CJ Arlotta


Blackbird Kitchen in Wantagh Crafts Sweet ‘n’ Sour Cocktails

Brandy-soaked cherries sparked the creation of this clever cocktail.

Ask any bartender about creating cocktails, and you’ll soon find out how much fun the process can be, especially when there’s a problem to solve.

That’s exactly how the cocktail known as one of the boys was born at Blackbird Kitchen and Cocktails, an American bistro offering a seasonal menu of small plates and cocktails in Wantagh.

“We soak our Luxardo cherries in brandy to reduce the syrupiness and add a little bite to the cherry itself,” says Bitsy Donohue, beverage director at Blackbird. “When we’ve used up all the cherries — in Manhattans, old fashioned, and other cocktails — we are left with this delicious kind of tart, sweet, cherry/brandy syrup. So in trying to reduce our waste, we realized we needed to figure out something cool to do with it. We started trying different things and finally landed here!”

One of the boys has several ingredients, including bourbon, lemon, brandied cherry, honey and vanilla. To make the drink, add all the ingredients to a shaker tin, throw in some ice, give the shaker a few shakes, strain the liquid into a coupe glass, and garnish the drink with a dehydrated lemon wheel.

Expect a cherry bourbon sour on the palate. 

“People get nervous because it seems like there’s a lot of sweeteners in this cocktail, but the vanilla and honey really act as support to the depth of the cherry syrup, so it’s not overly sweet at all, while still bringing you all these strong flavors,” Donohue says. 

“Our old-fashioned drinkers have loved it,” she says. “Our cocktail drinkers have loved it. I think it has enough familiarity, while still being just a little different, to pique the interest of our guests. And when they find out the syrup is a byproduct of our cherries, they’re always a little shocked. For me, it’s just really cool to make a drink that’s less wasteful, goes really well with Blackbird’s food, and that people order again!”

Blackbird Kitchen and Cocktails is located at 3026 Merrick Rd. in Wantagh. It can be reached at 516-654-9200 or blackbirdli.com

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Sparkling Pointe Offers Low-Calorie Wine on the North Fork

Sparkling Pointe’s 2016 Brut Nature.

Sometimes a boozy glass of wine isn’t what you need. Maybe you’re on a new diet, or you’re looking for something with low alcohol beverage volume.

If either situation sounds like you, Sparkling Pointe’s Brut Nature may be your best bet. 

“We feel it is a perfect addition to the Sparkling Pointe portfolio and fills a space unlike any of our other wines,” says Melissa L. Rockwell, direct-to-consumer sales manager at Sparkling Pointe, a North Forth vineyard known for its vast selection of sparkling wines. 

Released in September 2020, Sparkling Pointe’s Brut Nature has been in the works since the 2016 vintage. 

“The Brut Nature was originally conceived by relying heavily on our reserve wines (those held back and stored in neutral oak and small steel casks from past vintages) to supply the texture and balance that is typically achieved via the final addition of liquor dosage,” Rockwell says. 

The blend, which has an ABV of 12.5 percent, is composed of three types of grapes: 33 percent Chardonnay, 56 percent Pinot Noir and 11 percent Pinot Meunier. 

“For me the aromatics are citrus-led with green apple, some floral, and a bit of that brioche-crispy croissant that comes from the neutral oak aged base wines plus the three years aging on the lees,” Rockwell says. “There is a bit of mineral and dried grassiness that I really enjoy as well. The palate is striking in its dryness (which is the point!), and crisp acidity up front, but it also has a softness to the finish.”

The winery produced 360 cases of Brut Nature. A bottle is $42.00, unless you’re a member of one of Sparkling Pointe’s clubs, then it’s $37.80.

“It has been quite popular and well received at the tasting house,” she says. “Although I think there is a trendiness to the style and even non wine aficionados are compelled by a no-sugar, low-alcohol, low-calorie sparkling wine.”

Sparkling Pointe is located at 39750 County Rd. 48 in Southold. It can be reached at 631-765-0200.

