemon juice and port. I love making people say the name when they order it, too [laughs].