Frank Antonetti: Head Bartender, Swallow Restaurant

swallow restaurant

The Huntington barkeep talks about his defining moment behind the countertop and his latest peppery concoction, The Violetta.

Long Island Pulse: Where did you get your start?
Frank Antonetti: It was around 2005—wow, ten years ago! [laughs] I managed a punk bar in Amityville. We basically poured the no-frills stuff: Jack Daniels, shots of Jameson. After that I spent years consulting in operations and loss prevention at different restaurant chains. But I hated it. So I went back to tending bar. That’s when I had my “definitive bartender moment.”

Pulse: What was it?
FA: My first interview was at an Italian bistro and the first drink order I got was a French Martini. I was like, “Uh. What’s in that?” I had an important decision to make at that moment: either learn the craft and grow or stay in your comfort zone. I was fortunate to work at a restaurant here in Huntington before [Swallow]. Under the guidance of chef Claudio Sottile, I really learned the importance of layering flavors and creating more of an experience than a drink.

Pulse:How would you describe Swallow’s cocktail menu?
FA: It’s seasonally driven like our food menu, which we rotate almost weekly. It’s an environment that welcomes the unique and encourages us to play with new ingredients. I’ve learned to look at every ingredient two ways: how nature intended, which can be limited, and how I can alter it—on a visual level, on a molecular level—which is essentially limitless. Our head chef Adam Bordonaro challenges me to make three new drinks every shift. It’s all about putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

Pulse:What’s your favorite cocktail right now?
FA: We completely overhauled our cocktail program from top to bottom this fall—to go beyond the hot toddy and pumpkin spice beer. At the end of summer I started experimenting with peppercorns, basically ripping apart every variant and trying different cooking techniques to bring out their flavor. That led to a pink peppercorn cocktail called The Violetta that I’m really excited about.<

Pulse:What’s in it?
FA: It has reposado tequila, a malbec and pink peppercorn reduction, agave nectar, fresh lime and apricot preserves. I start off making the reduction with some toasted pink peppercorns and this malbec from Mendoza that already has subtle peppery notes. I found a way to amplify that while adding some nice fruit and tannins to the drink. When you taste it, you immediately get deep tannic notes and subtle smoke from the reduction. That then gives way to a balanced sweetness and a nice clean finish.