020115 saltcreek habel3An Old-Fashioned at Rumson’s Salt Creek Grille, above. Below, Rob Habel muddles fruit for the cocktail.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


020115 saltcreek habel2Blended to shades of cherry red and bright orange, an Old-Fashioned made by Rob Habel at Rumson’s Salt Creek Grille reminds PieHole of the stunning sunsets you might see over the Navesink River just out the window.

“My grandfather showed me the classics,” says Habel, 33, the newly appointed beverage manager at the riverfront favorite. “I love old-fashioned drinks, and might bring back some of the old school.”

His favorite “old-fashioned” cocktail to make? An Old-Fashioned.

020515 saltcreek barCustomers chat with Habel while taking in the icy but killer views of our Navesink River and the Oceanic Bridge. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

Part of the allure is that he gets to mash fruit. “I like breaking out the muddler,” he says.

To demonstrate, he went to work on an orange slice, cherries, sugar and bitters assembled in a glass, mashing them to a pulp before pouring in Woodford Reserve Bourbon. He gave it an expert shake and pour, then topped the glass with club soda and a twist. It was not only an exquisite cocktail to look at, but delicious without being cloyingly sweet.

In his new role, Habel says he’s like to introduce a craft beer selection and small-batch bourbons, in addition to “condensing the wine list.” Next month, he’s taking a course to become a sommelier or wine steward. “You need to have five-to-eight years of hands-on experience in  the service industry, and that’s to begin the level-one introductory course,” he says.

Knowing what he’d like to bring to the bar, we had to ask: What’s the one drink that makes you cringe?

“When they order wine mixed with soda, or a single-malt [Scotch] mixed with a soda,” he said after a moment’s hesitation. “That’s cringe-worthy. We can’t change the clientele, though. We can only make them happier.”