CJ Arlotta

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The Gulp of Mexico: Salt & Barrel’s Tiki Cocktail

Tequila-based Gulp of Mexico, a twist on tiki cocktails that traditionally call for rum, was aged in the minds of the mixologists who concocted it at Salt & Barrel in Bay Shore.

One of the oyster and craft cocktail bar’s owners has been holding the five-ingredient drink back for two years due to its complexity — until now.

“The Gulp of Mexico basically came about when I was trying to think of a tiki cocktail,” says Morgan Flynn, who co-owns Salt & Barrel with Ryan Flynn, his sister; his dad, Jim Flynn; and Danielle Grosseto, another partner.

Flynn, 43, who stopped bartending a few years back, swaps rum for tequila as the main spirit in Gulp of Mexico. The cocktail specifically calls for añejo tequila, which is a “big, aged tequila, and it’s full of flavor.” This tequila “plays with all of the other ingredients.”

He didn’t settle on the tequila type until after crafting the majority of the drink. He began with orgeat syrup, an almond-based ingredient commonly found in classic tiki cocktails. Every additional ingredient leads him down another path, but what matters is that everything ends up connecting.

“Basically, to me, when I’m creating something, it’s like a web,” Flynn says. Orgeat syrup pointed him to Luxardo Amaretto di Saschira, an Italian liqueur based on apricots and almonds — “That’s the flavoring of it.”

The amaretto directed him to Giffard Apricot Liqueur, a golden yellow liqueur with almond and apricot notes and aromas. The nutty profile and dry fruit led him to sherry.

“A lot of sherries actually have notes of dry nuts, dry fruit to [them],” he says. It was after adding sherry to the mix that he evaluated tequila types for Gulp of Mexico. “I would say when it comes to cocktail making and stuff, not only does my passion for bartending all those years show through, but also a lot of [the] time I spent in the culinary world — in the kitchens and learning food…” he says.

He based his decision to go with añejo on the following: Blanco would disappear and reposado wouldn’t be “heavy enough.” This left the co-owner with only one option: añejo. Fresh-pressed lime juice pulls the drink together, and it’s the last ingredient to go into the shaker.

“We just want it chilled,” he says. “We don’t want to dilute it.”

The bartender then shakes the cocktail shaker softly, being careful not to dilute the finished product. The chilled liquid is poured over ice resting in a stemless tulip glass.

“It basically looks like a tiki drink,” he says.

The cocktail is then garnished with dehydrated pineapple rind.

“[The cocktail] never made it onto the menu in the beginning,” he says. “It’s a drink that I created a long time ago, but it was so complex. You don’t think five ingredients is that complex, but when you’re trying to make a lot of drinks and you’re doing a lot of stuff, it is a lot.

“Most classic cocktails are three ingredients,” he continues. “You never think that getting two more is that difficult, but it is, and it’s time-consuming. It wasn’t until my bar staff got to the point where I felt comfortable with them — that they could execute this drink when they were busy on Friday, Saturday night — I added it on.”

Added to the restaurant’s bar menu just a few months ago, Gulp of Mexico is for the Salt & Barrel customer who wants a smooth drink with a “little bit of a kick.” Someone longing for summer, toes in sand, and sun rays tanning skin and warming rough seas.

“Knock the Corona over, and have a Gulp of Mexico,” he says.

Salt & Barrel is located at 61 West Main St. in Bay Shore. They can be reached at 631-647-8818 or saltandbarrel.com.

Left Coast Kitchen & Cocktails on Fire With Thyme to Smoke

Matt Klapper, the bar manager at Left Coast, warms up one of his signature cocktails. (Photo by Dan Igneri)

Capturing the flavors, scents and feels of a stiff drink served in a Prohibition-era speakeasy is Thyme to Smoke, a Left Coast Kitchen & Cocktails concoction that would get Al Capone’s approval.

The popular gastropub in Merrick uses gin as the base spirit for its “classic feel” and green tea-infused white rum to modernize the cocktail. Just mix in sweetener, citrus, its namesake herb and add fire.