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Old Fields Barbecue Pours Banana-Infused Old-Fashioned Cocktails

This cocktail puts a twist on a classic.

When you’re eating a perfectly smoked beef brisket or pork sausage, one spirit typically comes to mind — bourbon. 

“We were experimenting on cool ideas we could use our centrifuge for,” says Rory Van Nostrand, who owns Old Fields Barbecue Setauket, a barbecue restaurant that also specializes in craft cocktails, with David Tunney. “We’ve made a bunch of different ingredients with it but the banana-infused old-fashioned was everyone’s favorite.”

Fans of the old-fashioned won’t be disappointed by the restaurant’s subtle twist on this classic drink. Many of the ingredients in the banana-infused old-fashioned should be familiar to cocktail traditionalists, and that was done by design. 

The drink’s ingredients include bourbon, banana, an orange, an amerena cherry and Aromatic Bitters.

“We blend up bananas with bourbon,” Van Nostrand says. “Then we spin it in the centrifuge to remove the banana pulp and leave the flavor. This really smooths out the bourbon.”

To finish off the drink, they add an orange and an amarena cherry. As is the case for traditional old-fashioned cocktails, the banana-infused old-fashioned is served on the rocks.

“It’s a bourbon drink that doesn’t drink aggressive and boozy like a lot of classic bourbon cocktails yet it’s not overly sweet,” he says. “We feel that it’s a cocktail a bourbon drinker would love but someone who isn’t necessarily into bourbon will drink and enjoy.”  

The cocktail also “goes especially well with barbecue or a steak,” Van Nostrand says. 

“Everyone loves it,” he says. “We’ve been serving it now for three years, and it’s still our most popular cocktail.”

Old Fields Barbecue is located at 130 Old Town Rd. in Setauket. It can be reached at 631-675-1313 or ofsetauket.com

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2 Spring in Oyster Bay Serves Up Refreshing Holiday Cheer

Celebrate the holidays with a Martinelli.

Fall scents and flavors remind many of the sound of leaves crunching under rain boots, home-cooked meals with loved ones, and, depending on the outside temperature, family gatherings around a roaring fire. 

But the joys of autumn don’t have to necessarily end in late December, when winter officially kicks off. Sometimes, all you need is a favorite fall cocktail to transition you comfortably to a new season. 2 Spring’s Martinelli attempts to do just that. 

“The inspiration was making a refreshing, fall-style drink that resembled Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider,” says Jordan Lari, restaurant director at 2 Spring, an American brasserie created by Claudia and Michael Taglich, and Chef Jesse Schenker in the heart of Oyster Bay. “We wanted to make something that was like a soft drink — but very fall flavored and refreshing, but still boozy.”

The ingredients in the Martinelli include Bulleit Bourbon, Laird’s Applejack, Bénédictine, St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram, apple cider, chai, and lemon.

“We start by making an apple cider syrup by reducing apple cider with chai tea,” Lari says. “We then mix this syrup with Bulleit Bourbon, Laird’s Applejack, Bénédictine, St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram, lemon juice and water.”

They then carbonate the drink by using a DrinkMate soda maker.

“It’s like apple pie soda,” Lari says. “It’s as simple and delicious as that.”

Even though the cocktail was created with autumn in mind, they plan on keeping it on the menu throughout winter, for good reason. 

So far, the drink has been well received.

“The hardest part is making enough to keep up with the demand,” he says. 

2 Spring is located at 2 Spring St. in Oyster Bay. It can be reached at 2springstreet.com or 516-624-4211.

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Montauk Distilling Co. Pours New Spirits on East End

Montauk Distilling Co.’s Modico Collins.

A new distillery has opened on the East End, and it’s already creating a buzz with its Modico Collins. 

Despite its name, Montauk Distilling Co. is not located at the tip of the South Fork, it’s in Riverhead, right next door to North Fork Brewing Co.

