Joseph Pascal is not your Average Joe bartender.
“Guests always remember Joe,” Linwood co-owner Drew Dvorkin says of his star barkeep in Bay Shore. “They remember his inviting smile and quick wit.”
And when he starts dropping knowledge, then you know you’re in the presence of a true pro, and that your experience at The Linwood is going to be anything but average.
“His knowledge of fine wine and spirits is comprehensive without being pretentious or intimidating,” Dvorkin said. “He has the uncanny ability to match the right guest with the right cocktail.”
We headed to The Linwood to learn more about this throwback 29-year-old from Massapequa, who on any given day might be sporting a waxed handlebar mustache or coveralls, while playing music from bands such as The Animals, which were part of the 1960s British Invasion.
Joe will enlighten you on that sort of stuff, too.
He’s also smart enough to know you need to learn the rules of drink-making before you can break them.
Pascal started his career in wine bars in Nassau, working with mature audiences and mastering the classics like the old fashioned, Manhattan, sidecar, and, his personal favorite, the negroni.
“I got really passionate early on about these older drinks,” he said. “You have to know them, and do them well in order to learn what works.”
It’s building off a foundation. That’s how in just two years, The Linwood has emerged as a top Long Island spot for quality cocktails.
“I love the approach we have here because it is a total team effort,” Pascal said. “We love getting everyone’s opinions. Everyone has varying tastes and that’s what makes our cocktail program what it is.”
“I wouldn’t be able to do it without Tom, my main bartender, Connor on Sundays and both Emilys can set up and make any one of our drinks; they all have great execution when it comes to cocktails,” he added.
“Above all, it’s about finding what we’re inspired by.”
For him, it’s the seasons, and with that, shifting tastes, and the natural bounty of the Northeast.
“In summer, it’s the watermelon, citrus, honeydew and strawberry,” he says. “We think, what do we want out of this season? First you look into what’s fresh, then you look into the flavor matrix.”
Then you try and repeat.
“That’s one of the great advantages of Long Island and the four seasons, being able to work with local honey, being able to get fresh lavender and blueberries. We do have some great produce out here.”
During quarantine, Pascal was kept busy at The Linwood, mixing, packaging and running cocktails to go.
He also took the time to study his craft even more in depth, and enjoy some wines he had set aside for special occasions.
“I had wine marked don’t open until 2022, but I didn’t know if we would see a 2022,” he laughed.
But like any good bartender, he missed the people.
He also missed the payoff of mixing a good drink and watching for that reaction.
“I missed it so much,” he said. “It was absolutely not the same. But when the world stood still, it was a nice reminder that this job is all about the sociability.
“It’s not just about the drinks, it’s about people.”
Let’s delve a bit more into Pascal’s favorite cocktail, the negroni.
It’s one ounce of gin, one ounce Campari, one ounce of sweet vermouth.
“It’s three ingredients and it can all go so well, but it can take that turn if you don’t honor the structure of it,” he says of the apéritif. “It sounds so simple, but drinks so complex.”
But it has to be stirred, not shaken, which has to do with the chemistry.
“Typically drinks that use citrus need to be shaken, because you have to dilute that citric acid just a little bit more,” he explained. “When stirred you’re only getting a half-ounce of dilution. That’s letting the spirits speak for themselves and it binds the cocktail together. It also comes out as a stiffer drink.”
Strain. Garnish with an orange peel.
Joseph Pascal portraits by Satin Widrow. Linwood photos by Michael White.