“The Thyme to Smoke has actually been on the menu now for a few months because it is wildly popular,” says Matt Klapper, the bar manager at Left Coast. “People have been really responding well to it. Part of it is also because there’s a little bit of a show  involved.”

Gin, which derives its predominant flavor from juniper berries, peaked in popularity during the ’20s since it masked the flavor of poorly distilled alcohol. The green tea- infused white rum is prepared in-house.

“We’ll cold infuse for a few hours,” he says. “You don’t want to let it go too long because then you’re going to get the tannic flavor from the green tea. You don’t want to get the tannins.”

When time’s up, he removes the tea bags and pours the liquid into another bottle. There’s no need to “go too crazy or craft with an infusion,” he says.

Next, the freshly squeezed lemon juice “brightens everything up,” pulling Thyme to Smoke’s ingredients together within the cocktail shaker’s walls.

Of course, Thyme to Smoke would be missing a key ingredient without thyme. Sprigs are dropped into the shaker with everything but a sweetener. Adding turbinado syrup sweetens up the drink a bit. For him, the added sweetness helps the boozy cocktail with maintaining its overall equilibrium.

Despite his initial idea of adding absinthe to the recipe, he settled on green chartreuse, which has “a very unique flavor,” and it’s absolutely delicious.

“I was considering absinthe,” he says, but he ruled it out. “I think that’s kind of overdone these days with a lot of craft cocktail bars.”

To him, the addition of green chartreuse gives the drink the same effect (the same feel, to be exact) he sought.

“You go to the green chartreuse to add an element of, again, something that’s a little more off the beaten path that maybe not everybody knows,” he says. “But if they’re adventurous, willing try it, they’re going to be pleasantly surprised that something they never saw before or are familiar with winds up being as delicious as it is.”

The French liqueur is flammable, which Left Coast’s bar manager took into consideration, not for the “wow” factor, but as a way to fortifythe cocktail.

“You got to make sure that everything you do is improving the cocktail,” he says. “I  figured, let’s throw some thyme in there… for the sake of adding flavor to the cocktail, enhancing it, creating a little more depth and complexity — and set it on fire with the green chartreuse.”

What happens next: The fire, set by a wooden match, continues to char the thyme sprigs until the contents from within the shaker are poured out over the fire to extinguish the flame. To catch thyme chunks, the glass is then strained over ice into a highball glass. The smoked thyme is used as garnish.

“That way when you’re bringing the cocktail to your lips you also get the aromatic of that smoked thyme,” he says. “You can just smell it in the whole restaurant. It’s a really, really wonderful ambiance creator.”

Smoke to Thyme is best sipped, not inhaled.

Manhattan Coffee Company: Honu’s Take on a Classic

Honu Kitchen & Cocktails GM Thomas Nocella adds bitters to the mix.

Making a Manhattan is bartending 101. But mixologists at Honu Kitchen & Cocktails in Huntington mean business with a stimulating new coffee-flavored spin on this classic New York cocktail they brewed up.

They call it Manhattan Coffee Company. The name is a nod to the original Manhattan, which calls for two parts bourbon to one part sweet vermouth and bitters garnished with a maraschino cherry for good measure. Manhattan Coffee Company’s recipe cuts down the vermouth to make room for the cordial — three-quarter part vermouth and one- quarter part cordial.

“The inspiration was just to just bring as many coffee aspects into the cocktail as I could with still keeping the flavors of a traditional Manhattan, keeping the bourbon as the main profile, and then just all the subtle nuances of coffee throughout,” says Thomas Nocella, general manager at Honu, a chic upscale New American hot spot situated on New York Avenue in the heart of downtown Huntington.

Served in a coupe cocktail glass, Manhattan Coffee Company is a sophisticated blend of Hudson Baby Bourbon, González Byass “La Copa” Vermouth, Koval Coffee Liqueur, espresso bitters and coffee dust.

“I try to not use the big companies,” Nocella says. “I just feel like they sell themselves, and if we could give one of the smaller guys an opportunity to get some exposure on a cocktail list, then if I put this bottle on my back bar, it might get ordered.”

The bourbon and bitters are sourced from New York. Spicing up the drink are a shaved orange peel to “bring out some citrus notes,” Nocella says. The coffee dust is made from ground Italian coffee beans. There’s also an Amarena cherry with an added twist in Honu’s Manhattan.

