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Meet the Barman: Tom’s been in ‘the zone’ at The Linwood since quarantine

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Tom Smith didn’t let his bartending skills dull during quarantine.
His creativity was actually flowing at home.

But he and is family paid the price when it came to the scale.

“I was making cocktails for my family, pretty much all the time,” he said with a laugh. “At the end of quarantine I stepped on the scale and was like, ‘Whoa.’”

(Happy hour during quarantine started at 1 p.m. with most families.)

Smith, 25, who’s from Nassau but later moved to Patchogue, was happy to be back on his feet and running around at The Linwood in Bay Shore when things opened up.

He’s now on his second year at what’s become a premier Long Island cocktail destination.

“Tom is the type of bartender that makes you feel like you’re his childhood best friend,” said Linwood co-owner Drew Dvorkin. “He’s the type of guy that will remember your dog’s name or the vacation you’ve been planning, and he creates a seamless relationship over several visits to his bar.”

Smith’s life nowadays consists of three things: work, gym, sleep.

During the summer, he sneaks in some weekly beach volleyball games in Long Beach.

Yet work doesn’t feel like work anymore to this longtime restaurant employee, who started as a busboy, then a server, then a bar-back and, finally, bartender. This is the happiest he’s every been.

“Absolutely the best,” he said of being behind the bar, compared to the floor. “Not even close.”

Smith doesn’t mind a quiet bar and getting to know people a little more intimately, but what he really embraces is chaos — as he describes a packed bar and restaurant.

“I do love the chaos,” he said. “I find peace in the madness, for sure, when you’re in the zone and you got 15 drink tickets up and you have no choice but to get moving and get on it.”

We know Tom, and that likely means 15 happy customers.

But that also might mean tabling a conversation about basketball, football or hockey, his favorites.

He especially likes to chat up customers with a more discerning palette.

“I can tell by the food and drinks they’re ordering off the menu,” he said. “ Then I love to hear about the drinks they love and where they get them and what they might recommend.”

Drinks-wise at The LInwood, Smith is currently high on gin and tonics.

But these aren’t the gin or even vodka tonics of your college years. At The Linwood, the bar staff is always working within the seasons of the Northeast to develop and update their cocktail menu.

In the spring, they were using honeysuckle-infused gin, but honeysuckle is a short season, so they recently transitioned into a blueberry and basil-infused version of the clear spirit — then they top that with tonic.

“It’s just another one of those easy drinking, summer cocktails,” he said.

One of his personal favorites is the negroni. But Smith recommends Aperol instead of the more traditional Campari.

“Aperol is a nice, more usery friendly bitter liquor,” he explained.

He’s also a sucker for IPA’s.

That, too, contributed to his quarantine 15.

But all that time spent home, researching and honing his craft is paying off for drinkers in Bay Shore.

head on over

The Linwood is located at 150 East Main Street, toward the eastern end of downtown Bay Shore, with plenty of parking in the rear or on the street. If you’re looking specifically to meet barman Tom Smith, as of this summer he’s there from Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from when The Linwood opens at 3 p.m. to closing time, which varies depending on who’s still dining and drinking.

Top: Tom Smith busy behind The Linwood bar in mid-July. (Credit: Satin Widrow)

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The Linwood interior photos by Michael White