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.
Head bartender, Swallow in Huntington
If you weren’t a bartender you’d be:
Probably a farmer. I like working with fresh produce.
Favorite thing about working behind a bar:
Instant gratification. I’ll make a menu and by the time I’m done with it, I’ll never want to make one of those drinks ever again. But if you want a bespoke drink from me, your reaction is my drug. Happy, sad, angry; I just want to create something and experience it with you. Nothing makes me happier.
Least favorite thing about working behind a bar:
Define the perfect cocktail:
Fernet Branca, served neat, with everyone I love.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
I’ll never forget my first Merlot and Coke.
You find inspiration in:
Life. Any idea or groove or feeling that catches me, I’ll build from that.
Describe your cocktail list:
I just came to Swallow after running the beverage program at the Brixton in Babylon. Everywhere I’ve worked thus far I’ve been the first guy there to design the cocktail menu, so I had to carve out the niche. But here, I have the luxury of having a path laid out for me by amazing Huntington bartenders whom I’ve also befriended like Chris Burke, at Vaux Hall and Radio Radio now, and Frank Antonetti, who opened Rust and Gold. They both did an amazing job at establishing who we are as a bar.
We like to keep the cocktail list well balanced and approachable. The Tallulah, a strawberry-jalapeño margarita, is a Huntington institution. As of late we’ve started to introduce more esoteric spirits like mezcal, as used in our Smoke on the Water, and going forward we want to push the envelope a little more in terms of our execution and building of drinks; I’ve been playing around with smoke guns. I also want us to be far more seasonally minded, in terms of the ingredients we use.
Signature Drink | Fallen Love
I wanted to work within the idea of an Indian summer and make a drink that uses fresh fall produce but still harkens to the warmer days of summer. Fallen Love is refreshing, floral and herbal. The different botanicals and herbs used in Hendrick’s are well complemented by the liqueurs and modifiers present in the cocktail. The fennel, cucumber and rose jump out at you while the herbal flavors of chamomile and green tea finish on your palate. All of this is further enhanced by the light, smooth texture created by the egg white, which acts as a microphone of flavor to your tongue.
2 oz green tea-infused gin (see below)
1/2 oz chamomile grappa liqueur, preferably Poli Elisir
1/2 oz applejack, preferably Laird’s
1 oz cucumber-fennel cordial (see below)
1/2 oz lemon juice
2 dashes grapefruit bitters
1 egg white
Garnish: charred lemon wheel, dried green tea and fennel seeds
1) Combine all ingredients, except the egg white and bitters, in a mixing tin and shake with ice until chilled.
2) Strain into a second mixing tin without ice.
3) Add egg white and dry shake vigorously for at least 25 seconds, until thick and emulsified.
4) Strain into a chilled coupe.
5) As a finishing touch, add the bitters in the foam, drawing little hearts. Garnish with a charred lemon wheel, dried green tea and fennel seeds.
Green Tea-Infused Gin
750 ml bottle of gin, preferably Hendrick’s
4 green tea bags
Add tea bags to bottle. Cap and shake, and let sit at room temperature for three hours. Remove the tea bags, but be sure to squeeze out any gin they absorbed. Will store indefinitely refrigerated.
3 large cucumbers
1/2 cup fennel seeds
2 cups sugar
1 cup hot water
2 dashes rose water
1 oz Everclear
In a spice grinder, coarsely grind fennel seeds. Combine water and fennel seeds in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and let sit until cooled.
Meanwhile, process cucumbers in a food processor until finely chopped and add to syrup until cucumber flavor is present. Strain through a cheese cloth or chinois, pressing on solids to extract liquids before discarding cucumbers. Add rose water and Everclear, then refrigerate until required. Will keep for up to one week.
Favorite drink to mix:
Traditional sours. I have no interest in whipping up a proper Ramos on a rocking Friday night, but I love introducing people to egg-white cocktails. The layman can’t wrap their heads around it, and when they taste one, they can’t go back.
One thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Any spirit with fire or honey.
The best piece of bartending advice you’ve ever received:
The first time I saw an orange properly peeled and expelled. No words, just pure love and full dedication for something so seemingly unimportant. I never realized how dramatic and beautiful bartending could be until then. Thanks, Daryn Stoger.
If you could mix a drink for one person, dead or alive:
My dad. He’d be proud.
Favorite thing to do when you’re not drinking or drink making:
Seeing my family.
Your favorite bar and why:
Skinny Dennis in Williamsburg or Nolan’s in Long Beach. But any bar close to home that has all my friends in it is also perfect.
Best thing you ever drank:
Rebel Rebel from Death & Company. It shaped how I make drinks, because they just broke all the rules with it. It had muddled tomato, tequila, watermelon and vermouth, and on top of it all it was stirred. But it worked. I want you to see the ingredients of my cocktails and have no idea how this is going to work. I look at that drink just like some chefs look at Grant Achatz or Massimo Bottura’s food.
Worst thing you ever drank:
A gin fizz that had a “Coca-Cola float.” It tasted like if Coke had a soap flavor.
First time you got drunk:
I was 14. Bud Lights and Malibu, which resulted in my first hangover. My palate wasn’t as refined as a freshman in high school, to say the least.
If your bar shifts had a theme song:
Anything from Mariachi El Bronx. Like my drinks, they’re different, they make you move and they’re sexy.
After a shift, you drink:
Is pizza a drink?