OUR MISSION - WE'RE PUBLISHED! Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 marked the Premier of our new book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks: An Adirondack Bar Guide. The hardcover, 160 page book can be found at bars and bookstores throughout the Adirondack Park or order online at www.happyhourinthehighpeaks.com. You'll find a list of our book signings on the Events page and where to buy the book on our Retailers page. The book contains reviews of 46 of our favorite bars in the Adirondack Park, and 46 drink recipes with an Adirondack twist. As a companion to the book, we have also published a 46er Passport so that you can follow the Happy Hour Trail to become a Happy Hour 46er and make new friends along the way. Summit Tour t-shirts will be for sale at our book signings or available online. Whether you are a native, resident, or visitor, you'll find 46 more reasons to visit the ADIRONDACK PARK!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sport Island Pub, Northville

Looking to expand our research to the outer reaches of the Adirondack Park, we set the GPS for Northville and opted for the scenic route through Stony Creek to Sacandaga Lake.  Low speed limits and even slower drivers allowed us a leisurely opportunity to observe the views around the Sacandaga and glimpses of the lakefront homes.  Sport Island Pub, our targeted destination, proved to be easy to find. The lakefront location, barely off the beaten path, is surrounded by summer homes, Decks on two levels visible from the parking area, wood sided with three dormers poking through the roof, the textured cinder block building left us curious about what we would find inside.

Greeted by a hostess upon entering, we waved her off and headed straight to the bar. The partially occupied horseshoe-shaped bar, of gleaming pine, with overhead custom oak cabinetry, glasses suspended in decorative archways, is the focal point of the room. With an unfinished hardwood floor, wide rough pine walls, a two-tone post and beam ceiling, and a stone fireplace, the interior exhibits a simple but striking rusticity while natural toned arrow-backed Windsor chairs soften the edges.

Admiring the nautical appeal of the circular brass draft beer pours which stand center stage at the end of an island within the bar, Kim made her selection immediately - a Saranac Blueberry Blonde – from among ten choices. Pam, as usual, needed more time. With no signature drinks offered, the bartender happily volunteering to make whatever Pam wanted. Pam pulled out her cell phone, searching the Happy Hour in the High Peaks help desk (our blog) for an appropriate recipe, finally settling on the Boreas Pond, a melon-based beverage she felt befitted her mood. She passed the recipe on to the bartender.

Raising the curiosity of bystanders, the bright green concoction prompted questions. Soon we were explaining our mission, sharing recipes, and receiving a rather extensive list of other places we should visit in the park. Wraeann is an avid snowmobiler, has covered most of the Park on her trips, and seems to know a lot about the bars we have visited and many we have not. Mark (aka Stormcat), an attorney with a degree in molecular biology, is fairly new to the region, but seems to know a little something about the underground bar scene in the area. We look forward to being enlightened.

A capacious open floor plan in the bar and restaurant area offers a variety of seating with booths along the walls and several large tables in the center seating up to eight each, with plenty of space in between them. A little wandering reveals a continuation of the bar into the fully windowed sunroom overlooking the lake. The bar in the sunroom seats 12 while the main bar accommodates another 16 patrons on comfortable padded stools. The sunroom offers a variety of table options, all with a view.  Off the sunroom is an outdoor deck with six more tables for dining or drinking with companions.  A word of caution: the Sport Island Pub’s deck has a live webcam, with viewing from its website. If you prefer not to have your whereabouts public, choose seating away from the carved bear. Though not immediately noticed, we learned there were also six beachfront picnic tables for less formal seating by the lake. An additional room is located upstairs for private parties and includes its own deck as well.

An ATM is on site, as well as several electronic games in the sunroom.  We counted four TVs and two Quick Draw monitors, strategically placed. WiFi is available as is fully functional cell phone service. Another turn around the exterior revealed a sign reading Lions Meet Here Wed. Gotta trust the Lions to know where to gather. Though parking in the immediate vicinity wasn't proportionate to the capacity within, the owner, Anthony Lanzi, pointed out that there were several public parking areas nearby.

