Floral Park’s Cork & Kerry brings speakeasy cocktails to national audience

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Doug Brickel (left) gives a cocktail lesson to Carson Daly for a "Today Show" segment. (Photo courtesy of Cork & Kerry via Facebook)

One might not assume a speakeasy would play host to Carson Daly and a camera, but Cork & Kerry in Floral Park did just that.

The Floral Park bar, tucked in the back of a coffee shop at 143 Tulip Ave., was the locale for part of a “Today Show” segment aired last week about the craft cocktail trend sweeping the nation.

Beverage director Doug Brickel, who opened Cork & Kerry with Floral Park native Chris Corbett in March 2015, showed Daly how to shake up a daiquiri, a classic Latin cocktail of white rum, sugar and lime juice.

Brickel said he hopes the extra publicity brings some new customers into the bar, but he and Corbett don’t do much other advertising. Except for a social media presence, they let word of mouth do the work, as it might have for a Prohibition-era speakeasy.

“People want to come find it the first time, and after that, as long as the drinks are great, that’ll keep them coming back,” Brickel said.

Though they try to keep a low profile, Brickel and Corbett have met success in Floral Park and opened a second Cork & Kerry location in Rockville Centre last year, in an unassuming house without a sign out front. A third location in Farmingdale is planned for next year, Brickel said.

The pair aims to bring the craft cocktail trend to Long Island, where many food trends have taken hold but quality drinks have lagged, Brickel said.

“The fact that we’re trying to stay on trend, if not slightly ahead, I think puts us a little closer to where we want to be,” he said.

Brickel manages the Cork & Kerry menu and bar staff, while Corbett handles the day-to-day business operations, Brickel said.

The bars offer 21 original libations, many with house-made ingredients such as espresso bourbon, milk-washed gin and thyme vodka.

The “Lucky #9,” a combination of milk-washed gin, orange juice, orange blossom and sea salt, won first place at the 2016 New York Craft Cocktail Expo.

Drinkers can also order a “bespoke cocktail,” an original drink made to their preferences with the base spirit of their choice.

The bar offers a small beer and wine selection and a 10-item food menu, but more than 90 percent of its sales come from cocktails, Brickel said.

Worldwide liquor sales grew slightly last year compared to 2015 as beer and wine sales struggled, indicating growth in the cocktail market, according to a June 17 Wall Street Journal report.

Cork & Kerry’s two bars have drawn customers from all over Long Island thirsty for the kind of cocktail they can’t get even in fine restaurants, where the bar can often be an “afterthought,” Brickel said.

The bartenders at Cork & Kerry try to get a sense of customers’ tastes, especially when talking to those who are unfamiliar with cocktails, Brickel said.

“When they get here, we try not to be intimidating about it,” he said. “The menu obviously has a lot of words people aren’t going to know, ingredients they aren’t familiar with, or they just haven’t had a drink worth drinking in a long time.”

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