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Lower Westchester bars/restaurants with quality cocktails

jaba Feb 24, 2014 08:25 AM

Just moved to Larchmont and am looking for places that make quality cocktails - i.e. good ingredients, proper ratios, not everything is a something-tini.

Any thoughts?

  1. m
    martyl9 Feb 24, 2014 12:19 PM

    Meritage on Weaver Street, Scarsdale

    1. m
      MRS Feb 24, 2014 03:08 PM

      Ruby's Oyster Bar in Rye, The Tap House in Tuckahoe...if you want extraordinary cocktails/specialty bar tending, I'd try the bar at North in Armonk...really, really special stuff.

      3 Replies
      1. re: MRS
        JMF Feb 24, 2014 03:28 PM

        The cocktails at Tap House, as of my last visit a year ago, were terrible. The menu was bought from Southern Wine and Spirits, with a mediocre list, and the bartenders were not allowed to make any changes.

        1. re: JMF
          MRS Feb 24, 2014 03:35 PM

          hmmm...sorry to hear that. i imagine that's not what the OP has in mind. I had not had that experience at our last visit.
          Again, although not "lower westchester" per se, the most innovative, unique and hand crafted cocktails we've had consistently is at North.

          1. re: MRS
            JMF Feb 24, 2014 03:42 PM

            I've heard good things about North, but it's a bit far north for me. For the same commute from Lower Westchester, I go to the City.

      2. JMF Feb 24, 2014 03:30 PM

        It would be nice if folks actually gave a description of the cocktails and why they thought they were good. Just saying the name of a place really isn't that helpful. Especially since many folks idea of what a good cocktail is, is based on the 80's, 90's and suburbia 2000's. Not what the OP is asking for.

        1. JMF Feb 24, 2014 03:35 PM

          The bar Mix, at the Crowne Plaza, White Plains is a little known bar, making excellent cocktails. Classics and some mild riffs on classics. The cocktail program was originally created by Jonathan "The Cocktail Guru" Pogash, and then Lead Bartender Jake Sher oversaw the bar for several years. His recipes have been published in several books including gaz regan's 101 Best Cocktails, and the Mr. Boston Cocktail Guide latest edition. He trained up the current Lead Bartender Greg, who also went through a full three month training program at a different location before being offered Lead at the Crowne Plaza.

          2 Replies
          1. re: JMF
            MRS Feb 24, 2014 05:20 PM

            i'm very shocked to hear there's anything going on at the Crowne Plaza. hmmmm....

            1. re: MRS
              JMF Feb 24, 2014 08:25 PM

              I heartily endorse their lead bartender Greg Perry, and Jake Sher on the rare occasions that he is still there. (He started law school last summer.)

          2. JMF Feb 24, 2014 03:39 PM

            42 at the Ritz in White Plains has its ups and downs. It really depends upon the bartender, and who is in charge at any moment. Sometimes the cocktails are extremely well made, other times you see them shaking Manhattans.

            I did read that recently they got a new head bartender who is doing good things. I'm waiting to hear more, since my last visit really annoyed me with the poor execution of cocktails, while the time before that was a combination of very good and mediocre.

            The prices are very high for Westchester.

            1. c
              cbn456 Feb 24, 2014 08:01 PM

              I remember having a fun champagne cocktail at Barlees in Mamaroneck. They seem to have a decent whiskey selection, and the owner and bartender were very accommodating. Might be worth a try since it's close. They often have live music.

              1. b
                byramgirl Feb 25, 2014 06:11 AM

                Ditto to all the suggestions for North. I love their El Tigre, champagne, tequila and elderberry - yum! Also, I remember Rive City Grille in Irvington having a nice cocktail selection.

                2 Replies
                1. re: byramgirl
                  JMF Feb 25, 2014 07:01 AM

                  I'm just curious if North is doing quality cocktails circa 2004, or circa 2014...

                  1. re: byramgirl
                    JMF Feb 25, 2014 07:07 AM

                    Due to CH guidelines for restaurant/bar "insiders", there are several places I can't recommend, give my opinion on, or bring up in this discussion. But if those places get mentioned I can then give factual information.

                  2. j
                    jaba Feb 25, 2014 08:17 AM

                    This is great - thanks, all.
                    And I think JMF has in mind what we're looking. Places that do inventive stuff but still nail the classics.

                    Any thoughts on Polpettina in Larchmont? I see their website mentions "prohibition-era" cocktails on draught.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: jaba
                      JMF Feb 25, 2014 01:06 PM

                      OK, I can't talk opinion about Polpettina Larchmont just some facts, since I was their beverage/bar consultant. One of three restaurant/bars in Westchester I worked with in 2013. I hired and trained all 6 original bartenders, (and bartended when I wasn't training and managing) and curated all the really interesting and unusual spirits, and developed the barrel aged and draft cocktail program, as well as fine tuning classics, and creating the house cocktails. I had nothing to do with the beer, wine, or nonalcoholic beverages.

                      I didn't get a chance to set up the bar fully, or train the staff up to more than 50% of my usual level, because I was brought on board just a few weeks before the full opening, but after they had constructed the bar; and then I left at the earliest opportunity I that I could.

                      Over just a few weeks I did have seven articles praising my cocktails, and the beverage program there, in The Journal News, Westchester Magazine, and several online media and blogs.

                      I haven't been back since I left 12/21/2013, so I don't know how good the cocktails are right now. Hopefully the bartenders stayed true to the strenuous and exacting training that I took them through, and are making the cocktails to the recipes I developed. I think some bartenders may have left after I did, because I have seen them advertising for mixologist level bartenders, most recently just three days ago.

