Spirits from Better Man Distilling Co. form the base for...

Spirits from Better Man Distilling Co. form the base for one round of cocktails during Patchogue's weekly virtual pub crawl. Credit: Abby Gruppuso

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If there's at least one silver lining to the coronavirus crisis, it might be that it’s sparking ingenuity. For instance: On Saturday night, about 40 Patchogue residents who were socially distancing at home had knocks on their doors every hour or so — and when they did, food and drink appeared on their doorsteps.

It was the town's first virtual pub crawl, and those who took part were showered with cheese plates, vodka gimlets and fried oysters for several hours, delivered in rounds that mimicked a real-life happy hour. 

 “People were digging it, and at least they were in the safety of their own homes,” said Abby Gruppuso, the head of operations at The Better Man Distilling Co. in Patchogue, who organized the event. It was such a hit, from both sides, that Gruppuso said it will continue for the foreseeable future — this week expanding from one session to two, one each in the afternoon and evening.

How it works: Participants sign up in multiples of two or four people, then at the appointed time, deliveries of appetizers and drinks from each participating business show up, one per hour or so. “I thought it was a lot of fun, a super-creative idea and a good way to keep local businesses afloat,” said Jennifer Gienau, an engineer in Patchogue, who took part with three others. “The first one [package from PeraBell] was really cool, with drinks in little zip-lock bags that reminded me of a Kool-Aid pouch.” (She also had kind words for that restaurant’s spinach-artichoke dip.)

Better Man Distilling Co. delivered bottled cocktails with some of their spirits, including a lavender bees knees and white-rye Manhattan, as well as Gruppuso’s own salted Belgian chocolate chip cookies; this week, the distillery will package a negroni and martini, among others, as well as vegan peach-blackberry frangipani tarts from Peach and Pine Cafe, a forthcoming vegan bakery. 

The Cheese Patch put together cheese flights with dried fruit and Marcona almonds, plus beer or wine. “[The crawl] is a great way to keep social distancing and still give people the opportunity to connect, and for people to feel like they’re still having entertainment and cocktails,” said Paige Pfeifer, The Cheese Patch’s owner. 

For the first round, chef Joe Maggio of Fulton’s Gate offered fried oysters; this week, he’s considering sliders and a choice of pizza, including one with a cauliflower crust; in the evening, he’ll be sending out apple crisp and cheesecake. (Arooga’s, Great South Bar, The Village Idiot, and The Meat Ball will also take part).

Grupposo is also lining up musicians to perform live on Instagram during the next crawls, as well a live Bingo game. “We will have an Indiegogo set up for people to tip musicians,” Grupposo said. 

Those interested must live within a three-mile radius of downtown Patchogue, and the cost will work out to about $85 to $100 per couple, double that for a group of four, said Grupposo; the two sessions will feature four restaurants each, and will run from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Contact the distillery at 631-708-7405 or thebettermandistillingco.com.

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