Elevated Wine & Spirits in Hunter, NY lives up to its name.
By Anthony Giglio
If you happen to find yourself at Elevated Wine & Spirits, in Hunter, NY, you’ll likely spot the ‘Negroni Nest’ perched atop a huge cork column. But let me back up. I drink a lot of Negronis. Quite often when I order one someone nearby will ask, “What’s in that?” The answer: It’s a trio of spirits measured out in equal thirds: gin (I like Hendrick’s or Fords London Dry); bitter (I’m faithful to Campari); and sweet vermouth (the best, IMHO, is Carpano Antica Formula). You shake this holy trinity with ice and then strain it into a rocks glass over a block of ice the size of a Rubik’s Cube. Garnish with a ribbon of orange peel (properly flexed over the top of the glass first to spray orange oil across the surface of the cocktail).
Back to that Negroni Nest. It’s an eye-catching display in Elevated that lassoes together the trio of 50ml airline-size bottles required for that ultimate cocktail—and it’s how I came to be chatting (OK, geeking out) with Elevated’s co-owner (and former bartender), Mark Landsman.
Back in 2020, Landsman and his business partner Michael Osterer took over Hunter Village Wine & Liquors and, with their expertise in all things booze, transformed it from a sleepy local liquor store into something way cooler. From the get-go, the new owners were adamant that the store remain ‘local’—“meaning we still stock Yellow Tail for people who want Yellow Tail,” Landsman explains, referencing the popular brand of under-$10 wines from Australia. But they also wanted to elevate the shop, to announce that they were aficionados of high-end concoctions. Hence, the cool Negroni display. “It’s my favorite thing in the store,” Landsman reveals. “It works out perfectly proportionately that all you need to do is dump all three bottles (Tanqueray Gin, Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth and Campari Bitter) into a shaker or a glass and you’ve got a cocktail.”
In fact, so noteworthy was the Nest that it begat the ‘Manhattan Couch,’ a tiny metal sofa featuring two 50ml Bulleit Bourbons and one 50ml Carpano Antica Formula. All that’s missing is the requisite dash of aromatic bitters—I’d suggest Angostura—but Landsman figures cocktail lovers probably have that at home and
if not, he’ll happily sell you a full bottle.
Among other special cocktails that Landsman promotes is the Boulevardier, a fancy drink especially befitting the winter season, when earthier brown spirits supplant lighter white ones. What is it exactly? See the Negroni instructions above but replace gin with your favorite bourbon.
“Look, my passion is bourbon,” Landsman says, a man after my own heart. “I think people are really into it right now, as well as Japanese whiskey—spirits they can sip that have a sense of story and place, that elicit a transportive experience.” He’s also been steering customers to interesting libations from other countries, such as a plum brandy made in a pot-still from Armagnac called Louis Roque La Vieille Prune Plum Brandy, which he describes as being “like a Cognac, but it has a bit of lingering butterscotch; it genuinely warms you up on the way down. It’s a thorough sit-down-by-the-campfire kind of thing.”
Thanks to the New York’s Farm Distillery License, Landsman says, there are plenty of local bourbon producers up here—gin, too. “That’s the other direction I’m taking my people in,” he says, calling out Stout Ridge Farm Distillery in Marlborough, which makes Wagner’s New York Bourbon, which is crafted by his business partners, Steve Osborn and Kim Wagner. Then there are the seasonally seasoned Isolation Proof Gins by Bovina Spirits in the Catskills; Neversink Spirits Gin from Port Chester (“not quite local, but great”); and Branchwater Gin from Red Hook, which also turns out a delicious pear brandy.
“I think it’s nice having a spirit with a sense of place,” Landsman says. And I think it’s exceptional having a local retailer with the foresight to know what his customers want, and the vision to take them well beyond the comfort of their very own nest.