As warmer weather makes a welcomed return, we recommend pulling up a bar stool at Vauxhall in Huntington for a caffeine fueled cabin fever escape. Chris Burke is infusing cold brew coffee into classic cocktails for an unexpected buzz.
You have an interesting spin on the Old Fashioned using cold-brewed coffee…
The cold brew we use is actually made locally by Sail Away Coffee Co. A friend of ours, and Huntington native, runs it. We were one of the first places on Long Island to have his coffee on a nitro tap and it’s been a feature on our cocktail menus from the start. The cold brew itself is excellent but the nitro tap really elevates it, changes the body and gives it a smoothness that you don’t get out of the [standard] bottle.
How do you approach using it as such?
Anytime I’m developing a cocktail, I think of pairings. For the Old Fashioned, I broke it down like this: bourbon to orange, orange to chocolate, chocolate to cold brew and cold brew back to bourbon. For each of those pairings, the pair stands on its own. But they also link together to make a balanced cocktail. I started in the industry as back of the house, so flavor profiles, building dishes, arranging meals, those things were always at the front of my mind. Later I realized I could use that kitchen experience as a bartender.
When did that realization occur to you?
When I was in my late twenties I had my first Manhattan—a very proper Manhattan, very well made. After being strictly a beer drinker for so long, it was revelatory. It led me down a rabbit hole of trying to learn everything I could about classic cocktails that were beginning to see a resurgence: Manhattans, classic gin martinis with vermouth and orange bitters, Old Fashioneds, Negronis…They’ve been around for 100 years in some cases and they all still stand up today.
Why do you think that class of cocktails is considered timeless?
What I loved so much about that first Manhattan, and what I continue to love about all well-made cocktails, is that behind them is a good bartender who can present a drink that’s basically all liquor with perhaps a small amount of other mixing agents and have it be so perfectly balanced and well executed. Great minds created these recipes with an understanding of blending flavors to provide an elegant experience and it takes a great mind to execute them time after time.
Can you speak to Vauxhall’s cocktail list?
[Vauxhall] was initially conceived as a beer and burger bar, but cocktails quickly became an essential part of the mix. Our bar is dominantly whiskey based—heavily bourbon, with rye and scotch as well—and our cocktail list follows suit. As a burger bar, these spirits and drinks can stand up to what the kitchen is turning out. And there’s such a wealth of diversity in whiskey that it affords me the chance to have many separate offerings. Who doesn’t enjoy a neat bourbon or a rye cocktail after a great burger?
What have you been excited about on the recent menu?
Going back to using cold-brewed coffee in some of our drinks, the Monday Morning is sort of a boozy maple latte—a mix of bourbon, Sail Away coffee, maple, port wine and walnut bitters. The coffee and maple set the stage and come across directly. The port provides a slightly sweet backbone that marries the bourbon and coffee well. The bitters provide an excellent aromatic to the drink and walnuts and maple are a classic pair.
½ oz Sail Away Coffee Co. Cold Brew
½ oz tawny port wine
½ oz maple simple syrup
1 ½ oz Bulleit bourbon
2 dashes black walnut bitters
Stir, strain over fresh ice. Garnish with flamed orange peel and a float of heavy cream.