Giovanna “Jenny” Vis grew up in Orange County here in the Hudson Valley, and her family summered on Monhegan Island in Maine. Paul Maloney, a native of the North Shore of Boston, was an artist who liked to spend the off-season painting en plein air on Monhegan. They met at a dinner party hosted by mutual friends and, as Vis recalls, “didn’t give each other the time of day.” But five years later when they met again, things were decidedly different. “It’s all about timing,” she says, and before long they had fallen in love.
Maloney moved to High Falls, where the rents were less expensive, when his building in Boston was bought out. Vis had lost her rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan and couldn’t find a living space to equal it. She adds, “And who could say no to living in a giant messy barn that was also Paul’s painting studio?” That was 20 years ago, and some years later, they began conversing with sculptor Don Johnson about his vision for Uptown Kingston.
Johnson owns the Uptown Kingston building where the old Singer sewing machine factory once throve. Locals may remember that an overflowing fabric and notions shop once housed what has morphed into Sissy’s Café. Johnson asked Vis and Maloney three times if they were interested in opening a bar on the Fair Street-facing side of the building before they finally said yes.
In 2009, the wife-and-husband duo began working to create a distinctive sense of place at the Stockade Tavern and centered their plans on Vis’ Federal-style design. With her Master’s degree in Museum Studies and his artistic sensibilities, the couple lovingly created a welcoming, low-lit establishment that takes full advantage of the building’s original ornate tin ceiling and Tudor-style windows. A gracefully curved solid-walnut bar, tables crafted from iron sewing-machine bases, light fixtures rescued from the Governor Clinton Hotel and expert bartenders invite patrons to nestle in for comfortable socializing. Some of Maloney’s paintings hang around the large room, which features two generous tables near the front windows and back-corner seating joined by an open layout that leaves room to circulate while emanating intimacy. At times musicians set up in the back, and when they perform the room is filled to friendly capacity.
Now celebrating their seventh year at the Stockade, Maloney and Vis’ cozy-cool bar is renowned for its convivial ambiance – and, with the ‘S’ for the Singer company’s emblem still on the wooden door, they’re woven into the fabric of businesses that are steadily reviving Uptown Kingston. In 2014, Esquire Magazine named the Stockade Tavern one of America’s Best Bars in 2014, proof of their pivotal role in yet another revival: the classic craft cocktail.
Though Maloney hails from the land of Irish pubs, that wasn’t the right fit for them. “It had to be a specific vibe, a community space and a place we wanted to go to every day,” says Vis. They came up with the concept based on one decision: They knew they wanted to have a craft cocktail bar. “Most of them are in the cities, but we’re a city bar in a country setting. It struck a lovely chord.”
Both sing praises for their employees – and especially their award-winning head bartender, Josh Rosenmeier – for helping them to set the right tone. “We think of people who come to the Stockade as our guests,” says Maloney. “When we train our staff – from bar backs, who are the ‘sous chefs’ of the bar, to servers and dishwashers – that’s the part we stress. It’s like we’re throwing a party, and they’re working for us to make guests happy.”
“It’s hard work, and bartending is the hardest part of it,” says Vis. “It’s like you have to jump rope, do math, chat with customers and, because we use recipes, measure them out. Shaking is so physical, so you’ve got to have great guns, too.”
About 75 percent of their cocktail menu celebrates the classic cocktails, adjusted for contemporary tastes. “The palate of 1938 is a different beast than the palate of 2016,” says Vis. Of the more current cocktails, she says most are created in-house; some are contemporary classics from other bartenders. They add new ones to the Stockade’s seasonal menu after a lot of discussion – and tastings. They taste, their staff tastes and they take feedback from customers to nail new additions down.
Rosenmeier captured two Silver Shakers, winning both judges’ and crowd top honors at the Hudson Valley Bartender Challenge a couple of years back for his “Storm & Shadow” cocktail. Concocted from Hillrock Estate Distillery’s Solera Aged Bourbon and accented with powdered-sugar-dusted blackberries and mint, it exemplifies the bar’s vigorously creative approach to serving up delicious and inventive cocktails that are often reliant upon local small-batch craft distilleries.
You can order from a menu of craft beers and wines, or enjoy savory tapas-style morsels of cheese, olives and pickles, mustard, a few crusts of bread or even a hot baked pretzel; but the Stockade is really about the cocktails and conversation. “We try to educate everyone on our staff so everything runs smoothly, and we guide customers to drinks to continue the experience,” says Maloney. “Drinking is pretty personal,” Vis continues, “and people sometimes feel shy about wanting to try something new. They may like Bud Lite, but don’t want to admit it.”
Like making a great match, Maloney says that finding the right cocktail may take a little time and effort, but it’s worth it. And, Vis adds, “People sometimes don’t even know what they want. They’ll say, ‘How did you know my soul wanted that drink?’”
“We’re both very gregarious,” she says, “and we love to throw a party. Our parents were also great party-givers. On a side note, it’s fun seeing the love connections, too.” Maloney adds, “You can see possible romances brewing. A lot of people tell us they had their first date here.”
A new menu of fall/winter drinks will be announced soon, and there are always bands on Sunday nights during long holiday weekends. On New Year’s Eve, DJ Ali and DJ Sterling will spin funk, soul and other dance music. And be on the lookout for an upcoming series of ‘Sunday School’ educational gatherings hosted by cocktail experts.
The Stockade Tavern, located at 313 Fair Street in Kingston, is open Tuesday through Sunday from 4 p.m. It stays open until midnight during the week, until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and closing time varies on Sunday evenings. For more information, visit www.stockadetavern.com or, better yet, the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/stockade-tavern-206867017627/?fref=ts, or call (845) 514-2649.
Paul and Jenny’s festive holiday cocktails
We love an eggnog during the holidays, of course, and we serve a delicious one at the bar every holiday season (we use The Joy of Cooking’s 1975 recipe).
The “Golden Rye Flip” is basically an eggnog for one:
1.5 oz. Rittenhouse Rye
.5 Demerara syrup (1:1)
Whole fresh egg
– Place all ingredients in a shaker tin
– Dry shake (no ice) to emulsify egg
– Add ice and shake hard for 10 to 15 seconds
– Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
– Dust with fresh nutmeg
An “Athol Brose” is another great holiday drink:
2 oz. blended Scotch (Johnny Walker Black)
.5 oz. honey syrup (2:1)
whipped heavy cream
– Stir together the Scotch and honey with ice for 30 seconds
– Hand-whip the cream in a squeeze bottle or Mason jar to a pourable consistency
– Pour Scotch and honey into a cocktail glass
– Gently “float” the cream on top
– Garnish with fresh nutmeg
And we also love a bottle of Pineau des Charentes, a French aperitif. It’s a fortified wine made with unfermented grape juice to which a Cognac is added, and then aged.
– Paul Maloney & Jenny Vis