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Feature Stories

The Art Of The Mix

There’s an anonymous quote floating around the web stating that a bartender is just a pharmacist with a limited inventory. That said, in the best and worst of times (which can sometimes occur in the same evening), it’s often the barkeeper who’ll not only keep your glass full and spirits up, but prove to be the equivalent of a street corner therapist, albeit one that serves alcohol. The following are profiles of some of the more intriguing mixologists we at the Long Island Weekly have crossed paths with, be it on land or at sea. And if finding out what each one’s signature drink is and how to make it isn’t enough, we’ve even included some bar facts to absorb as you enjoy your libation as you read this. So drink up.

— Dave Gil de Rubio

Kelly Sickler, Garden City Hotel

Years bartending: Five

Current bar: Patio bar at the Garden City Hotel

Hometown: Levittown

Garden City Beauty

• 1/4 ounce of Hendricks Gin
• 4 1/2 ounces of Prosecco
• 1/4 ounce of St. Germaine
• Berries
• Citrus
• Combine ingredients and shake gin and St. Germaine before adding Prosecco.

Arnold Palmer
• 1 1/2 ounces of Gentleman Jack
• 1 lemon’s worth of lemon juice
• 1 ounce of Garden City Hotel homebrewed peach iced tea
• 1/2 ounce of simple syrup (optional)
• Shaken and strained over shaved ice and then topped with a lemon wedge.

Bartending is obviously in Kelly Sickler’s genes as she learned her craft as a teenager from her mom, also a bartender. The Long Island native recently returned from Philadelphia after a five-year absence. While down in the City of Brotherly Love, she poured drinks at McCormick and Schmick’s, The Twisted Tail and Smokin Bettys. Having just started at the Garden City Hotel in June, Sickler’s favorite part of the job is “trying to personally figure out the perfect drink for our guests.”

— Dave Gil de Rubio


Leigh Rudden, Four Food Studio

Years bartending: 10

Current bar: Four Food Studio, Melville

Hometown: Deer Park

Four’s Candy Shop Martini

• ½ oz Malibu rum
• ½ oz watermelon vodka
• 1/2 ounce watermelon liqueur
• ½ oz white cranberry juice
• Lollypop
• pop rocks

Mix liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice; strain; pour into martini glass and add lollypop to the drink. Coat the rim with pop rocks and pour a little in the middle: it pops.

Before trying her hand as a guest bartender at a bar in Smithtown, Leigh Rudden did a little crash course on the basics. She proved to be so popular that bartending became a regular job. Her other work is as a graphic designer (she has a degree from FIT) and she handles the graphic design and marketing at Four. She likes meeting new people every day and sometimes there is a bonus — a graphic design job.

— Lyn Dobrin


Allison Werner, The Brass Rail

Years bartending: Nine

Current Bar: The Brass Rail, Locust Valley

Hometown: Glen Cove

Brass Rail Cocktail

• Equal parts of Don Julio tequila and Chambord and amaretto
• Splash of pineapple juice, fresh lime and sweet and sour mix
• Shake up all ingredients and pour over ice; garnish with a slice of lime and a cherry.

Allison Werner has always loved restaurants, playing “restaurant” with her mother when she was a little girl. Her first job was a waitress at TGI Fridays and eventually she gravitated to the bar. She thinks of bartending as an art where she combines different ingredients to create something delicious. Werner also enjoys the one-on-one of bartending, allowing her to get to know people and develop relations with her customers. She also appreciates being able to work at night so she can spend time with her child, perhaps playing “restaurant.”


Dennis Sweeney, The St. James Restaurant and Bar

Years bartending: 30

Current bar: The St. James Restaurant and Bar, Mineola

Hometown: Garden City

French Martini

• 2 parts Stoli vanilla vodka
• 1 part pineapple juice
• healthy splash of Chambord, black raspberry liqueur
• Shake with ice; strain; serve in a chilled martini glass
Four years ago, Dennis Sweeney saw the writing on the wall. The brokerage firm he was working for was taking a direction he didn’t like and things were souring on Wall Street, so when Jimmy O’Leary, the owner of The St. James, asked him if he wanted to return to bartending, Sweeney said yes. And a good thing, too; nine months later everyone in his old department was laid off.

Sweeney has been bartending, full and part-time, since 1979 when he started working for his brother, the owner of BK Sweeney’s. He likes the business and enjoys speaking to people and says he doesn’t miss the pressures of Wall Street.

— Lyn Dobrin


Marco Pantopoulos, Kyma

Years bartending: Eight

Current Bar: Kyma, Roslyn

Hometown: Astoria

Kymataki

• 1 ounce masticha* liqueur
• ¾ ounce organic cucumber vodka
• ½ ounce fresh lemon
• ¼ ounce simple syrup
• mint and lemon for garnish
• splash of soda

Muddle the mint and lemon, add simple syrup and lemon juice, add vodka and masticha liqueur Serve over ice and top with a splash of soda.

Born and raised in Thessaloniki, Greece, Marco Pantopoulos brought over his skill as a bartender when he arrived in the US nearly three years ago. He started working at Tratta (the restaurant previous to Kyma), spent some time bartending in the Hamptons and came back this year for the opening of Kyma as the bar manager and bartender.
The creativity of preparing drinks appeals to Pantopoulos, as does his interest in people. He says there’s always a new story behind each customer. “If we don’t like people,” he says, “we’re in the wrong job.”

*Masticha, a resin obtained from the mastic tree, is produced only in the southern part of the island of Chios.

— Lyn Dobrin


Dominick Albanese, Freeport Princess

Years Bartending: Three

Current bar: Freeport Princess boat on the Nautical Mile in Freeport

Hometown: Freeport

Harbor Twilight

• Malibu rum
• Bacardi rum
• Blue Curacao
• pink lemonade
• fresh mint sprigs
• fresh squeezed lemon
• fresh squeezed lime

Eighty-five pushups in two minutes is no sweat for this Naval enlistment candidate who leaves Freeport for bootcamp and then to Naval Dive School in six weeks. Dominick Albanese learned bartending just by hanging out with friends and being at local parties. The Freeport native says he loves to try new combinations and trying to perfect ones that he already knows well. He has worked on the Freeport Princess for more than three years, along side his mother, Tammy, and his best friend, Cody. Albanese’s ultimate career goal is to be accepted to and complete Navy SEAL training.