Welcome to Behind the Bar(tender), a series in which Long Island Pulse, thirsty for great conversation and even better cocktails, meets with the island’s most talented bartenders.
Owner, The Rust & Gold in Huntington
Favorite thing about working behind a bar:
The perspective people will allow you to have into their lives, whether it’s intentional or not. When people need the confessional booth, you’re their guy. The details of their private life they’ll share often have no boundaries. On the flip side, a lot of other people will cease to notice your existence in between orders and you get to catch these awesome moments of people genuinely enjoying the company of others, and just generally being cool to each other. That’s cool, too.
Least favorite thing about working behind a bar:
Hearing other bartenders complain about their guests, while trying to wrangle me into the convo.
Define the perfect cocktail:
One that perfectly complements its setting, including the environment, time of year and the mood and intention of the guest.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
Yellow Chartreuse, neat. It was 100 percent a peacock maneuver in front of this guy’s friends. Come on, man. I get it. But you know you aren’t enjoying that. I see the pain.
You find inspiration in:
The talented chefs and kitchens I’ve been lucky enough to work with, and hungover Netflix food documentary marathons.
Describe where you bartend:
The Rust & Gold is a concept I haven’t really seen before, especially on Long Island. We’ve taken the traditional sports bar and pushed it into a new direction, culturally and aesthetically. Our food is an awesome array of traditional American stadium fare and food-truck grub with chef-driven twists applied in a way to keep it familiar but exciting. The cocktail menu is something new for me, in that we’re a decently large space and have to consider balancing volume with craft. Essentially all of our cocktails are made with cordials batched that day using only the freshest produce and purest ingredients, with everything prepared to limit drink builds to two or three steps tops before garnish. This way when the doors open, the focus remains on the guest experience.
Signature Cocktail | Fairview Street
Spring in Huntington is nuts. I grew up in Valley Stream and I guess we don’t take our landscaping as serious beyond a bunch of Italians showing off how green their grass was. The gardens people maintain here are serious, and this drink is named for my favorite block to walk down once the weather starts agreeing with it. Tequila, grapefruit and Aperol are something we’ve seen a bunch before, but I didn’t really have a starting point recipe-wise. First I make a rooibos-tea syrup that holds this light, floral note to balance the earthy smoke of the mezcal, with white grapefruit and Aperol adding some depth and balanced acidity.
2oz Xicaru Silver mezcal
1/2oz roobois-tea syrup
1oz white grapefruit juice
Garnish: spring flowers
Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin with ice.
Shake well until chilled, and double-strain into a chilled coupe.
Garnish with spring flowers.
2 tbsp loose rooibos tea
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat and, while still hot, add the tea leaves (wrap them in cheesecloth’s beforehand) and steep for five minutes.
Strain, bottle and store refrigerated for up to one month.
Favorite drink to mix:
I love a good Last Word. When time allows, I’ll burn off some green Chartreuse and let some rosemary catch the heat to get a nice aromatic wash before I build the rest of the drink. Simple and elegant, with a little bit of sideshow.
One thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Milk. I know that’s sacrilege to a lot of purists, but I just could never get behind it.
The best piece of bartending advice you’ve ever received:
“Take yourself out of the equation.” When I first really started getting into cocktails, all I wanted to do was talk about it with my guests. But I quickly learned that ultimately my job is to facilitate whatever kind of experience my guest is trying to have, not just blast them with whatever I may want to talk about.
If you could mix a drink for one person, dead or alive:
I’d make a Jack and Coke for Lemmy.
Favorite thing to do when you’re not drinking or drink-making:
Riding motorcycles, travel, curse at the Islanders.
Best thing you ever drank:
The Better & Better at Weather Up comes to mind. Rum, mezcal and Velvet Falernum. That’s it. But what a combination, and always executed flawlessly there.
Worst thing you ever drank:
Oh man. It was last summer at a very popular South Shore seasonal spot. It was their version of a classic summer drink, so served in a 10-ounce Dixie cup and sold at an astronomical price. It was literally a cup of pink, flavorless water. Oh well, party on.
If your bar shifts had a theme song:
Phil Collins. Paris. 2004. The entire concert.
After a shift, you drink:
You’re supposed to wait until after the shift? I love Mexican beer. Right now I’ll happily rip an El Sully by 21st Amendment.