Anthony, owner of the Sport Island Pub for the past 16 years, is a gracious host. He also owns another club, Lanzi’s on the Lake, in nearby Mayfield and still within the Park. Looks like we'll have to get back to the Northville area to continue our quest. The bar and restaurant are open Wednesday through Sunday between Labor Day and Memorial Day, and daily at 11 a.m. for the summer season.  The Sport Island Pub is both a summer and winter destination with plenty of activities for any season.  A Mexican Night special, Coors Lite drink specials, radio station hostings, motorcycle races, and ice fishing are just a few of the attractions offered throughout the year. Musical entertainment is featured regularly throughout the summer.

Soon after informing us that the pub is known for its Mojitos, Anthony surprised us each with a sample, complete with his homegrown mint sprigs. Pam has professed to dislike Mojitos, but quickly changed her mind after trying these. Thank you, Anthony, for expanding her drink horizons and Tucker, for the expert preparation! Be sure to try one when you visit Sport Island Pub, particularly if you think you don't like Mojitos. 

Sometimes a forgotten or overlooked region of the Adirondack Park, the Great Sacandaga Lake patiently waits to be noticed. Unlike many of the resort towns of the park, this area is not overrun with great throngs of people and heavy traffic. The pace seems to be more in line with what a vacation is supposed to be.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Recipe Day! Blubarbarita & APA Martini

Having conquered, or at least challenged, a fair number bars (80, to be exact) within an hour-and-a-half’s travel, most that remain involve overnight trips and both exhausting and exhaustive pub crawls. We have arrived at the beginning of the selection process as we continue the final push for finding the 46 best bars inside the blue line. For those of you who have recently begun following our bar reviews, there is indeed a purpose. Our goal is to find the 46 “High Peaks” from among the pubs and taverns located inside the Adirondack Park, as well as 46 Adirondack-themed cocktails for inclusion in our book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks.

As sometimes happens, we were unable to travel this weekend, but found some time to don our lab coats and Happy Hour in the High Peaks hats for some serious recipe development in the lab at Pammy’s At-Her-On-Deck Pub, where jiggers, shakers and muddlers take the place of Petri dishes, test tubes and beakers. No Bunsen burner here, but you’ll find a blender as we whip up unique libations or variations of the tried and true. Our scientific method borders on madness as volunteer subjects await the mixtures they’ve been recruited to test. In other words, we threw a party!

Sorry, Pammy’s Pub is not public. The envy of invited guests, the three-level deck, complete with hot tub and a fully stocked bar is host to social gatherings with friends and family on any occasion we can think of. Inclement weather is spent in the cozy converted basement bar (the Rathskeller) with a wood stove and a small, slab pine bar. Both serve as testing facility and headquarters of Happy Hour in the High Peaks.

Rhubarb is in abundance now, and Kim has more than she knows what to do with. One of our most popular blogs has been the Rhubarb Margarita recipe. It was time we created a new one and decided that blueberries would be the base. With a tart, lively personality, this margarita maintains its identity while the blueberry keeps its wildness in check.

3 oz. tequila
1 oz. triple sec
1 oz. lime juice (fresh squeezed)
1 oz. lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
½ c. rhubarb and blueberry puree*

Mix in blender with ice. Pour into salt-rimmed (optional) margarita glasses and garnish with fresh blueberries and lemon and lime slices. Makes 3 margaritas. 
*To make the puree, cut 5-7 stalks of rhubarb into one-inch pieces. Place rhubarb and 1 c. blueberries in heavy saucepan and just cover with cold water. Add 1 c. sugar and slowly bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until rhubarb is mushy. Chill. Refrigerate extra for up to two weeks, or freeze to enjoy in the middle of January!

