Upon entering the breezy bar at the start of service at Bostwick’s on the Harbor in Springs this past Fourth of July, there’s already a cluster of about a dozen people crowded around the service bar toward the back of the room.
It’s a family, with members ranging from age 70 to 17 months, and they’re all here for one reason. That reason is bartender Fran Brierley, a well-known fixture at Bostwick’s, who’s worked for the company nearly since its inception in 1993.
“They’re Franny fans,” laughs one of her longtime co-workers. “They’re all here for her.”
The veteran barkeep and mother of four has a lot of “Franny fans” from both the South Fork and beyond, though she’ll be the last to admit it.
“They come visit every year,” she says, softly and sweetly, of her perennial guests, smiling as she tops off one their cocktails while simultaneously pulling a ticket from the service bar’s almost incessant printer. While completing a handful of drinks for one of the tables in the dining room of the seafood-centric resto overlooking Three Mile Harbor, she concomitantly describes the ingredients in one of the mocktails she just made for her guest.
“It’s called Ritual, that’s the brand,” she says of the zero-alcohol ingredient in the drink. “Tastes just like the real stuff, so you don’t feel like you’re missing the party,” she laughs, before speedily wiping down her workspace and replenishing the cocktail napkins.
Originally born in Syosset, the East Hampton resident first came out east in 1980, working in Montauk. She started at Bostwick’s in 1994, originally waitressing for a stint before transitioning to her spot behind the stick.
“I remember one of my first summer nights, the bar was about three deep and back then we were using paper tickets,” she says. “It was crazy.”
Brierley’s demeanor is anything but tough. Very reminiscent of the ethos of the establishment where she works, she’s calm, easy, breezy and doubtlessly determined to make sure you’re having a good time. Her voice seems to remain at the same decibel whether the bar’s guest count is at five or 50. She’s methodical in how she builds her drinks, partially relying on muscle memory, attention to detail and her an undeniably acute sense of her surroundings. “I’m all about using two hands,” she says.
She’s about five-foot-three on a good day, quickly and effortlessly able to weave in between her colleagues to get to the bottled beer cooler or to switch out a full bus bin, all the while with a classic pair of black Ray-Ban style sunglasses perched atop her head. She’s a team player, always ready to help and she gives off a wonderfully delightful “mom of the group” vibe.
Bostwick’s season typically runs from the beginning of May to about mid-October. With a large portion of the waitstaff consisting of young adults, Brierley has been paramount in showing some of them the ropes, particularly her bar back. “She’s so good,” she gushes of her young protégé, Lauren Gabbard, an East Hampton native. “This business is one that once you learn it, and get good at it, you can take it with you and make money anywhere. It’s a tough business, but it teaches you to be kind and you truly learn so much about people. Part of me really wants them to know that.”
Bar offerings at Bostwick’s boast 14 specialty cocktails, two unique mocktails, about a dozen beers (on draft and in cans and bottles), hard seltzers, plus a fully stocked arsenal of liquor and wines, both foreign and domestic. There are two beer tap systems, plus three ice wells designed for three bartenders to be working together on the busier nights. In the center of the back wall of the bar is a window where drinks are served out into the lounge located directly behind the wall of bottles the bar holds.
“I like working service bar, Brierley says, “because I like the pace. And they did a good job with designing it. I don’t have to go too far because I have everything I need here. It’s the best!”
Cocktails at Bostwick’s have a distinct summertime style. Favorites, according to Brierley, include blood orange margaritas, sweet tea vodka lemonades, and mezcal-based palomas, but it’s the Bostwick’s Breeze — their take on a rum punch — that truly encompasses the essence of the joint. Made with Mt. Gay rum, Malibu rum, pineapple juice, orange juice and a splash of grenadine, it’s a not-too-sweet and a little bit fruity tipple that screams summer.
What’s Brierley’s drink of choice? “I like pinot grigio and I like tequila, but not in the same night,” she says with a wink.
Whatever you choose to imbibe, let Brierley’s deft hands make it for you. You’ll become a fan in no time at all.
- 2 oz Mt. Gay rum
- 1 oz Malibu rum
- 1/2 oz pineapple juice
- 1/2 oz orange juice
- 1 splash grenadine
- 1 wedge orange (optional, for garnish)
- 1 maraschino cherry (optional, for garnish)