Sep 25, 2018 | Editorials
RUMSON – Salt Creek Grille is always on the lookout for emerging distilleries and breweries to meet their customers’ ever-growing tastes. And throughout the restaurant’s 20 years in business it has introduced many new brands of beer and spirits, bringing guests the latest in new trends and helping launch some exciting new brands, many of them local.
“We like to find new spirits and breweries to serve our customers,” said Rob Habel, beverage manager at Salt Creek Grille. “It adds to the dining experience. Our guests like to try new local artisan beers and small batch spirits just out on the market. Many of our guests are business owners themselves who enjoy supporting local businesses. Plus it’s just plain fun and exciting to find new products to share with our guests.”
Co-owner Steve Bidgood’s willingness to try new things is often a welcome boon to an emerging brand that is selected for the restaurant’s American Grill menu concept, featuring an authentic Mesquite wood-burning grill. Owners of locally owned small batch distilled spirits and artisan beer producers claim having their brand served at Salt Creek Grille creates instant credibility for their brand, which in turn opens other doors to similar businesses. Salt Creek Grille’s vetting process is highly respected among their competitors, so when a new brand is served at Salt Creek Grille, it provides a strong reference for the brand in other outlets.
Two such beverages that are currently featured on the specialty cocktail menu are Asbury Park Distilling Co, Asbury Park, and Brinley Gold Shipwreck Rum, Atlantic Highlands. While Asbury Park Distilling operations is located in its namesake city, Shipwreck Rum is produced in Saint Kitts, West Indies. Saint Kitts and its neighboring island of Nevis constitute the smallest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Beverage manager Habel created a special martini using the Asbury Park Gin, which he calls the “French 75.” It’s a mix of Asbury Park Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and sparkling wine. The result is a refreshing cocktail, sophisticated with a little sparkle. And, he created the “Painkilla” using Shipwreck Spiced Rum with Shipwreck Coconut Rum Cream, orange juice, pineapple juice, and fresh nutmeg. Its tasty exotic, island flavors transport you to a warm Caribbean beach.
“We sell to many excellent bars, restaurants and stores, but Salt Creek Grille is one of my favorite accounts, because they were one of the first spots in the area to support and stock our rums,” said Zach Brinley, co-owner with his dad of Shipwreck Rum, which is headquartered in Atlantic Highlands.
“Seeing my brand on the back bar and store shelves is very special, especially when we first started. And on a personal note my wife and I have enjoyed some special nights there looking out at the beautiful view.”
“I remember how Rob’s eyes lit up when he tasted the Coconut Cream Rum,” recalled Brinley. “The idea for “Painkilla” came pretty quickly, but we had no idea it would become such a popular cocktail.”
“Living in Rumson, seeing our spirits represented in my community is awesome!” said Rob Wile, co-owner of Asbury Park Distilling. “Every time I’m a patron at an establishment like Salt Creek, it’s a very proud moment to see our spirits... it never gets old!”
Many owners like Brinley are surprised at how receptive Habel and Bidgood are when approached by an owner to introduce their new beverages to Salt Creek Grille.
“The fact that they’re such an institution in the area gives a local, award-winning distillery such as ourselves great credibility among the local area residents,” said Wile. “From the beginning we set out to grow organically and locally first. This partnership was a great step on our journey.” Wile said that when they first started they self-distributed and that’s how he established a great relationship with Habel. But as the business grew and the distribution channels became more complicated, Asbury Park Distilleries has partnered with a beverage distributor, Fedway.
One more advantage to supporting emerging liquors, beers and wines is a strong, enduring silent pact of respect, friendship and loyalty among the restaurant and the brands they supported when the new company was trying to get a foothold in the market.
“We were among the first to feature craft beers from Carton Brewing Company on our taps,” explained Habel. “As the new companies like Carton get larger and the demand gets higher, I can depend on Doug Edwards, their sales representative, to make sure that we keep his beers on our taps. Our customers appreciate our reputation for consistently carrying the best.”
Carton beers, based in Atlantic Highlands, are on tap at Salt Creek Grille along with eight others, including another local brewery, Brooklyn Brewery. Habel keeps two taps for seasonal artisan beers from local breweries. Some recently featured are Jughandle Brewing Company, Tinton Falls; Wet Ticket Brewing, Rahway; and Cape May Brewing Co., Cape May.
“It makes perfect sense for our beers to be at Salt Creek Grille,” said Matt Panetta, sales representative for Jughandle Brewing Company, which is self distributed. “They carry Hopshorne, a New England-style IPA. The beer’s namesake, Hartshorne Park, is so close that you can see it from the windows at Salt Creek Grille. Our high quality, craft beers match perfectly with the high-end food and service there and its fun, casual ambiance. We couldn’t be happier,” added Panetta.
“Local has always meant more to Salt Creek Grille than simply a marketing term,” said Bidgood, also a New Jersey native. From construction materials to shelf staples to law advice to the beer served at the bar, whenever possible, Bidgood, his chef Bob Belt and his managers buy local if that product or a service meets their high level of standards. As a result, Salt Creek Grille has helped to launch many new endeavors and the American Dream.
Salt Creek Grille is located at 4 Bingham Avenue in Rumson. For more information, call 732-933-9272 or visit www.saltcreekgrille.com.