“Being centrally located was important to us,” said Leucio Iacobelli, owner of the distillery. “We hope that whether it be out at a local restaurant, from your local spirit shop or visiting us directly at the distillery, every Long Islander can know where we are and what we stand for, putting the best quality products we can in your hand and letting them speak for themselves. In a market where most of one’s purchases come from places that they may never visit, we think it’s pretty special that you come visit us and experience the process firsthand.”

Danielle Sweeny, the distillery’s tasting room manager, created Montauk’s tasting room, which has several tables and a fully stocked bar with seating. She also has a hand in developing the distillery’s many cocktails.

“One of our most popular specialty cocktails is our Modico Collins, a twist on a classic featuring our Modico Vodka,” Iacobelli said. “It has been a staple since we opened our doors on August 1.” 

The ingredients in the Modico Collins include Modico Vodka, agave nectar, freshly squeezed lime juice, club soda, LI bubbly and mint sprig.

“It’s always best to come and see us to find out what is next,” he said. “Our tasting room and distillery will be home to our R&D, and we love to offer samples to our guests firsthand when new inspirations come upon us. We recently expanded our distribution, so we hope that our customers are able to enjoy our lineup of spirits throughout Long Island and beyond and can ask for our locally crafted brands by name wherever they enjoy a good drink, or grab a bottle from the shelf.”

Montauk Distilling Co. is located at 24 E. 2nd St., Suite B, in Riverhead. It can be reached at 631-727-6326 or montaukdistillingco.com

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North Fork Table & Inn’s Stone Fruit Old-Fashioned Cocktail Changes With The Seasons

The stone fruit old-fashioned.

Using fresh and delicious fruit in a cocktail can make all the difference. 

Taking this to another level, North Fork Table and Inn switches up the fruit used in its stone fruit old-fashioned with whatever stone fruit is ripest at the time.

“As North Fork Table & Inn is surrounded by farms and great produce, we are excited to work with produce in an even more focused timeline than the four seasons,” says Amy Racine, beverage director at JF Restaurants, a New York-based hospitality group that owns the New American restaurant housed in a historic countryside home in Southold. “While the stone fruit will be offered through the majority of fall, we have been able to work with different stone fruits in many forms of ripeness, as they each have a unique timeline for ripeness moving from late summer into November.”

Rob Krueger, the restaurant’s head bartender, created the stone fruit old-fashioned. Keeping ripening dates in mind, he selected stone fruit as the cocktail’s main ingredient. The type of stone fruit used in the cocktail varies by season, as fresh and flavorful ingredients are at the core of North Fork Table & Inn’s dining and cocktail menus. 

“It has been adapted from ripe peaches into sweet cherries, and now the cocktail has turned to focus on local plum, which are beautiful this time of year and will be for the next few weeks,” Racine says. “As we go out of fall, we look forward to showcasing preserved stone fruits and starting the cycle over as the weather warms next year. It’s exciting for guests to see the transition of the fruit through our cocktails while honoring the lifecycle of great produce in this area of Long Island.”

The cocktail stone fruit old-fashioned features Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon, bitters and stone fruit. 

“Guests have been very delighted by this signature take on an old-fashioned,” she says, “since it livens up a classic and creates a sense of place and time by using the latest expression of local fruit.”

The North Fork Table & Inn is located at 57225 Main Rd. in Southold. It can be reached at  631-765-0177 or northforktableandinn.com

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New American Cure: The Better Man Distilling Co.’s Cold Relief Cocktail

The Better Man Distilling Co. won an award for its New American Cure cocktail.

A warm hot toddy can help kick a sore throat once the cooler weather hits, but sometimes a cocktail with a little more spice is needed to kick the common cold.

That’s the word from The Better Man Distilling Co., a craft distillery in Patchogue, which touts the therapeutic benefits of an award-winning fall cocktail dubbed the New American Cure.

