The North Fork has no shortage of bars–restaurant bars, wine bars, shot-and-a-beer bars–but only Brix and Rye, on Stirling Square in Greenport, serves classic cocktails and fantastic wood-fired pizza. Cocktails and pizza might seem like strange bedfellows, but as it happens, the two are a perfect match.
‘Cocktails stand up amazingly well to the big salty flavors of pizza,’ resident mixologist Evan Bucholz said the other day. If you were to ask the Jamesport native (previously of The Frisky Oyster, Fort Defiance, and Collicchio & Sons) to suggest a drink that would complement a pie topped with zucchini blossoms and fresh mozzarella, he might recommend an ultra-fresh medium dry sherry such as an amontillado or a stirred cocktail with a citrus component. He’s especially partial to a concoction he calls the Backsliding Presbyterian: Bourbon, house-made ginger syrup, lemon juice, Campari, club soda. (‘The dryness of the Campari cuts through the richness of the cheese in a pleasing way,’ he explained.) A beer with a high hops content would work just as well. (‘Same effect. It rounds out the pie’s saltiness, prompting you to take another bite.’)
And about that pizza. It comes from co-owner Matt Michel’s 1943 Pizza Bar. Michel has been a force in the world of proper pizza ever since he established Rolling in Dough, a catering company that operates out of a vintage fire truck with an oven imported from Italy. His restaurant is across the square from Brix and Rye, but the two establishments occupy the same building and are connected by a staircase–a convenient arrangement for running food into the grotto-like bar, which at one time may have been a speakeasy. When Michel opened 1943 last year, the locale he rented included the rustic exposed-brick space that would become Brix and Rye. He used to visit that space every time he visited the downstairs storage room, and think, This would make the perfect bar.
‘Even in its raw unfinished state, it was an enchanting space,’ he recalled. ‘Dark and cozy, it was the kind of place where I would want to have a drink and settle in for the evening if I didn’t know anyone in town.’ In fact, Michel knows everyone in town. In search of a partner for his new enterprise, he was mentally reviewing his roster of acquaintances when he thought of Bucholz, whom he’d met while were both working at The Jediah Hawkins Inn. (‘For, like, five minutes.’) Bucholz and his wife, Kyla, a veteran of New York City’s Prune, realized at once that this was the bar they’d been waiting for. Bucholz said the three partners very quickly decided to ‘make it the kind of place where even the most sophisticated cocktail connoisseur would feel at home.’
In celebration of spring, Michel has been replicating empanadas that he tasted on a recent trip to Mexico. Bucholz, for his part, is working on a cocktail that involves snap peas, dry sherry, blanc vermouth, and verijus from Jamesport Vineyards. But neither item will be available for public consumption until they’re exactly right. As Michel noted, ‘Experience has taught us that once we put something on the menu, our customers won’t let us take it off.’