Welcome to Behind the Bar(tender), a series in which Long Island Pulse, thirsty for great conversation and even better cocktails, meets with Long Island’s most talented bartenders.
Bar Manager, Dopo La Spiaggia in East Hampton
Sag Harbor, NY
Still in the Sag.
Years in the industry:
17. I started as a bus boy when I was 14.
First time working behind a bar:
The summer of 2005. I was 18. I was a barback for a local legend and big influence for me, Bryon Connolly, at Jeff & Eddy’s.
Favorite thing about working behind a bar:
I’m a social extrovert, so interacting with our customers. Also, behind this bar, having unfettered access to amazing Italian food isn’t a bad perk.
Describe your drink-making style:
Fresh and light in the summer. Darker and comforting in the winter. Satisfying, always.
Define the perfect cocktail:
I guess I’d see that as one with the broadest appeal. I’ve always felt like margaritas might fit that description. Even people that don’t identify as tequila drinkers tend to be willing to indulge in one every once in a while. It’s a well-balanced drink, not too sweet, not too sour, that can keep you coming back for another. Over my time in various bars, I’ve probably made more margaritas than anything else.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
I’ve worked in Australia where it’s a celebratory tradition to fill your shoe with beer and chug from it. It’s called a Shoey. It’s tough to watch, even tougher to smell.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
I can’t remember all the failed endeavors, but lately I’ve been messing around with new ways to get briny flavor in a dirty martini.
Favorite drink to mix:
I like making whiskey drinks: Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Boulevardier. Fans of these drinks tend to be sticklers for what they deem as acceptable and I like to see if I can meet their standards.
Rye whiskey. Right now, I can’t get enough of Colonel E.H. Taylor’s.
Most underrated ingredient:
Carpano Antica. Amazing sweet vermouth.
The best piece of bartending advice you’ve received:
Don’t bring your bad mood to work.
If you were a cocktail, your name would be:
The Whiskey Inspector.
Pour a splash of each of your top-shelf whiskeys into rocks glasses and give them all to me to inspect.
One thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
If it’s a busy night, mojitos.
If you could mix a drink for any person, dead or alive:
Hunter S. Thompson.
Favorite thing to do when not drinking or making a drink:
Anything involving the ocean: fishing, surfing, sailing.
Your favorite bar and why:
It’s dangerous to play favorites, but I’ll shout out Blue Parrot in East Hampton, The Neighborhood in Santa Barbara, MexiCali and The Cambus Wallace in Australia, and The Mad Mongoose in Antigua. Why? Because memories.
Best thing you ever drank:
The first beer after working a double or triple shift on a long holiday weekend. Or maybe the water the morning after.
The worst thing you ever drank:
A pickleback with bread-and-butter pickle brine. Have you ever had that? Dude. It was promptly returned from which it entered, if you catch my drift.
First time you got drunk:
Let’s let sleeping dogs lie.
If my bar shifts had a theme song:
Too tough to pick one to cover every shift. But today, The Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way.”
After my shift, I drink:
I’ve been brewing a lot of beer at home and I feel like batches are improving every week. I just went on a weekend brewery tour in Vermont for “research.”
One weird thing you should know about me:
I’m heavy-footed and I can’t help but run upstairs. Downstairs neighbors have always hated me.
The last text message you sent:
Signature cocktail | Beach Break
I’m a surfer and beach break is a type of wave. Our restaurant name means “after the beach,” so I started thinking about what I or any surfer would want after a day of hitting waves. The botanicals of gin complements the light, floral notes of St-Germain, all balanced with sweetness and tartness by way of watermelon and passion fruit purees.
Ingredients (1 serving):
2 oz gin, preferably Beefeater
1/2 oz St-Germain
1 oz watermelon puree
1/4 oz passionfruit puree
Garnish: watermelon slice
1) Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin and shake with ice.
2) Strain into a rocks glass over ice.
3) Garnish with a slice of watermelon.