                      1. re: JMF
                        i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream Feb 25, 2014 04:10 PM

                        Very interesting-- I have been wanting to get down to Larchmont to the new Polpettina (big fan of the one in Eastchester) and this is definitely another reason to give it a shot.

                        1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream
                          JMF Feb 25, 2014 04:26 PM

                          The restaurant was written up by NY Times last week. Not a great review.


                    2. i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream Feb 25, 2014 04:15 PM

                      The best cocktail I've had recently was the Sippy Cup at the NoMad in Manhattan... but that won't help you unless you're going into the city. Worth a trip for sure though if you're into cocktails.

                      I've had a couple of amazing cocktails at the bar at Blue Hill Stone Barns. No need to eat there... just go sit at the bar and imbibe. Very seasonal and market driven.

                      I enjoy the cocktails at Gleason's in Peekskill, but that's quite a shlep for you and you may as well go into the city.

                      JMF: I have been reading up on making cocktails and I'm trying to build up my home bar... I'd like to take a class. Any suggestions?

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream
                        JMF Feb 25, 2014 04:25 PM

                        Go to curiousonhudson.com, an education center in Dobbs Ferry and check it out starting in a few weeks. They may be having high level home bartending classes and spirits tasting and appreciation classes, if they can arrange the permits, or get a local bar to help them out.

                        NoMad, I haven't had the time to make it there yet, but I have several friends bartending and bar managing there. From what I know, amazing cocktails. But as you say, that is NYC, and a completely different world than the 'burbs.

                        1. re: JMF
                          i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream Feb 25, 2014 05:51 PM

                          Thanks, I will definitely check that out. I found some classes in the city but I would love to do it locally if it's possible.

                          The cocktail I had at the NoMad was perfection. I would say that place is a must-visit for you.

                          1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream
                            JMF Feb 25, 2014 07:20 PM

                            There are so many bars of that quality in NYC, and I have so many friends working them, that I gave up trying to visit them all two years ago. Although I think NoMad sets a record for the most friends I have working in one place. Second for that is probably a six way tie with Dead Rabbit/PDT/Death & Co./Employees Only/Mayahuel/Amor y Amargo.

                            The best classes in the City are probably at the Astor Center. ICE looks like they may be offering some in-depth professional development courses in barkeeping to add to their wine and spirits offerings, after they get their new beverage facility set up. Anthony Caporale will be teaching / coordinating most of them I expect. Quality will be high for what he does. But they are pricey.

                            What places were you looking at down there?

                            1. re: JMF
                              i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream Feb 26, 2014 05:03 PM

                              I was looking at Astor Center and ICE. I'll keep an eye on the Dobbs Ferry place you mentioned.

                        2. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream
                          mla19 Feb 26, 2014 05:12 PM

                          Only slightly less off topic to the OP's request but if one finds him or herself farther up north, there is an awesome cocktail bar in Westport, CT called Luxe. A really special place and a rarity in the 'burbs.

                        3. c
                          cavandre Feb 26, 2014 05:05 AM

                          How about X2O on the Yonkers pier?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: cavandre
                            JMF Feb 26, 2014 06:23 AM

                            I haven't heard about any of the cocktails at Peter Kelly's places. I'm curious myself.

                          2. m
                            martyl9 Feb 27, 2014 08:31 AM

                            I have now attached Meritage's Cocktail menu

                            Enjoy. stay for the food, as good.

                            Classic cocktails

                            Cognac/ Ferrand orange curaçao/lemon/Demerara syrup/orange bitters

                            Brown Derby
                            Bourbon/fresh grapefruit juice/honey syrup/grapefruit twist

                            Bourbon/Cointreau/ Maraschino liqueur/lemon/bitters/orange twist

                            Rye/raw sugar/ peychaud bitters/absinthe/orange twist

                            Gin/Maraschino liqueur/Creme de violet/ lemon/lemon twist

                            House Specialty Cocktails

                            Grapefruit martini
                            Vodka/ fresh grapefruit/ simple syrup/grapefruit twist

                            Pear elixir
                            Vodka/fresh pear juice/St. Germaine

                            Gin/Maraschino liqueur/green chartreuse/Lillet blanc/lime juice

                            Creole rum gimlet
                            Rum/Clement creole shrub/Cointreau/Demerara syrup/lime

                            Vodka/ pomegranate juice/ cardamom syrup/lemon juice/ lemon twist

                            Devils Handshake
                            Tequila/ginger syrup/ lime juice/ pineapple juice/ hellfire bitters

                            Meritage Toddy
                            Bourbon/ginger syrup/muddled lemon

                            The Hudson
                            Hudson Valley wheat whiskey/sweet vermouth/ bitters/ cherry

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: martyl9
                              JMF Feb 27, 2014 11:35 AM

                              How well do they execute these cocktails? To what bars are you comparing them to in quality?

                              They are close enough to me that I will have to check them out. But, $14 for cocktails is too high for Westchester. $12 max. is it. Their location doesn't justify the cost.

                              I have to honestly say that calling a vodka grapefruit sour a Grapefruit Martini turns me off.

                              Hopefully they don't spell Sazerac that way.

                              I wonder why they are calling a Manhattan made with Hudson whiskey The Hudson? It's just a Manhattan.

                            2. a
                              argica Mar 2, 2014 12:18 PM

                              Best bloody mary I have found is, surprisingly, at Fogarty's in Bronxville.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: argica
                                JMF Mar 2, 2014 08:22 PM

                                Bloody Mary's have nothing to do with this thread.

                                1. re: JMF
                                  argica Mar 2, 2014 08:36 PM

                                  Pretty sure a Bloody Mary is a cocktail. (They even considered it one in Brooklyn when I lived there). But either way, no need for rudeness.

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