We have a list of cocktails whose names evoke the character of the Adirondacks. Many have yet to be created, so we continued to experiment. The leftover blueberries would keep us inside the blue line and be the perfect base for the APA Martini, a more sophisticated and rigid drink than the frivolous margarita. Unlike some of today’s trendy and incorrectly categorized martinis, the APA Martini is no girly drink. Like a trail guide boldly bushwhacking the way for a flatlander with a bucket list, Tangueray’s bold, piney flavor and subtle botanical essence leads while the blueberry tries to keep up.

APA Martini
3 oz. Tangueray gin
1 oz. sweet vermouth
¼ c. pureed blueberries
1 T sugar (optional)

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glasses. Garnish with a lemon slice.
Variances (allowed): A squeeze of fresh lemon complements and enhances the blueberry flavor. Or, for a sweeter martini, add I oz. limoncello (lemon liqueur). You can even make your own using one of the many recipes online. Makes 2 martinis.

According to proper experimental procedure, a typical experiment should be repeated at least three times. This is not advisable. We often work with survey participants, a sampling of volunteers willing to consume and evaluate new products before they hit the market. With this study pool, it’s not necessary to repeat the experiment, though that is frequently requested. Since our sample size was fairly small, please let us know what you think. 46 cocktail recipes, with names like Adirondack Mudslide and Black Fly Bite, will be chosen for our book from our own creations, as well as some signature drinks contributed by taverns we’ve visited. We only want the best!

Cheers & Bottoms Up!
Kim & Pam

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Essex Inn, Essex

The town of Essex has a coastal New England charm, from the centuries old brick homes and diagonal street parking, to the waterfront buildings in colors to rival the Atlantic coast. The Essex Inn, grand in comparative scale to the federal and Greek revival style architecture that defines the hamlet, is the centerpiece of Essex. With a full-length front porch, imposing white columns and freshly painted yellow siding, the Essex Inn’s cheerful facade is warm and inviting.

Management of the 200-year-old Essex Inn was undertaken by Gladys and Josh Archer in 2010 after it was meticulously renovated and restored in a year-and-a-half-long process by Rick and Karen Dalton, who initially purchased it to house the College for Every Student (CFES) organization. The inn has taken on an authentic, historic appearance that feels timeless and original. Wood is artfully employed in countless hues and textures, with rough sawn board walls, a low, exposed beam ceiling, and softly glowing wide plank floors, finished with hand-forged replica nails. Wavy glass windows and a two-sided brick fireplace partition the tavern room from the more formal dining area. Furnishings exhibit a distinct Adirondack flair in the interior design of Delevan's Tavern. Furnishings contrast smooth polished wood with heavy handcrafted rustic creations of twisted roots, sticks and antlers. A thick pine slab bar, with seating for just four, overlooks rustic birch bark cabinetry housing the bar inventory. Wait staff, all of whom are bar trained, scurry in and out of the miniscule confines, each preparing drinks for his or her own orders. Table seating in the tavern is reminiscent of a town meeting place where one could argue politics, local and national, expound on the weather in front of the fireplace, or share gossip of local flavor.

Energetically revitalized and renewed with enthusiasm, Gladys and Josh have revived the essence of community and camaraderie within the gracious walls of the tavern as a meeting place for townspeople and visitors alike. From themed gatherings and dinner specials to Tuesday Martini Merdi, fresh and innovative ideas flourish. Gladys and Josh have been creative in making the Essex Inn the place to be in Essex all year round. Community Happy Hour on Thursdays from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. has become an increasingly popular mainstay for the Essex Inn. Just last week, they featured a Kentucky Derby party touted to be in the finest fashion. They have offered a variety of wine tastings and cooking classes. On Fridays during the summer, the inn will feature music outside in the garden patio area, and in July and August, “afternoon tea”, encouraging a luncheon on the grass, parasols optional.

