WHEN THE VALLEY TABLE TASKED New Yorkers to “Support the Craft” this fall, #drinklocal manifested itself in some exciting ways. From consumers visiting local wineries, cideries, breweries and distilleries for tasting events to restaurants featuring local ciders and beers on their menus to retailers putting local spirits in their windows, it seemed that local craft beverages were in the spotlight everywhere.
Local barman Collin Bringman, known for his imaginative and locally inspired cocktails, caught the bug. He immediately got behind the bar and began to hunt for a brand of each local craft beverage (wine, spirit, beer and cider) with the intention of creating a cocktail that would celebrate the uniqueness of the libation. “I wanted to showcase the nuances and flavor profiles of the small-batch products I chose to work with,” he says. Bringman eventually developed seven craft cocktails.
Bringman started his bartending career at the Grand Hotel and the Bluestone Bistro (now closed), both in Poughkeepsie, and he is no stranger to local products. “The chefs at Bluestone were always creating different syrups and shrubs with the ingredients from the menu items and they would challenge me to make drinks using them, too,” he says. “I later realized that these cocktails were so vibrant not only because of the fresh ingredients but also because the craft beverages took on a life of their own in the drinks. That was what always raised the bar.”
Bringman travelled to each distillery, winery, cidery, roastery and brewery to meet with the producers, involving them in the crafting of the cocktail. “Everything you really need is right here—your neighbor is producing these products. When you get a bottle of mass-produced whiskey, you have no idea who made it or what’s in it. When I buy a bottle of Beacon Whiskey from Denning’s Point Distillery in Beacon, I can ask the head distiller about the product—I can shake his hand when I leave and know where the contents of that bottle came from.”
It soon became clear that ingredients from local agricultural and artisanal producers in the area also could be incorporated into the recipes. “It only made sense to make the drinks completely local,” Bringman notes. “I picked up produce from Adams Fairacre Farms; I used honeycomb from Meadowbrook Farm in Wappingers Falls. I was even lucky to work with a local baker—Anthony Cardoso of Cardoso’s Cookies—to feature his S’mores cookies.” Drinking local became supporting local.
Each cider, spirit, beer and wine he used led Bringman to think about flavors and ingredients in a new way. “I think that’s what ‘Support the Craft’ should be about—looking to these well-made and innovative products to reinvent the cocktail wheel,” he says. “New York State craft beverages are allowing both bartenders and consumers to enhance what they know and inspiring them to come up with something totally new, giving some of the best beers, ciders, wines and spirits made in New York a voice in the larger craft beverage conversation.”