I’ve seen movies. I’ve read books. I’m aware that the Hamptons is the place to be in July and not December. However, I’ve often found that destinations that have a lot to offer during one time of year don’t dip in quality during their “off season.” The Hamptons might not be ideal for sunbathing in the winter (unless you think snow and hail have salubrious exfoliating properties?) but the excellence of the culinary options, accommodations, and service don’t head south for the winter. In fact, in some ways the off season may be the best time to enjoy this stuff. It’s more private, leisurely, and free of pressure to go out and “do.”
And it would be a shame to stay at the Bridgehampton Inn without spending plenty of time relaxing indoors and getting acquainted with its features. From its quaint New England ambience infused with the welcoming spirit of the multi-generational family that runs it, to its incredible food, cozy rooms, and its best-in-the-Hamptons cocktail program, I’m glad I had no pressure to venture outdoors.
Well now that we’ve established that I’ve got my priorities straight, on to the booze.
Cocktails at Bridgehampton Inn
Since most of my travel planning starts with the phrase, “I’d like to drink that,” it’s not surprising that it was the cocktails at Bridgehampton Inn that got me excited to make this trip. I’d seen Kyle Fengler’s meticulously executed cocktails on Instagram and was impressed not only by his elegant presentations, but also by the quality of his ingredients and the care he took with each recipe. When he kindly offered a stay at the inn, my husband and I couldn’t resist.
We drove to Bridgehampton from Connecticut through nasty damp weather undaunted by winter storm Abel (it would pretty much have to be Chernsnowbyl to stop us from reaching those cocktails). After dropping our things in our comfy room (I was psyched to see it had a fireplace) I couldn’t wait to get better acquainted with the drink menu. Kyle, the head of the bar program, introduced himself and began to tell us about how became the resident drink expert at Bridgehampton Inn. We learned he was born to do this work, because his family owns and operates the inn. Kyle is part of a long family tradition of culinary excellence: they own a highly-lauded food shop called Loaves and Fishes and Kyle’s grandmother, Anna Pump, helped launched the career of Ina Garten. Kyle credits his family’s passion and creativity as a major influence on his own cocktail philosophy.
Now on to the drinks.
As a massive glassware enthusiast, I was thrilled to see the lineup of striking vessels Kyle set up at the bar. Delicate Nick and Noras, towering long stemmed pieces, expansive shallow-bowled coupes, and substantial engraved lowballs all sat in the ready waiting to be filled with his current menu. When I asked him how he got such an incredible collection for his bar, he told me that his family not only owns the Bridgehampton Inn and Loaves and Fishes, they also own a cookware store that carries an impressive selection of glassware. Not a bad set up for Kyle.
Described on his menu as a “velvety and luscious showstopper” the Two Left Feet (pictured below) looked far too elegant to live up to its name. With Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum infused with toasted sesame, acacia honey, lemon, beet, and egg white, it was a soft mellow cocktail perfect for cooler months when you don’t want to drink something too bright and bracing. Also, for the record, while this stem looks impossibly impractical to use in a bar setting, it was actually quite sturdy and easy to carry (no, they haven’t asked me to plug their glassware, I’m just super super into it).
Next up, this cocktail, the Midnight Visitor, was a doubly bitter boulevardier riff. With Castarede XO Armagnac, Hibiki Harmony Japanese malt whiskey, Redemption rye, coffee-infused Campari, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, and a touch of fresh pomegranate to round it out, this is a nice take on the classic that my husband sucked down with alarming speed.
For the last of our afternoon cocktails we enjoyed Kyle’s take on an El Presidente, the My Favorite Uncle, and it was probably my favorite. Compass Box Great King St Artist’s Blend Scotch, L’Archaviste 1979 Rivesaltes, and a cordial of apple, chamomile, and dry riesling came together for a deliciously warm, smooth, and beautifully-integrated cocktail. When I looked out the window and saw hail pounding down outside, I liked it even better.
Later that evening after exploring the area, Kyle and I chatted about local spirit producers (Kyle’s a big aquavit fan and let me try some samples from a nearby distillery), his training with the Windows on the World program, his love of learning new things, and what its like to run a bar packed with hundreds of people during the summer but a quiet local crowd in winter. Then he made me a final fireside cocktail with Rhum Clement VSOP, Pineau de Charenteau, lemon, and coquillette, that tasted a lot like a bubbly sidecar.
I finished it up in the room listening to the rain and wind outside while I sat under a quilt in front of the fireplace.
See? If it had been summer I’d have wasted precious drinking hours at the dumb beach instead of having cocktails at Bridgehampton Inn. Not worth it.
Breakfast at Bridgehampton Inn
Generally speaking I think calories should be consumed only in cocktail form, but this breakfast was more than a fair trade for an extra martini or two. It was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.
My husband ordered the french toast. It was so creamy and soft its texture was more like custard than bread. They achieve this by substituting the customary milk with orange juice and soaking the brioche overnight. You can find the recipe (along with some of Kyle’s killer recipes) in their beautifully photographed cookbook here.
I on the other hand went with the house baked pastries. The carnage I inflicted on the innocent basket of scones, muffins, and delicate croissants would’ve raised a few eyebrows at the Geneva Convention, but I regret nothing.
In other words, the “off season” is a bit of a myth. Our winter trip for cocktails at Bridgehampton was peaceful, luxurious, and free of expectations. Go visit Kyle soon.