“This was the first cocktail I ever made with our Equinox White Rye, which actually just won a gold medal in the Great American International Spirits Competition,” says Abby Gruppuso, head of operations at the distillery. “It’s called the New American Cure and was inspired by the ingredients traditionally used in tea for a cold and sore throat cure — honey and ginger.”

The New American Cure has nearly 10 ingredients, including Equinox White Rye, fresh-squeezed apple juice, lemon juice, pear brandy, vanilla ginger simple syrup, honey mixed with water, ginger liqueur, and a dash of Angostura bitters. It’s garnished with fresh apple slices.

“The New American Cure is the perfect combination of sweet, smoky, and spicy,” Gruppuso says. “You get sweetness from fresh fruit juices and our house-made vanilla ginger syrup. Spice comes in the form of ginger and the natural rye spice of the Equinox. The addition of the bitters rounds out the cocktail, and the smoke from the rye lingers on your palate after each sip.”

To concoct the cocktail, mix the honey and water in a small bowl. Then add to a shaker along with all other ingredients and ice. Shake until chilled. Finally, pour into a coupe glass and garnish with dried pear slices.

“We served this cocktail at our Equinox White Rye launch party last October, and it was a huge hit,” she says. “People love the White Rye in general because it’s a product that’s specific to our distillery and isn’t produced anywhere else, so when people see how that special spirit works in a cocktail they just flip about it. You can expect to see the New American Cure on our menu again this coming fall.”

The Better Man Distilling Co. is located at 161 River Ave. in Patchogue. It can be reached at 631-708-7405 or thebettermandistillingco.com

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PORT in a Storm: A Classic Cocktail Sails On

PORT in a storm is a fresh take on a dark ‘n’ stormy.

While the dark ‘n’ stormy highball cocktail is known for its simplicity, its ingredients, even though there are only a few, can still be adjusted to give the imbiber something extra to talk about. 

Tossing overboard the old adage that loose lips sink ships is PORT Waterfront Bar & Grill in Greenport, which has tongues wagging with its take on the drink first mixed in Bermuda after World War I.

“PORT in a storm is a classically made dark ‘n’ stormy,” says Alison Bavaro, owner of PORT Waterfront Bar & Grill, which offers a range of fresh seafood and pub fare, wine, and cocktails. “A longtime favorite of baymen, sailors, and landlubbers alike, the drink pays homage to the long and storied sailing and fishing industries that make Greenport so special. We renamed it PORT in a storm as a play on words with the name of the restaurant, and as a nod to that special feeling you get when enjoying a cocktail after a long day — after you’ve ‘survived the storm.’”

The base spirit in PORT in a storm is Goslings Black Seal Dark Rum, the key ingredient in any dark ‘n’ stormy. But what gives this particular dark ‘n’ stormy its distinct taste is the brand of ginger beer used. 

“After much taste-testing and experimenting, we concluded that Barritt’s is the best ginger beer for the cocktail,” she says. “Fresh and spicy and not too sweet. We top it with a thick wedge of lime.”

She describes the cocktail as “classic, refreshing; the spicy ginger beer leaves your tongue tingling, but the dark rum smooths out the edges.”

“This drink definitely packs a punch,” Bavaro adds.

If imbibers are looking for something familiar yet surprising, PORT in a storm is only one of the many cocktails to try at PORT Waterfront Bar & Grill this summer.

“People who drink dark ‘n’ stormies are fanatical and particular about the cocktail,” she says. “We’ve been told [that] ours is perfectly balanced and uses the finest selection of ingredients.”

PORT Waterfront Bar & Grill is located at 104 3rd St. in Greenport. It can be reached at 631-333-2501 or portbarandgrill.com

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Rustic Root’s French Martini The Moira Rose A Nod To Schitt’s Creek

After binge-watching a hit television series during the COVID-19 pandemic, crew members at one Long Island restaurant used one of the show’s lead characters as the inspiration behind revamping a popular cocktail.

