Necessity is the mother of invention, Long Island bartender Kevin Grillo told me lately. He reminded me that craft bartenders always found their groove during times of trouble (in case anyone needs another cause to remember Prohibition). With his restaurant life on pause, he was forced to reinvent his own craft. “We need to flatten this curve,” he said recently. “We need to wear our masks. The backyard home party is at a premium right now. This is where you can socially distance with people in small numbers, outdoors, and fill the need to socialize.”
Kevin Grillo’s career spans decades—he spent time at lauded New York City restaurants like Cookshop and The Mermaid Inn, before landing a position as Head Bartender at East Hampton’s Nick & Toni’s, where he spent six years. But Grillo’s most recent project is in keeping with the new world as we know it: it’s a mobile bar, and it can come right to your socially distant space, equipped with everything you need to host a small fête in your own bespoke space.
GrillosMoBar, which operates in conjunction with catering, in keeping with Governor Cuomo’s requirement that food be served in the presence of alcohol. He now brings the craft cocktail directly to your backyard. In the spirit of… well… spirits, Grillo has developed a riff on the classic sidecar, a drink traditionally made with Cognac, orange liqueur, and orange juice. In this version—the aptly named Cidecar—notes of orange are substituted with notes of apple, the result of Bushnell Appple Brandy and a simple syrup made from a reduction of New York State apple cider, raw sugar, and aromatic spices.
“A great cocktail is a balanced cocktail,” Grillo says. In that sense, apples, with their perennial appeal and combination of acid and sweet, are the ultimate cocktailing ingredients. “If you follow science and measure appropriately, the sweet and acid will balance each other. I was taught that the standard for cocktails follows this simple rule: two parts spurious element, one part sweet, one part acid. I call this the Margarita Theory. The Margarita is a perfect cocktail, in my opinion. When creating cocktails, I just substitute ingredients and riff off this basic structure.”
The result is a balanced, apple-centric cocktail that highlights the best qualities of New York fruit. It’s perfect for backyard drinking, though the brilliance of making your own cocktail is that the choice of where to drink it rests in your hands.
New York Cidecar
2 oz. Busnell Apple Brandy
1 oz. reduced cider
1 oz. lemon
1. Reduce equal parts New York cider and Demerara (raw) sugar with a cinnamon stick, star anise, clove, and orange zest.
2. Place ingredients in a Boston shaker with ice and shake until cold and frothy. Rim a martini glass with a mixture of raw sugar and cinnamon sugar. Strain the shaken drink into the chilled, rimmed glass. Serve up and garnish with a cinnamon stick, star anise, and a slice of dehydrated apple.