A Wantagh restaurant has cemented its place as one of the best places to grab a drink after its bar director aced a prominent competition with a Lagavulin-torched cocktail.
On Monday night, Jonathan Gonzalez of Blackbird Kitchen & Cocktails took home the top prize during the 2nd Annual Bulleit Bartender Brawl, which pitted mixologists from seven Long Island restaurants: Hush Bistro, IMC Imperial Meat Company and Old Fields Barbecue, all in Huntington; Rockville Centre’s Frank’s Steaks and Mesit, and E.A.T.S. Social House in Massapequa. The private contest took place at Parlay Gastropub in Rockville Centre,
After acing rounds one and two with a rye-based, fermented piña colada and a raspberry fizz, respectively, Gonzalez and fellow round-three finalist Harrison Chedd of Hush Bistro were each given a “mystery basket,” a la Chopped style, from which they had 10 minutes to make a cocktail.
“I smelled everything, and pictured in my head how these [ingredients] would work together,” said Gonzalez. The basket held brown sugar, eggs, ginger beer and a bourbon-barrel-aged ale.
From these, Gonzalez mixed a malty drink that he served over ice in a copper mule cup whose edges he torched with Lagavulin Scotch Whisky “to accentuate the malty flavors but not to muddy them.”
The event was sponsored by Empire Merchants and Bulleit Boubon — with founder Tom Bulleit in attendance. The prize was a 1.75-liter bottle of Bulleit Bourbon.
It was not Gonzalez’s first accolade this year: in May, he took home the top prize at the NY Cocktail Expo Long Island.
While the winning Bulleit drink might not make it onto Blackbird’s two drink menus — one is a so-called “secret” menu — Gonzalez is reviving the rye piña colada, which he makes using a house pineapple gum syrup.
Blackbird Kitchen & Cocktails, 3026 Merrick Rd., Wantagh. 516-654-9200, blackbirdli.com