 Though diminutive in size, the bar bulges with creative capacity. A hybrid of two of her favorites, Pam couldn’t resist ordering the Margarita-tini, which was essentially a margarita in a martini glass, but painstakingly prepared with fresh ingredients, muddled with the stubby end of an antler by Alex, our server-of-the-moment. The Sinnfully Essex is a house specialty made with Chambord, vodka and a splash of cranberry juice, embellished with a sugar rim and brandy-soaked cherry. Specialty drinks are priced at around $9. Kim chose the Ubu ale from the modest but well-selected bottled beer choices that also include Stella Artois, Magic Hat, Guinness, Lake Placid IPA and Redbridge, all priced from $3 to $5. The wine selection is well-rounded with several options and ranges from house wines at $7 a glass; $27 a bottle to an assortment of reds and whites at $8 to $13 glass; $30 to $155 bottle.

The Essex Inn is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. The inn is open to guests daily with seven rooms available. If you're just having cocktails at the bar, you should have an opportunity to meet all of the staff. Each of them seemed ready and willing to try something new or share their favorite drink recipe. Gladys is a vibrant, energetic host, eager to share her obvious affection and future plans for the Essex Inn. We did not have the opportunity to meet chef and partner Josh, who seems to remain behind the scenes, ensuring that all is well managed in the kitchen. For an Adirondack experience with a New England feel, visit the Essex Inn on the Adirondack Coast, nestled between Lake Champlain and the Adirondack mountains. Try something new and be sure to wander around inside and out. One visit will not be enough.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

North Country Club, Keeseville

The "Cocktails" sign on the side of the North Country Club Restaurant sign was a harbinger of the retro-style tavern we were about to enter in Keeseville. The windows on the interior walls as we entered the vestibule foreshadowed a repurposed building. Slate floors, a combination of wood panel and brick walls, and a green formica topped bar counter, all in good condition, confirmed our first speculation. Our first impression was one of familiarity, comfort and welcome.

Behind the bar, signs promoting the Bikini Martini and Catalina Margarita (no Rob Roys and Whisky Sours here) spoke of more contemporary times. The bartender, Shannon, young, energetic, smiling and soon joking, did too. The large, rectangular bar offered seating for at least 15 patrons in sturdy captain’s chairs. Complimentary hors d'oeuvres were put out in a corner with chips, dips, crackers and cheese spread. Quick Draw and a few televisions offered entertainment, but we found the bartenders, first Shannon, then Josh, to be enough entertainment for us.

Owned by Michael and Tonia Finnegan for the past four years, the North Country Club Restaurant has been in business for at least the past 40 years. One of the waitresses, Gladys, came to Keeseville in the 1950s, and was able to fill us in on some history. The building was originally a train station, located elsewhere, but moved to make room for the highway. Once moved, it was reappointed as a restaurant and has been serving local families and tourists ever since. Gladys apparently came with the building. The North Country Club is renowned for its gourmet style pizza, and claims to serve the best pizza from Montreal to Miami. Entirely homemade, it is reputed to have been Fed-Exed to Utah and Florida. Supposedly they deliver anywhere.

Serving a variety of bottled beers, Land Shark and Budweiser are currently offered at a mere $2.00 a bottle. Several beers are available on tap, both domestic and micro, including, Yuengling, Bud, Coors, and Long Trail Blackberry Wheat. The liquor selection is typical, with several flavored vodkas and a few premium distillations. Several varieties of wine are served as well.

The North Country Club is open seven days a week all year, from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and Noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Closing time is extended one hour every day when summer hours begin Memorial Day weekend. They close only for Christmas and Thanksgiving. Happy Hour is featured daily with $1.00 draft beer, $2.00 domestic bottles and $.50 off well drinks. Cocktail specials like the Bikini Martini are available for $5.00 and change weekly, depending on bartender creativity. Maybe someday they will feature one of Happy Hour in the High Peaks signature drinks. Bring your favorite recipe and Shannon and Josh will set you up. Cell phone service is available, and access to wifi is on request. They occasionally offer live music on a small scale.