Walking through Greenport Village, several bars and restaurants might catch your eye before you notice Brix & Rye. Located on the basement level of Stirling Square, the establishment is practically hidden from the village that surrounds it.
Anyone who has made the trip down the staircase into the bar, however, has surely taken notice of the exposed brick and dim lighting that combine with classic cocktails and live music to create a unique atmosphere.
They’re also sure to remember the man fixing their drink.
“How are you guys tonight?” is how Evan Bucholz greets each customer, his voice raspy and his wavy blonde hair pulled back into a bun.
Bucholz, 36, is the co-owner and mixologist of Brix & Rye, which poured its first drink in August 2014 and has grown in popularity ever since. In the nearly two years since he and business partner Matt Michel opened their bar, Bucholz has made a name for himself as one of the North Fork’s most knowledgeable and beloved bartenders.
Neena Paul, a regular customer, said she loves to experiment when ordering off the bar’s specialty cocktail menu. She likened Bucholz to a “historian” who makes drinks originating from different regions and eras.
“He is so passionate about [his work],” she said, adding that he should teach a class. “Every time I come here and I actually have time to interact, I learn something.”
Bucholz’s professional approach to preparing drinks is by design. He left behind his pursuit of a graduate degree in literature from City College of New York after realizing he liked bartending better.
A Jamesport native, Bucholz later opted to leave the city, where he had honed his craft at Fort Defiance in Red Hook, Brooklyn, to raise a family on the North Fork. He also went into business at the bar with Michel, the owner of 1943 Pizza Bar, which serves up the wood-fired pies also served at Brix & Rye.
Michel, 33, said he couldn’t imagine anyone else running the bar.
“Evan brought a different level of expertise to the table that I knew was necessary to set us apart from other bars in Greenport,” he said.
Michel said what he finds most impressive about his business partner is his interaction with customers and how he can remember what they like.
“He can meet someone one time in January and remember their drink when they come back in June,” Michel said. “He’s pretty amazing.”
In January, a New York Times piece praised Bucholz and Brix & Rye, labeling the bar “sophisticated” and likening its dimly lit decor and old-fashioned drinks to a speakeasy.
The establishment’s diverse menu, which features everything from Trader Vic’s mai tais and gin gimlets in the summer to hot apple toddies of amaretto in the winter, also sets Brix & Rye apart.
Bucholz doesn’t have a favorite drink to prepare. Rather, he finds gratification in matching a drink to the right person. He said he enjoys when the customer leaves it in his hands and he can introduce people to new cocktails they might never have tried otherwise.
“It’s cool seeing people get excited about the stuff you’re making for them,” he said. “And being a good part of everybody’s day, it’s fun.”
Naturally, Bucholz said, summer weekends are busiest in the seasonal village. But regulars keep the stools filled during the week and the bar’s underground location makes it a cozy spot during the winter.
“We try and keep it fun and a local-oriented place where regulars feel comfortable,” Bucholz said.
Away from the bar, his wife, Kyla, said, Evan is a true family man, doting over the couple’s 19-month-old daughter, Ruby, and preparing for their second child.
Kyla said bartending is a huge part of her husband’s life and that she thinks his personality and passion are big factors in his success.
“He really knows how to make people happy,” she said. “He is so interested in the cocktail world and he puts every effort into research and studying.”
The walls of the couple’s home in South Jamesport are lined with bookshelves loaded with volumes on bartending and cocktails. When her husband was learning his trade, Kyla recalled, he used to make practice drinks for her to sample.
“He made me into a cocktail person,” she said with a laugh, admitting that she previously never really liked mixed drinks. But seeing Evan enjoy what he does is what Kyla appreciates most about the path her family is on.
“It feels really great to see him so happy in what he does,” she said. “It’s truly a blessing to be able to be happy when you love your work.”
As for the future, Bucholz said he wants to refine his business focus. He wants to expand his and his employees’ knowledge of the drinks they serve and have them be open to trying new things while exposing their clientele to all they have to offer.
Nevertheless, Bucholz is appreciative of the warm response his North Fork neighbors have given Brix & Rye so far.
“I’m really thankful for where we are at the moment,” he said.
Editor’s Note: ‘Behind the bar’ is a series of profiles on local bartenders. Have a favorite server you’d like to read more about email firstname.lastname@example.org to make a recommendation.