Long Island Pulse: When did you start bartending?
Mark Seaman: I was actually a server for 10 years before I made my first drink. I was working at La Volpe in Center Moriches and they had a great bartender who could make the classic cocktails and also put a unique spin on them. But he decided to go back to college so they threw me behind the bar. He trained me for two shifts before he left. That first time alone, I remember it was three deep at the bar for most of the night. I just did my best and tried to make it out alive.
Pulse: Does your education from the International Wine Center help when designing cocktails?
MS: Because I can identify a really balanced wine, I think that allows me to create cocktails that foremost are balanced. In my opinion that’s the most important part… to transform a group of individual ingredients into something singular.
Pulse: Tell us about Roots’ cocktail program.
MS: When I came to Roots, I only had about three months of bartending experience and I had never designed a recipe. But the dedication to fresh ingredients here has been a constant source of inspiration and a lot of talented people have guided me to a point where I could create a full list.
Philippe [Corbet, co-owner and executive chef ], Doug [Weiler, former sous chef ] and Emily [Corso, former manager], they each have such a unique approach to flavors. The kitchen really sets the benchmark here and the bar often borrows ideas from the back of the house.
Pulse: Any examples?
MS: They recently made a great, highly concentrated tomato water and I used that technique for a new kiwi cocktail on the menu. Kiwi really is a tough ingredient to use effectively. Making a simple syrup with it, it tends to lose its freshness quick and starts to taste almost like yogurt. So I make this highly concentrated water. I purée the kiwi with some spices like hazelnut and add it to the water with sugar and salt. Those balance each other out and allow the kiwi’s tropical- fruit flavors to pop.
Pulse: What’s the cocktail?
MS: It’s called Winter’s Daydream. I’m still nailing down the final ratios but it’ll have the kiwi water, black currant and an excellent small-batch gin by Two James in Detroit. The gin has traditional botanicals in the profile, but also orange peel and black peppercorn to give it fullness. Overall the drink’s fresh tropical- fruit flavor makes you think of summer, but the gin and hazelnut snap you back into the reality of a New York winter.