We are excited to share our first Mixology Spirit feature from Newport, Rhode Island! We took a nice fall drive down to OceanCliff Hotel & Resort to meet up with bartender and restaurant manager, Reagan Nicole. OceanCliff is located on 10 acres of rolling lawns with spectacular ocean views of Narragansett Bay. The hotel’s restaurant, the Safari Room, is known for providing extraordinary culinary experiences and with Reagan behind the bar, you’ll also enjoy some fantastic craft cocktails built from simple, fresh ingredients. For our interview, Reagan built us a Cocoa Maple Old Fashioned—a delicious cocktail that’s a perfect fit for the fall and holiday seasons. Check out the recipe at the end of the interview.
Batchers: Welcome to Mixology Spirit, Reagan! What is your title and role at OceanCliff Hotel & Resort?
Reagan: Thank you for inviting me to participate! I am the restaurant manager at OceanCliff. I oversee the restaurant in all its capacities including, but not limited to, staff scheduling, customer experience, quality control, hiring, bar menu, and whole bunch more!
Batchers: How did you get started in the business? How long have you been working behind the bar?
Reagan: I have always appreciated the community that a bar environment creates for people. I started in the restaurant industry when I was 15, but always knew I would be involved with the bar when I got older. When I finally got the chance, it became my focus and I have been behind the bar ever since!
Batchers: What is it about building craft cocktails that really connects with you?
Reagan: I am a very artistic person and have always loved the process of creating things. Often at home, my brother and I would experiment making crazy and fun cocktails. We would make stuff that was beyond great. Of course, there were times our creations didn’t work out so well and we’d just laugh it off. All of that trial and error played a big part in building my passion for creating cocktails. My brother still helps me out with cocktails to this day—he helped me finalize this year’s OceanCliff fall cocktail menu—for old time’s sake.
Batchers: What makes a great cocktail versus just a good cocktail?
Reagan: Quality ingredients and creativity…and recognizing when simplicity is necessary.
Batchers: What advice do you have for folks just starting out in the business?
Reagan: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Mixing unusual combinations can uncover something uniquely special.
Batchers: Got a great story about a hard night behind the bar?
Reagan: One night, when we were absolutely slammed and I was grabbing a new bottle of whiskey, the other bartender working with me tripped over my leg and I spilled close to a third of the bottle all over myself as I awkwardly fell to the floor. The music was so loud, he didn’t hear me warning him to watch out. It was hysterical and that was only the first rush of the night! It so busy that night, we literally just laughed for half a second, then got up and returned to making drinks as the bar crowd laughed at our lack of concern. Sometimes, messy can be fun!
Batchers: What is your favorite Litchfield Distillery spirit to work with?
Reagan: Litchfield’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey is my favorite to work with because it is so smooth and works well with a lot of different ingredients I tend to use regularly. But my favorites at home are Litchfield’s Maple Bourbon and Cask Strength Straight Bourbon.
Batchers: What does The Spirit of Hard Work® mean to you?
Reagan: For me, the spirit of hard work is the key to success. It’s how dreams are achieved, fun happens, and changes are made. When you work hard, the fulfillment of anything you achieve becomes a light in your world—a sense of pride and accomplishment in yourself and your work. Projects come and go, but that feeling of accomplishment is what lives on forever.
Reagan chose to build us a Cocoa Maple Old Fashioned—a drink currently on the Safari Room’s fall cocktail menu. It features our 4-year Straight Bourbon along with our Bourbon-Barrel Maple Syrup. The addition of Dark Creme de Cacao and Cocoa Bitters adds a subtle layer of chocolate flavor, while creating a velvety-smooth mouthfeel. If you love Old Fashioneds, this is a nice, simple spin on the classic recipe—one we think is especially good for the fall and holiday seasons.
- 2.0 oz. Litchfield Distillery Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- 0.25 oz. Litchfield Distillery Bourbon-Barrel Maple Syrup
- 0.25 oz. Dark Creme de Cacao
- 4 Dashes Cocoa Bitters
- Garnish: Cinnamon Stick and Burnt Orange Twist
Method: Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass, add ice and stir. Strain into rocks glass over fresh ice. Light a flame under the orange peel while squeezing over the flame. Rim the glass with the peel, and add to glass along with cinnamon stick.
To learn more about OceanCliff Hotel & Resort, visit their Website and follow them on Facebook or Instagram. OceanCliff’s bar, the Safari Room, also has its own Instagram page. OceanCliff is located at Five Marina Plaza in Newport, RI. To contact or make a reservation please call (401) 849-6683.
About Mixology Spirit:
Mixology Spirit is a Litchfield Distillery blog series dedicated to sharing the stories of creative and passionate mixologists who embody The Spirit Of Hard Work®. Think you got what it takes to be featured? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2022 Litchfield Distillery. Photography & Editing Credits: Tony Vengrove