It’s the Friday after Christmas in downtown Montauk. Traffic is light, there aren’t a lot of people, and most places seem quiet, if not completely closed all together for the season. Considered by many to be among the busiest of the Hampton hamlets during the summer months, there’s a palpable stillness in the salty air as dusk begins to blanket over the sleepy fishing town.
Situated on the southeastern end of the village business district remains one of Montauk’s oldest and truest mainstays marked by its now iconic neon sign and adored by locals and visitors alike for consistently servicing its patrons with comfort food and drink. It’s Shagwong Tavern and it’s pretty easy to tell this is where the action is.
About a half dozen patrons are scattered about the 16-seat bar to the left, with about 10 or so more seated at a few high-top tables and stools to the right. “This is the End” by The Doors is playing in the background. Servers are walking quickly yet calmly back and forth from the service bar to the adjoining dining room that serves simple but elevated pub food for lunch and dinner seven days a week, year-round.
A pair of workers with paint-stained jeans plant themselves at the service end and start welcoming the weekend with a couple of pints. There’s an older couple sitting in the lefthand corner near the entrance turned inward, towards each other. In deep conversation, they only break their still-life hold for a quick sip. As the lunchtime barkeep begins to cash out his guests (big thanks to Kevin Logie for pouring a practically perfect Guinness!) more and more people begin to trickle in, slowly but surely, as the clock draws closer and closer to 5 p.m..
Then enters nighttime bartender Allie Bergold through the backdoor. Before setting foot behind the bar she helms three to four nights a week, and with a relaxed grin on her face, the first thing she does is walk over toward the front of the building to say hi to the seated couple on the far end. After a quick catch-up and once she’s sure they have everything they need at the moment, she then slides to the left of the front door to subtly lower the house lights while exchanging a few more smiles and hellos with guests. It’s very apparent Bergold not only recognizes people; she’s genuinely happy to see them.
She picks up a handful of dead glasses and beer-soaked coasters, wipes down a table and tucks in some out-of-place bar stools on her way back to the service side, readying herself for her solo shift. Originally from the North Fork’s New Suffolk, Bergold’s a well-seasoned veteran of the industry, having worked at several beloved locales like Memory Motel, Gig Shack, East Hampton Grill and the former Muse at the End. She’s been living and working in Montauk since 2012, slinging drinks at Shagwong for the past four years.
“Shagwong is my home,” she says, adding “I’m able to pay my bills year-round, pretty much.” During the summer months, she’ll usually pick up another part-time gig somewhere “you know, to change my scenery,” she quips. “But it’s truly a family at this place. Some of my best friends are right here with me.”
Warm and receptive, Bergold’s style is relaxed, grounded and friendly with an intuitive steadiness about her that assures you you’re in the right place. As the bar at Shagwong begins to fill and the music gets a touch louder her agility starts to kick in as she instantly replenishes empty pints of beer for a few regulars and gives a couple menus a quick wipe-down for the two new guests that just walked in. They’re not quite sure where to sit, but Bergold’s right there to help, as she gently guides them from behind the bar over to two newly cleaned-up spots. She listens intently as they start to take off their coats and tell her about how their holiday went and how long of a drive it was to get there. The whole time she’s methodically building their margaritas with one hand and laying down paper placemats and utensils with the other.
“I love how fast-paced it is,” says Bergold of working at the Montauk institution that’s been around since the late 1930s. “There’s a definite excitement to it all, but at the same time you can relax and be yourself here. That’s one of the things that makes Montauk so special to begin with.”
Widely regarded for its extensive tap, canned and bottled beer selection to complement the pub-style menu, Shagwong also boasts refreshing takes on classic cocktails. A self-described tequila drinker, one of Bergold’s favorite concoctions is the Spicy Cucumber Margarita, made with 21 Seeds cucumber jalapeño-infused tequila, and a hat tip to warmer weather sippers. “I was initially not sure about bringing on another flavored liquor because we have plenty,” she says of the spirit, “but after doing a little research I found out it’s an organic product from an all-women run company, and I thought that was so cool. Plus, it tastes great!”
With a little triple sec, some lime juice, sour mix and club soda, she gives it a quick yet firm shake, creating that highly sought after foamy head. “The sour helps achieve that,” she notes. Next, she strains it into a salted-rim pint glass over fresh ice and garnishes with a lime wedge. Not only is the drink well-balanced it serves as a wonderfully welcome reprieve from the ubiquitous whiskeys, heavy beers and red wines typical of the winter season.
Not much of a stickler for exact ratios, Bergold’s approach, once again, relies heavily on intuition and her finely tuned muscle memory. “So, I love to cook and making drinks is an extension of that hobby,” she says. “I pour my drinks like I cook. I find myself using ‘some’ and ‘a sprinkle’ as measurements. I’ve been doing this so long my pours are more about feel.”
So, the next time you’re in downtown Montauk remember to stop by Shagwong. They’ll be open and most likely, she’ll be there — cool as a cucumber — ready to help whether it’s warm out or not.
Spicy Cucumber Margarita
- 2 oz 21 Seeds cucumber jalapeño tequila
- 1 oz triple sec
- 1/2 oz sour mix
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1 splash club soda
- 1 wedge of lime (for garnish)