Behind the Bar

Flair on Tap

Read the interview


What is the history behind the name Blackie’s Bulldog Tavern?
People mistakenly assume that the name is a tribute to Bryant University’s [bulldog] mascot, but it’s not. “Blackie” is the nickname of the former owner’s father-in-law, and “Bulldog” is a tribute to a really cool lamp he owned with a cigar-smoking bulldog base.

Can we catch you flair bartending there?
Every good bartender has “flair” – whether it is the way he makes a drink or the show he puts on behind the bar. However, there’s a time and a place for the actual exhibition of flair bartending. If the timing and crowd is right, I’ll dabble.

What can dinner guests expect?
The food here is hands down to die for. Chef Angie Armenise is a hell of a chef. Her Short Rib Ravioli is a buttery, short rib and gravy deliciousness all in one. The Short Rib Shepard's Pie is also one of my favorites. She brought something to Smithfield that people here have been missing, and that’s what I’m trying to do with our cocktail menu, too.

What do you love most about bartending at Blackie’s?
I’ve had complete creative freedom. That’s tough to find. I like to push the boundaries of what I think is new and introduce current trends. The owners give me an open field to play and I work hand-in-hand with Chef Angie to pair my drinks with her menu.

What is your signature cocktail?
White Peach Habanero Skinny Margarita. It’s made with pureed habaneros and homemade sour mix using agave nectar and pureed white peaches. The tequila added in is the only ingredient with sugar. The habanero gives this drink a kick, but the white peaches tone it down.

What is the current cocktail trend?
Bitters, whether homemade or store bought. It’s the response to America being tired of overly sweet drinks. On the summer menu, we’re featuring a Purple Haze cocktail, concocted with lavender bitters, homemade sugar-free lavender lemonade, agave nectar instead of sugar, Hendricks gin and ginger liqueur. Also, Manhattans are popular again. Classics will always be classics.

What’s the most interesting thing that has happened to you while bar- tending?
I once refused service to a famous actress; I thought her ID was fake.