Category Archives: DESTINATION COCKTAILS

Drinks At Bird In Westfield, N.Y.

Saturday was a gorgeous day in Western New York and I spent a portion of my afternoon at Bird in Westfield, N.Y.


Bird is located on the back porch at Five & 20 Spirits & Brewing in Westfield and has ties with 1201 Kitchen in Erie, Pa.

The venue itself is a walk-up, open-air kitchen & service counter/bar situated under the spacious pavilion on Five & 20’s back patio.

On Saturday there were two cocktails advertised at the back bar. I’m not sure whether drinks are limited to the daily specialty cocktails Bird creates or whether simple drinks like whiskey & ginger ale can be purchased, but I was there for their suggested beverages anyway and didn’t even think to inquire.

Saturday’s Cocktail Offerings


Buffalo Negra 


Gentleman Johnson


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Filed under BARS, BOURBON, BRANDS, BREWERIES, DESTINATION COCKTAILS, DISTILLERIES, RYE WHISKEY, WHISKEY

My Top Cocktails Of 2015

The next few weeks will be full of lists and year-in recaps getting linked on Facebook and every o social media site.

And I’m not going to lie — I love that crap.

Somewhere in all the listicles, recaps and prediction pieces, I’ll inevitably learn something — which makes all the digging around in the dirt worthwhile.

In the meantime though, here’s a quickly-cobbled together recap of five memorable cocktails I was served this past year:

#5
Manhattan
Brazill’s On Main
Westfield, N.Y.

 

It’s a rare treat to go out and get waited on by someone when most of your nights are spent working in the service industry.

I’ve had two really nice meals at Brazill’s On Main in Westfield, N.Y. — and I’ve had several great drinks! The owner is an older guy and every time I’ve been to the place, he’s been the one behind the bar mixing up drinks.

The Manhattan pictured above was expertly done, and had an extra little kick of flavor — maybe from the (what I assume were) house-made cherries. My father-in-law and I were picking up subtle notes of cinnamon and other flavors. All-in-all an excellent night and a memorable drink.

#4
Mint Julep
Bag & String Wine Merchants
Lakewood, N.Y.

 

I’m so lucky to have Bag & String in this area.

If you’re new to the blog, I mention them a lot.

This past Derby Day the staff had prepared a pitcher of Mint Juleps to promote the many bourbons available at the shop.

I swung by for a quick sip and also to shoot the above pic, as any reason for a blog post is reason enough! And I’d mentioned to Betsy (pictured) that Jeffrey Morgenthaler had a dynamite recipe for mint syrup… Which can be found online here.

#3
Dill Breaker
Vera Pizzeria
Buffalo, N.Y.

  

Dill-infused mezcal with ginger syrup and lime. Had this on Halloween. Strange and tasty. Very worthwhile.

#2
Spin The Bottle
Buffalo Proper
Buffalo, N.Y.

  

Alright, so… Obviously this is a picture of me, but the drink I’m holding is my “Dealer’s Choice” cocktail. You see, on the menu at Buffalo Proper is something called “Spin The Bottle,” where you tell your bartender or waitress what sorts of things you like — and they craft you a drink of their choosing.

For this drink I mentioned amaros (amari?) and even mentioned Fernet-Branca and Campari, but what I got was something black and bitter, but juicy — maybe made with Aperol or Ramazzotti? I’ll never know. But I enjoyed it. Immensely.

#1
Boulevardier
Arendell Room
Moorehead City, N.C.

 

Another “Dealer’s Choice” drink with whiskey and amaro/bitter being the only things I mentioned. 

I’ve made plenty of Boulevardiers for myself in recent years, but sometimes a drink just tastes so much better when someone else is making it for you.

Other Drinks Worth Mentioning 

•A black walnut drink at Cheshire in Rochester made with Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters.
•Old Fashioneds at Good Luck with Robert Simonson.
•Champagne before Phantom of the Opera.

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Filed under 2015, DESTINATION COCKTAILS, DRINKS

24 Hours In Buffalo — Savoy & Vera Pizzeria

The reason I went to Buffalo over the weekend was to get myself some quality craft cocktails for my birthday.

My first stop though was for a quick beer, as I detailed in my last post, but the plan for the evening was very much about craft cocktails. We checked into our hotel and got gussied up for Halloween, then headed first to Savoy for a drink and Vera Pizzeria for dinner.

Savoy’s Beet Around The Busch:

  

My wife had a non-alcoholic cocktail which the bartender shook up and topped with ginger beer.

The first drink I had at Vera was a cocktail called Dill Breaker:

  

My second drink at Vera was a cocktail called Vice Admiral:

  

By the time we got to Vera it was very dark out, and the house lights were low (for Haloween I’m guessing) — and so I brightened the above pictures as best I could. Apologies for all the graininess, but I’m happy I at least got a pic at all for the blog. I easily could’ve left my phone at home and just enjoyed the atmosphere and overall experience. 

Our meal was excellent and the staff members at Vera were knowledgable and friendly. I finally got to try Amaro Di Angostura and the bartenders were kind enough to chat with me about their Fernet-Branca on tap!

