At long last, it’s here—the golden age of the craft cocktail on Long Island.
Speakeasies, master mixologists and inspiring cocktail menus are increasingly pervasive, with options exploding in every downtown and village area from Farmingdale to Bay Shore and beyond. However, the migration east of New York City’s cocktail culture, far from the overnight success that it seems, has actually been an eight-year journey led by local cocktail enthusiasts whose passions run so deep, they’re not even claiming the deserved credit for pioneering this movement on our island.
So we’re doing it for them.
An Intentionally Hidden Gem
We’re talking about Chris Corbett and Doug Brickel of Cork & Kerry, of course, whose original location—a secret bar hidden behind a door inside a coffee shop in Floral Park—has expanded into a hidden-in-plain-sight Victorian establishment in Rockville Centre and will soon expand further with a new location in Farmingdale.
It was eight years ago that the duo launched their mission to bring cocktail culture to our region. Both had fallen in love with the craft cocktail scene during extensive travels around the country, bonding over long conversations centered on their spirited experiences. Like many Long Island–based cocktail enthusiasts, they found themselves frequenting New York City to get their fix—which is when the lightbulb went off. If the city was the closest they could get to their ideal bar experience, there was a gap here at home that needed to be filled.
“At that time, most of our bar scene was beer and shot-type bars,” explains owner Corbett, pausing to note that there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But his and Brickel’s vision was more about artistry—attention to detail, professionalism and hospitality. All of the things that make imbibing more of an experience than just the commonplace “going out.”
They’d found their favorites via word of mouth, and word of mouth became the anti-marketing MO for their underground concept.
To date they’ve never openly advertised or even established a business landline. But the real inspiration came from what Corbett refers to as “brilliant spots.”
“My go-tos are Ward II, Employees Only, Raine’s Law Room, Bathtub Gin and PDT,” he says. “In fact, our Floral Park location has hidden bits of decor that pay homage to many these places. Our Rockville Centre one is a bit more about our families, with photos and such, but our newest location has subtle designs reminiscent of Raine’s Law Room in particular.”
Brickel, as beverage director, draws his influence less from his surroundings and more from the drinks, creating a perfect balance with Corbett. “Some of my favorite bars in the city that have influenced my own style are Booker & Dax, PDT, Amor y Amarge and Mace,” he says. As a customer there, he “learned the value of preparation, focus and really the range of what cocktails can be.”
However, he elaborates, “While I definitely picked up individual techniques by watching and asking questions of some really phenomenal bartenders, most of those have become available in books and on the Internet. The best thing I’ve learned in the bars were actually the importance of balance in drinks and the value of really good hospitality.”
Brickel’s education continues, though, far beyond what he’d learned picking the brains of the industry’s best—an elite fraternity he’s now part of. Regular attendance at events like New Orleans’ Tales of the Cocktail, Bar Institute’s pop-up conferences, Portland Cocktail Week, the Bar and Nightclub Show in Las Vegas, Thirst in Boston and immersion workshops in places like Puerto Rico keep him and Cork & Kerry’s customers on their toes, thirsting for what’s new.
“The days of eight-, nine- and 10-ingredient cocktails are past,” he predicts. “Simple builds and straightforward flavors are working their ways back. As bartenders become more comfortable with what they’re serving, they become more capable of letting go of making drinks complicated just for the sake of it. Less is more, and high-quality spirits have enough flavor that they don’t need to be muddied with a dozen housemade syrups, tinctures and liqueurs.”
Supply and Demand
Of course, “Variations are always welcome and we are featuring a few. But,” he smiles, “we always come back to this classic build when we’re thirsty.”
And this is why Cork & Kerry’s customers keep coming back—and growing in number.
“We love gaining people’s trust with that first and second drink we serve them,” says Brickel. “Because then, the more we know about someone’s preferences, the more confident we can be in suggesting others.”
And so this is Cork & Kerry’s goal as they inch further and further east: to inspire their guests to “graduate” from a set menu to the point at which they’ll find a trademark drink of their own. They’ve certainly built—and are building still—the perfect places to host the commencement.