Cheers to the Season with These Bubbly Cocktails
The end of summer is a reason to do many things—get that final bit of bronze, prioritize rooftop locales, start planning a next vacation—not the least of which is drink as many sparkling cocktails as possible before fall sets in with the bourbons and brandies. Around the East End, here’s where to see the summer off with an elegant glass of something light and sweet.
Aperol Spritz at EMP Summer House (341 Pantigo Rd., East Hampton)
After being ranked first on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in April, Eleven Madison Park closed its doors in early June to renovate its 20-year-old kitchen and dining room and revamp the 11-course tasting menu. This initially came to the dismay of many who were looking to try the supposedly best meal on earth, until news broke that the restaurant’s owners, restaurateur Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm, were taking their talents on vacation and opening a summertime pop-up restaurant, EMP Summer House, in East Hampton.
Set in a charming white-shingled house near Amagansett, EMP has had the hottest tables all summer long, serving à la carte dishes at prices far less steep than $295 per head. Save for American Express cardholders, however, reservations aren’t taken, but Guidara and Humm prepared the grounds for this by decorating the lawns with games of petanque and ping-pong and equipping the bar with a long list specialty drinks. Some are bold (the Gentleman’s Exchange with whiskey, cold-brew coffee, bitters, and absinthe); some are flirty (the vanilla- and-pineapple spicy margarita, Hot Lips); some even verge on healthy (the aquavit-based, agave-sweetened Gimme a Beet with strawberries and lemon). But for those looking for a taste of Eleven Madison Park’s minimalist sophistication, the Aperol Spritz, which uses sparkling mineral water in lieu of soda, is the one to try.
Venetian Spritzer at The Beacon (8 Water St., Sag Harbor)
It’s difficult to say which is more beautiful at The Beacon: the sunset views over the water, or the crowd that flocks to the circular bar just in time to watch the fiery ball sink behind the horizon with a drink in hand. With its coveted al fresco tables overlooking the marina and no-reservations policy, this Sag Harbor hotspot often sees wait times of an hour or more, but that never seems to be a problem.
Bar snacks like crispy fries and pork belly on potato buns make for good amuse-bouches, especially when paired with a glass of something strong and delicious. Here, simple recipes are favored over anything too complex, which can be a refreshing change to the growing crop of cocktail menus that require a bit of studying in order to choose. There’s a Negroni, a blood orange margarita, and bourbon- spiked lemonade, but ask any of the staff, and they’ll often recommend the Venetian Spritzer—Prosecco, Aperol, soda, and orange. Keep the bubbly concoction coming through dinner to help digest the luscious seafood meals with inspirations from across the globe, like halibut baked in parchment and served with couscous and sun-dried tomatoes, or a bouillabaisse filled with heaps of lobster, scallops, mussels, and more.
Lychee-Raspberry Bellini at Topping Rose House (1 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike)
The elegant Topping Rose House is a welcome escape from the scene near the shores, trading sunglasses for pearls and sandwiches for sous vides. Originally built in 1842 for the judge Abraham Topping Rose, the white manse now houses 22 of the most luxurious rooms and suites on Long Island. Amenities like brand-new Lexus cars to borrow and discreet service make this haunt a favorite among a most sybaritic crowd, but rooms aside, Topping Rose is also a destination for spa-goers with its comprehensive wellness concept as well as for foodies with its Jean-Georges restaurant, which may well be the closest atmosphere to Manhattan fine dining as one can find in the East End.
When you’re wanting to dress up and tone down, this is one of the most refined spots to come for a classy affair of wining and dining on spiced lamb chops or salmon drizzled in nasturtium vinaigrette. The bar meanwhile, is so handsome that it begs for a pre-dinner drink or just a tête-à-tête, with a wide array of local beers, wines by the glass, and expertly made cocktails. First on the menu is the lychee-raspberry Bellini made with Toffoli Prosecco—a flirty start to a date night, or a cheeky accompaniment to a weekend brunch in the dining room. Besides, the beautifully gardened grounds are best explored after a glass or two of bubbles, especially if it’s under the moonlight.
Strawberry Fields at The Montauk Beach House (55 South Elmwood Ave., Montauk)
A hotel of a vastly different breed, Montauk Beach House is where young things go for rooms that look straight out of Restoration Hardware (for those coming to stay) and a guaranteed good time (for those coming to play). From June through August, sample sales and pop-up markets, daytime parties and nighttime bashes ensure that there’s always something happening on the decks of the two pools in the backyard, whose daybeds and lounge chairs are some of the area’s choicest real estate for those of a certain age.
However, September sees the events calendar taper down as summer begins to wind down, and the establishment begins to empty of its weekend crowds. This makes for calmer waters and less competition for a cushion, and furthermore, the bar alone is a reason to still come, known to have some of the best drinks on the East End made by mixologists shaking up concoctions with all sorts of herbs and bitters and syrups and purées. The Carioca, for instance, mixes cachaça, lemongrass, raspberries, and lemon juice into a refreshing remedy. Or, to color- coordinate with an end-of-summer sunset, go for the vodka-based Strawberry Fields, with strawberry purée, mint, and bubbles.