The two cocktails I had are on Vera’s new Fall 2015 cocktail menu:

The Dill Breaker:

  

The Vice Admiral:
  

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Filed under AMARO, BEET, BIRTHDAYS, BRANDS, BUFFALO BARS, BUFFALO RESTAURANTS, DESTINATION COCKTAILS, DILL, HOLIDAYS, PISCO, RYE WHISKEY, WHISKEY

Arendell Room

Destination Cocktail:
Arendell Room’s Craft Drinks

The Arendell Room in Morehead City was just a short few minutes from the place where I stayed this past week in Pine Knoll Shores.

I’m glad I found the Arendell Room because, from what I can tell, they serve the best cocktails in the region.

 

Now, I don’t write that as hyperbole or to diminish what other bars in the area do, but it just seems apparent from what the Arendell Room puts forward — which is that their cocktails come first.

In fact, that phrase is a part of the bar’s tagline — “Cocktails first, questions later.”

And I’m not going to lie, seeing that phrase really enticed me to get out to this bar at least once during my trip. I found the bar while searching the area with my Yelp app, and only after I’d switched my search from “restaurants” to “cocktails.” I don’t know if the bar serves food or not, but I’m glad I changed what I was searching in the app otherwise this place might never have made my radar.

I was a part of a group of five on Wednesday night and we arrived at Arendell Room after having already had dinner and drinks somewhere else. The five of us grabbed the corner seats at the bar, which was particularly nice because the corner seats afforded us a nice view of Arendell Room’s bourbon selection. I’d been drinking Basil Hayden elsewhere and one of the others in my party stuck with bourbon on ice. Another had a glass of white wine and a third had a split of champagne while my wife got a very nice non-alcoholic drink — made with mint and watermelon and something carbonated to give it bubbles. It was really quite tasty.

There were several drinks on the menu which caught my eye — as well as a quirky set of “house rules,” but having already been drinking elsewhere I knew I’d probably only be having just one drink at this bar. With that in mind, I went with the custom drink option listed on the cocktail menu and I let the bartender make me something of his choice.

When going the custom route, the menu suggested telling the bartender what types of liquors and drinks you normally like — so I mentioned bourbon and amaro and specifics like Aperol and Fernet.

What I got was a Boulevardier, a bourbon drink that’s sort of like a Negroni. I saw the bartender pour Buffalo Trace, which was nice, but I wish I would’ve seen what vermouth he used. The drink was phenomenal — velvety and sweet with a strong orange flavor plus that dry, bitter Canpari finish.

 

The photos above are my own, but this one from the bar’s website shows a little more of the Arendell Room:

  

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Filed under AMARO, ATLANTIC BEACH, DESTINATION COCKTAILS, NORTH CAROLINA

Amos Mosquito’s

Destination Cocktail:
Amos Mosquito’s Beach Drinks

On Tuesday night I got the chance to eat and drink at Amos Mosquito’s in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.

It’s after Labor Day, but the parking lot of the place was still starting to fill up at 4:45 p.m. — which is when we happened to be driving past.

I didn’t get a picture of the exterior of the place, but I did take this photo of my souvenir coozie after dinner when I was back in my hotel pool:

  

My only regret from dinner was not being hungry enough to order more. My wife and I split a seafood plate and I had two house cocktails plus a Pilsner that was on tap (I think maybe it was Scrimshaw).

We didn’t get a chance to eat or drink at the restaurant last July when we were first here, but made up for that fact last night. It was definitely a high-priority for us this trip — and proved to be well worth the effort. The restaurant has a reputation for filling up fast and staying busy throughout service each night, which is a testament to both the quality of their food and the unique “rustic” atmosphere.
The mosquito theme of the place is pretty intense — with all sorts of mosquito-related posters and wall-hangings decorating all corners of the place. And their attention to detail extends to the bathrooms where there are framed photos of outhouses above the urinals and a soundtrack of swamp noises plays on a loop.
I felt bad for our waitress, a really nice woman named Junior who had to deal with us and our million questions right at 5 o’clock. She was friendly, funny and professional as we grilled her about everything from the ingredients in their different housemate breads to the coconut flavoring in their tiki drinks.
As I mentioned already, I had two of their house cocktails and a pilsner.

I started with their Painkiller:

 

I also had their Bourbon Beach Cooler, which I didn’t enjoy as much as my first drink but was still alright overall. I’d ordered it because I saw the Wild Turkey listed, and I think that that’s all I’d really wanted — not the grapefruit or agave. Looking back I should’ve just asked to have had the bourbon with ginger beer, but that’s on me.

The list below is a small selection of some of the  drinks listed on their cocktail menu:

Malibu Pina Colada
Malibu coconut rum blended with coconut and pineapple.

Amos Mojito
Bacardi rum muddled with fresh mint, sugar and lime juice, served over ice—light and refreshing.

Bourbon Beach Cooler
A refreshing bourbon cocktail with a pronounced citrus presence. Wild Turkey 81 bourbon, fresh grapefruit juice, St. Germain elderflower liquor, fresh lime juice, organic agave nectar and a splash of soda on the rocks.

