By Barbara Baker
What would winter be without a crackling fire and festive libations to toast our innards? When winter doldrums prevail, get thee to one of these welcoming boites with their convivial bar scenes, superb food and festive cocktails.
The 1770 House Restaurant & Inn
Though his main job is to oversee the establishment’s list of 200 wines, sommelier Michael Cohen is also a whiz at whipping up a tasty cocktail. For his Tradewind, the friendly front of the house persona envisioned a mini island getaway, replete with fragrant spices – an elegant alternative to mulled wine.
For this tropical escape, Cohen conjured up images of Bardados, the home of one of his favorite rums, Mount Gay. Reinventing a Manhattan, he substituted rum for whisky, added a clutch of spices, toasted and steeped for a couple of day in simple syrup, and brightened the concoction with a citrus element. Like its predecessor, the newfangled drink was finished with a splash of sweet vermouth.
Best imbibed by the fire in the cozy downstairs tavern, with its beamed ceiling and brick floor. Or, of course, as Cohen advises, “wearing flip flops” on the beach.
What winter dish could go better with a winter cocktail than the 1770 House’s famous meatloaf served with garlic sauce, a favorite of regular patron Ina Garten, who has featured it on her TV show. Also recommended is the salmon tartar, slivers of pink flesh atop a glistening wakame and shiitake salad. Sublime.
It’s ironic that the most American of cocktails we tried was the brainchild of Salvatore Biundo, partner in the Sicilian eatery that moved from Bridgehampton to Wainscott last summer. Actually, Sal plied us with two cocktails, one a bracing medley of spiced vodka and ginger beer, the other a liquid version of pumpkin pie. Called a Pumpkin Chata, the potent creamy concoction was comprised of 2oz RumChata (a cream liqueur made with a secret spice blend), 1oz Crop Pumpkin Spice vodka, 1oz Stoli Vanil, 2tsp pumpkin puree, a couple drops of Peychaud’s bitters, and garnished with grains of nutmeg and cinnamon. Decadent.
Just off the chic candle-lit lounge we perched at the handsome bar, whose lit onyx counter glows to favorably illuminate any complexion. We nibbled on tasty snacks including refreshing Kirby cucumber slices scattered with flaky Maldon sea salt and fruity olive oil; homemade meatballs made from a family recipe of chef-owner Cinzia Galgio, and possibly the best pizza we’ve ever had – its crispy dough, thick slab of ambrosial sauce, and frothy mozzarella melded into perfection in the wood-burning oven.
The dramatic makeover of Baron’s Cove, a motel that had seen better days decades ago, culminates in an impressive structure that houses the public rooms. With a stylish maritime theme – think framed marine flags and nautical maps – the upstairs restaurant boasts a soaring wood-plank ceiling, fireplace, and stunning marina views – the only Hamptons eatery with winter water vistas. Downstairs the stylish bar-lounge has already established itself as a popular meeting place.
Mixologist Ashley Malinowski has conceived an ambitious holiday cocktail menu with seasonally evocative names like The Drunken Elf and Not Santa’s Eggnog. We sampled a trio of winning drinks starting with a Blitzen, a variation on a Sloe Gin Fizz made with beach plum gin, distilled in Brooklyn from South Fork fruit, and rosemary-infused agave, the herb harvested from the establishment’s garden. Mrs. Clause is a Christmas red creation of fresh berry puree, Cremant sparkling wine, and chocolate, and Mr. Clause is a manly mix of maple syrup, cranberry bitters and Rittenhouse rye guaranteed to make you go ho, ho, ho.
It’s worth noting that the wine list is curated by connoisseur of the grape and Sag Harbor resident, Jay McInerney, who includes selections from his private cellar. The celebrated author recently had a blast performing sommelier duties at the restaurant. “He was very hands on,” says Malinowski. “Selling wine to tables and polishing glasses.” He told his coworkers he hadn’t worked so hard in years.
Both the calamari, a medley of crispy olives, jalapeno, and lemon, and the “Buffalo” oysters, with their sweet-vinegary burst subdued with ranch dip, are not to be missed.
Happy Hour 4 – 7 Sunday – Friday – $5 draft beers, $6 select wine, $7 well drinks (top shelf brands).