You know you’ve made it as a bartender when you’re referencing “Cheers.”
In the eight years Ryan Brown’s been behind the stick at Townline BBQ in Sagaponack, he’s created his own unique sense of community and comfort among his patrons that’s reminiscent of the much beloved TV show.
“I love the community it brings,” he said about what was originally set out to be a part-time gig. “Your customers become your friends. One minute you’re serving them their first drink, next thing you know you’re sitting down for Christmas dinner together. A lot of people end up dreading going to work. I’m excited to go to work.”
At Townline, the bar is its own entity, occupying its own room almost totally separate from the restaurant. Stepping into the cozy bar, with its reclaimed wood and no-frills décor, it seems apparent what style of tipple townies and tourists alike will be imbibing. But then enters Brown, who makes it about more than just slinging ribs and topping off pints. For him it’s even more than knowing what each and every one of his guests is going to drink before they set foot in the building, which he does.
Originally from Ronkonkoma, Brown summered on the East End since childhood, eventually making the move to his present Southampton home. In his tenure at Townline, he’s masterfully brought his patrons together, becoming the common thread they all share. “I think it’s great when I get a couple different groups that come in,” he said, “and I try to get everyone else talking. That’s the goal each time.” His approach is laid back, but always present. Whether you’re there to toss a couple back, which he can assist with quickly and cleanly, or you want him to guide you toward something new and unique, the name of the game for Brown is quality and comfort.
As head bartender, Brown’s been instrumental in keeping his bar-going community content, and well lubricated, with his versatile offerings. Chock full of nearly every style of whiskey one could find (there’s dozens), there’s also an incredibly strong beer presence at the Sagaponack locale, perfect for completing that full-on ‘cue experience.
“I definitely try to curate our beer list,” the Southampton resident said of his seven-strong tap system. His efforts prove to be effective, with Brown noting how people come in on a regular basis just to see the rotating beer offerings. “We’re moving through kegs each week,” he said. “It’s become kind of a thing.” Insider tip: Townline offers growlers!
For those into the cocktail side of the spectrum, rest assured, as Brown offers plenty of crowd-pleasing riffs on familiar classics. “We’re known for our margarita,” he said, matter-of-factly. “We squeeze all of our juices in house, which makes a difference.” Other potent potables in the mix are the Buffalo Bourbon Sour, featuring Buffalo Trace bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup and a dash of Angostura bitters. “I shake it heavy and pour over fresh ice in a highball glass,” he said. Then there’s the TL Dawg, what Brown calls “one of our bigger summer sippers” and the joint’s riff on a salty dog. You won’t find the specs here, as “it’s a well-protected recipe,” he said.
Finally, Brown’s Texas Tea embodies what most associate summertime cocktails with, utilizing crowd favorite Old Overholt rye (fun fact from Brown: the Pennsylvania-born spirit was JFK and Ulysses S. Grant’s personal drink of choice), lemon juice, simple syrup and house-brewed passion fruit and peppermint teas. He keeps it cute, casual, and on brand, serving it in a Mason jar with a mint spring and a lemon wedge.
“I want you to come in, sit down and have a good time,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.” So go to Townline. Belly up with Brown and let him help you welcome summer with his refreshing, delicious and casually crafted cocktails. You’ll leave with him knowing your name.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering about Brown’s drink of choice: A hazy IPA and a shot of Jameson. Classic is always key.
- 2 oz Old Overholt rye
- 3 oz peppermint/passion fruit tea mix
- 1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
- 1 sprig of mint
- 1 lemon wedge
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup water
Peppermint/passion fruit tea mix
- 1 bag Harney & Son's passion fruit tea
- 1 bag Harney & Son't peppermint tea
- 1 cup hot water
- 2-3 sprigs of peppermint (optional)