Honu’s Manhattan Coffee Company is an eye-opening new take on the classic cocktail.

“I’m taking those cherries out of the syrup that they come in, and then soaking them in iced coffee to bring coffee throughout the cherry,” he says.

Honu’s Manhattan ages in an oak barrel for at least two weeks. They take two bottles out from the barrel, and then refill the barrel with another two bottles, so there’s always aging going on. Technically, the bartender could serve a two-month aged Manhattan Coffee Company to a customer.

“It doesn’t get a crazy oaky flavor,” Nocella says. “I feel like it blends well, where it melts the flavors together.”

He’s been using the same barrel for more than two years now. Other Manhattan variations have also aged in the barrel, including ones with other base liquors: rum and tequila. Honu during the summer offered a clear Manhattan, which didn’t see any aging, so prior to Manhattan Coffee Company, Nocella dumped in some vanilla whiskey, black cherry whiskey, crème de cacao and port wine. He left the mix to age for three months.

Manhattan Coffee Company’s target customer is the traditionalist on the lookout for a cocktail with a twist, one subtle enough to boast authenticity.

“I would say if you’re not a traditional bourbon or Manhattan drinker, it’s most likely not for you,” Nocella says. “But if you’re a traditional Manhattan drinker, an old-fashioned drinker, [someone who likes] bourbon neat or bourbon on the rocks, it’s something I think would be very eye-opening.”

Honu Kitchen & Cocktails is located at 363 New York Ave. in Huntington. They can be reached at honukitchen.com or 631-421-6900.

Cork & Kerry’s Barreled Boulevardier Improves With Age

Dave Bletsch, mixologist at Cork and Kerry in Floral Park, caramelizes a barrel-aged Boulevardier. (Photo by Michel Dussack)

Replace the gin in a Negroni with an American whiskey and you get the Boulevardier. But for some mixologists, this simple swap of base liquors isn’t enough. Aging the ingredients in a barrel and garnishing the cocktail with a flamed orange twist immeasurably enhances the taste — and is just plain fun.

“It’s really photogenic; it’s a great color,” Doug Brickel, beverage director and co-owner of Cork and Kerry in Floral Park, says of the speakeasy-style craft cocktail bar’s Barreled Boulevardier, which is made up of Old Overholt Rye, Dolin Rouge Vermouth and Gran Classico Bitter. “It’s a bright, rich orange.”

Ascribed to Erskine Gwynne, an American-born writer who founded a monthly magazine in Paris called Boulevardier, the boulevardier cocktail is traditionally composed of two parts bourbon, one part sweet red vermouth and one part Campari. The ingredients are then poured on ice and stirred. It’s garnished with either a cherry or an orange peel.

“I think what you’re seeing now in forward-thinking cocktail bars is a lot of thoughtful reimaginings of classical and neoclassical cocktails through the substitution of carefully selected spirits for their classical counterparts,” he says. “With that thought process, you can generally preserve the original balance of the drink while updating it for the drinking public.”

The beverage boss subbed the Campari with Gran Classico in an attempt to make a more customer-friendly version of the Boulevardier.

“Campari can be a very, very aggressive bitter,” Brickel says.

The two most important ingredients in the Barreled Boulevardier are charred oak and time.

“There was a trend for a while with people with barrel-aged cocktails,” he says. “Taking drinks without fresh components — things that aren’t going to go bad — throwing them in a wooden barrel, and keep it right on the bar. Fill it up, give it seven weeks, and when you pull it out, the whole thing changes.

“It’s going to oxidize,” he continues. “It’s going to get nutty. You’ll get some barrel char off of it, so it will smooth out. The flavor will just change.”

Cork and Kerry batched the boulevardier in February 2016, and it’s been aging in the five-liter barrel, which is charred on the inside — like it would be for bourbon — ever since.

“The barrel was filled up with equal parts of the three ingredients,” he says. “As the level drops to 75 to 80 percent, we refill with equal parts of the same ingredients, ensuring consistency in product while allowing for the flavors to change over time due to contact with air and charred oak.”

