A well-made cocktail isn’t easy to pull off. Balancing sweet, bitter, sour and spicy flavors, honing the right texture and making sure the whole is more than the sum of the parts requires years of practice and skill.
Long Island’s bartenders have that skill in spades. And for years, they’ve been quietly building a cocktail culture to rival that of the attention-grabbing city to the west. On any given night, one can sip a Cold-Brew Old-Fashioned in Huntington, a honeylike Bee in a Barrel in Bay Shore or a sake-based Spicy Geisha in Southold.
On Sunday, May 7, Long Islanders can sample some of the Island’s most inventive creations in one place during the second NY Craft Cocktail Expo Long Island at Mulcahy’s Pub & Concert Hall in Wantagh, steps from a Long Island Rail Road Station (subtext: no driving required).
“We saw the peak of craft beer, and now we’re seeing a craft-spirit boom,” says Matt Kourie, 36, who launched the expo last year to showcase the growing number of craft-distilled spirits, “and the wonderful cocktail bars using them.”
The first expo, at Rockville Centre’s Cannon’s Blackthorn last summer, drew 400 people. Almost a year later, Kourie expects up to 800 at Mulcahy’s. For $60, ticket holders can attend one of two afternoon sessions during which mixologists from over a dozen Long Island bars will wield shakers, syrups and bar spoons in a friendly competition, plus crowd adulation.
The sample-sized drinks will have some twists: Since the liquor has been donated by sponsors, the event will have a sort of “Chopped” quality. Just what can a bartender do with Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur? Chances are, they’ve spent a few late nights figuring that out.
“It’s a spirit expo at heart,” Kourie says.
It’s also an opportunity for local mixologists to taste each other’s work — not always possible due to the industry’s demanding hours. “Some of us have been working out here for over a decade,” said Bill Carlo, bar manager of The Brixton in Babylon. “But we really don’t get to see each other as much as we would like.”
NY CRAFT COCKTAIL EXPO
WHEN | WHERE: 1:30-3:30 p.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m Sunday, May 7, Mulcahy’s Pub & Concert Hall, 3232 Railroad Ave., Wantagh. Advance purchase suggested.
INFO: 516-233-0866; nycocktailexpo.com
TICKETS:$60 for each session, with VIP and Elite options
WHAT TO EXPECT
Mixologists prefer not to reveal what’s up their sleeves — after all, they wouldn’t mind winning a “best cocktail” award — but a few offered glimpses of their drinks at the event.
Bourbon, whiskey and rye rule at this Huntington gastropub, but the bar team doesn’t necessarily leave them untouched: They’ll infuse spirits with everything from cucumbers to toasted pecans. “We’re known for taking a known quantity and giving it a twist,” says Chris Burke, Vauxhall’s beverage director.
Secret weapon: Infusions
Mesita, Rockville Centre
Sipping a cocktail at Rockville Centre’s Mesita might induce a subtle, lingering burn. “We utilize peppers for heat, color and texture,” says Ronny Jaramillo, Mesita’s general manager. “We also like to play with refreshing acidity.”
Secret weapon: Tequila and mezcal
Blackbird Kitchen and Cocktails, Wantagh
Though the mixed drinks at Blackbird skew toward the classics — think Dark & Stormy and French 75 — executive chef Chris Perrotta will lend his competing drinks a decidedly culinary persona. “They’re going to be super-creative,” Perrotta says. His current obsession: achieving a perfectly clear block of ice.
Secret weapon: Ice
The Brixton, Babylon
Bar manager Bill Carlo, a lifelong South Shore resident, got his start in Irish bars — but is now turning out some of the most inventive cocktails in bar-saturated Babylon. “I like making things that have layers of flavor, but also balance and texture,” says Carlo.
Secret weapon: Foams