Painkiller
Gosling’s Black Seal rum, creme of coconut & pineapple and orange juices shaken with ice and garnished with nutmeg.

Mai Tai
Bacardi Silver rum, Malibu coconut rum, apricot brandy, banana liqueur, orange & pineapple juices and grenadine shaken with ice and served in a tall glass.

Dark & Stormy
Gosling’s Black Seal rum mixed with Barritt’s ginger beer over ice.

And here’s another shot of the coozie I got:
  

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Filed under ATLANTIC BEACH, BARS, BEACH DRINKS, DESTINATION COCKTAILS, NORTH CAROLINA, RUM

Destination Cocktail: Buffalo Proper’s “Spin The Bottle”

My wife and I travelled to Buffalo last night to see The Phantom of the Opera at Shea’s.

Pre-show drinks consisted of champagne in the lobby, as well as a quick Jameson and Southern Tier IPA.

If this were a theater blog I’d go into more detail about the performance. It was my first time seeing the show in any form, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

There’s a great photo of the Phantom descending a staircase in the Gusto review, which can be found online at this link.

The other half of our night consisted of dinner and drinks at Buffalo Proper.

Buffalo Proper

I’d looked up the bar/restaurant earlier in the week after reading  a write-up by a friend on Buffalo Eats.

It was probably 10 o’clock when we arrived at Buffalo Proper after Phantom. The bar was extremely dark yet still inviting, and a hostess greeted us pretty much as soon as we were in the door.

The crowd was lively and the bar was pretty full and since we were looking for food anyway, the hostess took us to a table upstairs (which afforded us the view pictured above).

Our waitress was Joelle. She ran us through the wine, beer and cocktail options and explained the restaurant’s seasonal focus, locally-sourced ingredients and the intent of all plates to be easily shareable.

I’d downloaded the cocktail menu earlier in the week and had been planning to get something with a shrub or some other special prep that’s normally not available to me unless I make it myself. Instead I opted for the  “Lion’s Tail,” a drink consisting of Wild Turkey 81 bourbon, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, fresh lime juice and Angostura bitters. My wife got a “New York Sour” made with Old Overholt, fresh lemon juice and a Rioja.

The drinks were everything we’d been hoping for from a bar that brands itself as a craft cocktail joint. And our second round was even better than our first. I chose to “Spin The Bottle” and my wife had the “Audrey Horne.”

We’re not terribly picky people. We don’t have to look hard to find a decent drink — and even most times, we’re easily forgiving of places that shake their Manhattans or use packaged sours mixes or don’t have a cocktail menu at all.

Still, with Buffalo so close to us, it’s practically a crime that we haven’t had more of these upscale cocktail experiences in our nearby Western New York city. That’s on us though, and not because of a lack of desireable options.

I’ve long wanted to make a visit to Vera, but still haven’t found my way there during business hours. Last April my wife and I stood outside the restaurant one Saturday afternoon and ogled the bar’s set-up through its windows. And even though that was almost a year ago, we still haven’t made it back yet. Hopefully this summer. Now that the weather is warming up, we’re more apt to travel.

The same thing happened in Pittsburgh when we passed by Butcher and the Rye. It’s not bad timing on our part. That’s just one of the detriments of working a bar/restaurant job. My days off are Sundays and Mondays, which are the same days that a lot of other bars and restaurants are shut down.

Regardless, we made it up to Buffalo on Sunday and our evening at Buffalo Proper made up for the lack of craft drinks we’ve had in our lives lately. Serving ourselves in our hometown is one thing, but what we got in Buffalo was appreciated — warm service, a well-thought out bar program and a desire to return.

Any of the cocktails on Buffalo Proper’s current list of drinks would be worth making the restaurant a “destination.” If I had to place one above the rest though, it would have to be the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure option of simply naming a type of spirit and leaving the rest up to the bartenders.

They call it the “Spin The Bottle” option and for part of my meal I feared that it might be a “bar only” option. However, even seated in the upstairs dining room, our waitress asked me a couple of quick questions and sent the request down to the bar. What returned was a black-colored bitter amaro drink made in balance with some sort of citrus. Was it Aperol? Was it orange oil? Was it Ramazotti? Was it a shrub? I don’t have any idea, but I loved it and as a result I’ll be heading back as soon as I can to spin the bottle again.

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Filed under BRANDS, BUFFALO BARS, BUFFALO RESTAURANTS, DESTINATION COCKTAILS

Portland’s Rum Club

My wife just recently returned from visiting her sister in Portland.

While she was there she sent me this picture:

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Yep, during her trip she and her sister made a stop at Portland’s Rum Club — which was especially exciting for because that’s the one episode of Best Bars In America that she’s watched.

As a souvenir she brought me back this:
IMG_1798.JPG

Souvenir menu from the Rum Club!

Now to try and recreate one or two for my own consumption here in Western New York!

Visit Rum Club online here!

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Filed under BEST BARS IN AMERICA, COCKTAIL RECIPES, DESTINATION COCKTAILS, ESQUIRE NETWORK, PORTLAND