The “barrel juice” went from tasting differently day-to-day to week-to-week. The mix’s flavor has remained steady for quite a while now.

“There’s always more old than new,” he says. “The old is always getting older, and if you consider that older is better, every time you pour one it’s the best one that’s ever come out of there.”

The mix develops roundness, nuttiness and depth of flavor in the barrel.

“Over the time it’s taken on the vanilla,” Brickel says. “The vermouth, which you usually want to keep cold because it’s wine based, we let go. It’s been sitting in room temperature for a year and half.”

Cork and Kerry Barreled Boulevardier is also garnished differently than the traditional Boulevardier.

“For garnish what we’ll do is cut a little orange twist and then — the oils on the outside are flammable — so we’ll squeeze it over the drink through a match to caramelize some of the oils,” he says. “It adds a little flavor, and obviously, it’s a fun show.”

Cork and Kerry is located at 143 Tulip Avenue in Floral Park and 24 S. Park Ave. in Rockville Centre.

The flavor of the Boulevardier gets better the longer it’s aged. (Photo by Michel Dussack)

Tullulah’s Seasonally Stimulated Mixologists Capture Taste of Fall

Tullulah’s barkeep Bert Wiegand mixes up a Pecan Jag. (Photo by Justin Bernard)

It’s spiced drinks season and no place mixes up spicier libations than Tullulah’s in Bay Shore, where the mixologists boast a lengthy autumnal cocktail list that reads like a Thanksgiving dinner menu.

Some of the 11 fall cocktails ($14 each) on the menu call for seasonal ingredients. For example, there’s pumpkin purée and spiced simple in the Autumn Addict, and apple cider and cranberry jam make an appearance in the Apple of My “Aye.”

“Fall’s definitely one of my favorite seasons for making cocktails,” says Bert
Wiegand, one of the bartenders clad in ties and suspenders.

Wiegand and his fellow mixologist Drew Conroy concocted the recipes a few weeks prior to the drinks being released. The cocktail and food menus are seasonal, but one featured drink’s available year-round.

That would be The Tullulah’s Old Fashioned, which consists of Redemption Rye, Demerara sugar, muddled lemon and an orange peel, Angostura bitters and cherry bitters.

The suggestions are as follows: try both the Rhubarb & Custard and the Pecan Jag. Conroy, who moved to the US about a decade ago, grew up eating rhubarb and custard as a child in the UK.

“It wasn’t a lavish dessert, but I wanted to make a drink that tasted like it,” he says. The cocktail calls for 1.5 ounces of Queens Courage, a New York Old Tom gin. A strawberry-infused Campari is then added.

“It’s got that bitter note as well from the Campari but the sweet from the strawberry,” he says. He then adds egg white to the mix.

“It has a nice consistency,” says Wiegand. “I think people are more appalled by thinking that it’s going to have a taste of egg, which it never will.”

The Rhubarb & Custard cocktail also consists of lemon juice, a rhubarb purée and Licor 43, which gives the drink a vanilla note. A dehydrated lemon wheel is placed into the glass before dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters are added on top of it to finish off the drink, so “you get that aromatic of the nose,” Conroy says.

On to Pecan Jag, which Wiegand concocted after choosing its name, something he typically does.

“Pecan Jag’s actually a quote from a Jadakiss song, which is hilarious because nobody is going to actually get that,” he says.

His basis for the drink: a booze-for-ward tiki cocktail. Unlike the Rhubarb & Custard, the Pecan Jag’s rum-based. It calls for a pecan-infused rum, which he makes using Denizen Merchant’s Reserve Rum and pecans. He then infuses the bottle for about two days.

The drink also consists of Orgeat, an almond-based syrup; fernet branca, a staple of Tullulah’s (it’s the house shot); pimento dram, a simple liqueur flavored with allspice berries; demerara simple, to sweeten the drink; and Angostura bitters.

“It’s really a pretty simple cocktail, all in all, with a lot of flavor in a little glass,” he says.

Tullulah’s is located at 12 4th Ave. in Bay Shore. They can be reached at tullulahs.com or 631-969-9800.

The Pecan Jag can be found only at Tullulah’s. (Photo by Justin Bernard)