If You Want a Real, Classic Cocktail, Go to These Two Spots
Two bars, one in Mamaroneck and one in White Plains, that whet your whistle the old fashioned way.
We were in desperate need of a drink by the time we got to Bar’Lees. A real drink. We’d just been turned away from one establishment in the area for being too early—at 5 pm on a Friday. Our moods were black and our throats dry. We took a seat at the empty bar (does no one in Mamaroneck know when quitting time is?). Suffice it to say, bartender Dennis Dempsey had his work cut out for him—and didn’t disappoint, serving up a perfectly blended Old Fashioned and a Vesper with enough bite to make us forget our earlier rejection. Dempsey was everything a bartender should be—courteous, attentive, and he knew how to strike the balance between listening to our taste and putting his own creative tilt on a cocktail. But if you’re not in the cocktail mood, opt for one of the 120 whiskeys or the more than 400 wines available.
While Bar’Lees is a great choice for classic cocktails, if you want to see a master at work, then it’s Wellington De Oliviera at 42 The Restaurant or it’s nobody. (Like Prince or Madonna, he’s an artist worthy of a single moniker, so call him Wellington.) We first met Wellington at The Iron Shaker in White Plains where he whipped us up a Blood and Sand that was one of the best we’ve ever tasted—a flawless balance of vermouth sweetness and Scotch smokiness. We found out a few days later that he’d made a move to 42 in White Plains, so, groupies that we are, we followed. And we’re glad we did; Wellington’s eclectic style fits perfectly with 42’s vibe—each a combination of seemingly incongruous ingredients that somehow blend seamlessly. The restaurant marries sleek, modern furniture with street-style artwork by local artists; Wellington’s cocktails feature ingredients like beet-infused rum, dehydrated Scotch Bonnet and Habanero peppers, grilled limes, black tea, and all manner of produce. With all those ingredients at hand, it’s of paramount importance that you go off-menu when ordering your cocktail here. Wellington’s strength is in divining exactly what you want from a miniscule amount of information—give him a spice you like, a liquor you prefer, or just your favorite adjective, and he’ll concoct something so on-point, you’d swear he was in your head. Or just let him go with his gut—about halfway through our night, when we told him we were whiskey drinkers, he crafted a bourbon cocktail that was basically a grown-up orange Creamsicle. Bonus: The healthy dose of liquor helped us as we stepped out on to 42’s terrace, one of the premier drinking spots in the County—and that’s coming from someone who’s deathly afraid of heights.