“During quarantine, I can honestly say that almost our entire crew was hooked on Schitt’s Creek,” says Ariana Fishman, assistant manager at Rustic Root, a Woodbury-based New American restaurant known for its area-sourced plates, craft beers and signature cocktails.

A Canadian television sitcom, Schitt’s Creek is about a wealthy couple, Johnny and Moira Rose, who end up in a predicament with their children: They’re suddenly broke and have nowhere to live but in a motel in a small town they bought years ago as a joke.

Since they were receiving many requests for French martinis, the Rustic Root team decided to revamp the popular cocktail; for inspiration, they turned to the series they binged during the pandemic.

“We found a way to refine a classic and showcase a beautiful spirit, much like Moira’s character, it’s elegant,” she says.

What makes a martini “French” is when Chambord, a black raspberry liqueur dating back to 17th-century France, is added instead of vermouth.

“We made our own rose syrup with organic dried rose tea, then combined that with Wölffer ‘Pink’ Gim, which is very floral,” she says. “Then we added Chambord and a touch of lemon.”

The Moira Rose is served in a coupe glass and garnished with dried rose petals.

“We’ve had incredible feedback on it,” Fishman says. “Some of our regulars have officially switched go-to cocktails in quarantine, which was amazing to take notice of while we were making the drinks for delivery or carry out.”

Other cocktails available for consumption on Rustic Root’s menu are Smoked Old Fashioned, which Rustic Root is known for; The Firebird; Wagon Wheel; Bump & Grind; The Mule; Bee Sting; Pink Lady; Hemp Thyme; One & Done; and Citrus Side Rye-Der.

“The cocktail and its introduction really does kind of mimic Moira’s journey of finding normalcy, adapting, maintaining former standards and finding happiness,” she says.

Rustic Root is located at 7927 Jericho Tpke. in Woodbury. It can be reached at 516-364-5041 or rusticrootkitchen.com

The Bench Bar And Grill Gets Creative With Mason Jar Cocktails To Go

The Bench is serving up curbside cocktails in mason jars.

Taking over the ownership of a restaurant amid a pandemic is simply bad timing, but with a little creativity and some alcohol, a restaurateur can make the best of an unfortunate situation. 

That was the case for Marios Patatinis, who recently purchased The Bench Bar And Grill in Stony Brook with a couple of partners and also owns Sweet Mama’s and Grandpa’s Shed.

“The COVID-19 pandemic forced us and others restaurants to think outside the box,” says Patatinis. “Outside of our food, which can be ordered to go through several platforms, our customers were missing out on our cocktails, so it just made sense for us to get creative and do something fun.”

The Bench’s management team put their heads together — while keeping 6 feet apart, of course — tossed some ideas around and ultimately settled on the concept of packaging to-go cocktails in 24-ounce mason jars, which hold two and a half drinks. 

The Bench’s to-go cocktail menu lists three drinks: 3V-Rita classic margarita, a rum punch dubbed the patriot, and what’s known as shepherds-ade, made up of vodka, homemade lemonade, seltzer, and Arnold Palmer Iced Tea, and garnished with fresh blueberries.

One of the challenges The Bench has been facing during the COVID-19 pandemic is operating during rush hour with a limited staff. The bar and grill receives many of its to-go orders during a three-hour window in the evening.

“We’re banging out an average of about 50 to-go cocktails a night,” he says.

The response has been incredible, Patatinis says. Many of The Bench’s customers have kept their mason jars instead of throwing them away, using them as part of home decor, or to preserve food or store other items. 

Some restaurants on Long Island have been offering to-go cocktails to partially compensate for lost revenue as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Many of these restaurants, including The Bench, plan on continuing to sell to-go cocktails after the pandemic passes.

“We’re going to keep offering to-go cocktails after the COVID-19 pandemic, and build upon our current menu,” he says.

The Bench Bar And Grill is located at 1095 NY-25A in Stony Brook it can be reached at 631-675-1474 or thebenchbar.com

Related Story: The Babylon Express: All Aboard For Classy Curbside Cocktail

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