What happens when two guys from Long Island walk into a Vermont distillery? If the recent experience of Tellers general manager Frank Ferraro and head bartender John Nicoletti is anything to go by, the answer is simple: Magic.
That’s the only word that comes to mind when Ferraro and Nicoletti recount the story of their time at the WhistlePig distillery in Shoreham, Vermont, where they arrived in early August to blend their own Tellers-WhistlePig 12-Year-Old World Cask Finish Rye Whiskey.
“Our journey to WhistlePig really started two and a half years ago,” says Nicoletti, whose passion for life and the spirits that make it more pleasurable is palpable—and more than a little contagious. “That’s when we first became introduced to WhistlePig. [Ferraro] and I both tried the 12 [Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey] and it was a matter of literally looking at each other and saying, ‘Wow. This is special.’ And it was something we hadn’t seen yet. There was a buzz about this distillery in Vermont, but we hadn’t come across it until then.”
That one taste was all it took. Ferraro immediately began the work of adding WhistlePig to Tellers renowned and ever-expanding portfolio of whiskies.
“I got in touch with the brand ambassador for New York and New Jersey, Savannah Burnett, and I started speaking with her about doing something for Whiskey Week,” says Ferraro, who, like Nicoletti, exudes enthusiasm and hospitality like it’s his job—and, of course, it is his job. Speak with him for five minutes, though, and you’ll get the sense that he couldn’t help but exude those same excellent qualities even if it wasn’t. “And she said she’d love to be a part of it. She had someone come down to do a staff training, and he went back and reported to her that we were doing things the right way, that our staff was great and well-informed, that our whiskey list was extensive. So then we got a call: Savannah said, ‘What you’re doing is great and we want to be a part of it. What do you say about coming up to Vermont and making your own whiskey?'”
Ferraro’s answer was immediate.
“I said, ‘Yes!'” he laughs. “And then I said, ‘Wait. Let me ask the guy who signs the checks.'”
That guy, of course, is Michael Bohlsen, co-founder of Tellers parent company, The Bohlsen Restaurant Group. And while Bohlsen’s skill as a restaurateur is apparent in a single glance at his portfolio of restaurants, which ranges from Prime in Huntington to Monsoon in Babylon, his skill as a manager is equally apparent in the talent of the people he hires, and the latitude he gives them to show that talent off.
“He gave us the green light right away,” says Ferraro. “And we hit the ground running from there. Savannah found some dates for us, and then, in the beginning of August, we went up.”
At WhistlePig, the invitation to “come up” is an honor, and it’s not one bestowed readily. Food-and-drink professionals cannot simply buy their way in; they have to be invited. And so Ferraro and Nicoletti’s invitation to visit the distillery in Vermont and blend their own whiskey there was an honor—and not one that either man took lightly.
“We’ve both been very fortunate about some of the experiences we’ve had in this industry,” says Nicoletti. “[Getting to work with WhistlePig] ranks as number one. You think about this distillery and about how they produce so much, so well, and then we got this opportunity to go there and meet the people behind it. We were just blown away by the passion. We must’ve said that word a thousand times to each other over the course of the two day we were there, working on this blend.”
The result of their labor is just what you would expect: A clean and smooth whiskey—blended with custom percentages of Port, Sauternes and Madeira barrels—that lends itself beautifully to cocktails.
“We know the palates of our guests and we wanted to create something that they would love,” says Ferraro.
“That’s what it’s all about for us,” adds Nicoletti. “The Gold Bar at Tellers has become a destination and, as I see it, that’s because of three things: The excellence of our staff; the extensiveness of our spirits list; and Frank [Ferraro].”
Ferraro and Nicoletti will debut their exclusive blend of WhistlePig whiskey during Tellers first-ever Whiskey Week, starting Monday, September 24.
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You are cordially invited to be transported back in time, bid adieu to the 18th amendment and celebrate with cocktails, fine cuisine + a lavish party! 1920's inspired craft cocktails, passed hors d'oeuvres and passed cigars, burlesque-style entertainment, live swing music and more are happening at our 1st Annual Tellers Whiskey Week Prohibition Party! Join us Saturday, September 29th from 4-6pm as we transform the legendary Tellers Chophouse into an old-time speakeasy. Tickets are $125 WITH a $50 gift card to Tellers (which will come in handy for Saturday night dinner!) Visit the bio link for more info – costumes encouraged🎭 . #speakeasy #1920s #vintage #swingmusic #livemusic #prohibitionfoodandwine #cocktails #dance #celebrate #nightlife #celebration #event #cocktailbar #mixology #craftcocktails #speakeasybar #prohibition #longisland #newyork #cantmiss #vintage #vintagefashion #dineanddance #the18thamendment #swingmusic #burlesque
Whiskey Week will feature custom flights, a special whiskey-focused menu available all week, free tasting seminars, special guests, and more. The event will culminate on Saturday, September 29 with a Prohibition Party, featuring passed hors d’oeuvres, specialty cocktails and champagne, cigars, and live music. Tickets to this party are $125 per person, but include a $50 Tellers gift card.
“We are so excited for Whiskey Week,” says Ferraro. “We’ll be featuring some barrel-aged cocktails all week, and each night will feature a different whiskey brand. On Wednesday, September 26, for example, we’ll be featuring Johnnie Walker and Spike McClure will be there for a live tasting seminar.”
“We just keep asking ourselves, ‘What else can we offer our guests?'” says Nicoletti. “And until the day that we’re told, ‘Stop! Enough!”, we’re going to continue asking ourselves that. We’re just going to continue to build this whiskey portfolio that our guests love so much.”
“And that was our goal from the start,” says Ferraro. “Let’s build the best whiskey offering on Long Island.”
We look forward to stopping by Tellers during Whiskey Week and letting Ferraro and Nicoletti know: Mission accomplished.