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Iron Smoke Distillery creates relief for bartenders

Stephanie Rebensky’s Southside Old Fashion.

Muddle together two lemon wedges, a few shards of mint and a half-ounce of simple syrup. Add crushed ice, followed by two ounces of Flower City gin. Mix. Top off the glass with more crushed ice and a mint garnish.

And please tip your bartender.

That’s Stephanie Rebensky’s Southside Old Fashion. The recipe is posted on, a website where bartenders and related industry people can show off their work even as the coronavirus pandemic dries up their workplaces.

The site is the work of Fairport-based Iron Smoke Distillery and the Rochester technology and web-development company Managed Services Team. Smoke Out COVID-19 went online Thursday morning, and bartenders immediately began posting their favorite cocktails. On its first day, the bulk of the posting bartenders were from Rochester, but the site is open to servers worldwide.

It’s a dual benefit effort, says Iron Smoke founder Tommy Brunett. Tips for bartenders “in this time of desperate need for a financial life jacket,” and tips for “people who are stuck at home for a while and need cocktail ideas as well.” 

Abiose Spriggs' Old Pal.

Alongside Rebensky, who works at Good Luck Restaurant, the site includes The Hideaway’s Megan Peterson and her Rosé Colored Glasses, built around vodka and cold-brewed hibiscus tea. Abiose Spriggs of The Swillburger/Playhouse suggests the lemon-peel aromatic Old Pal, a rye whiskey concoction. And the Manhattan-esque Nordic Nectar (whiskey, Montenegro, vermouth, Fee Brothers black walnut bitters and Angostura bitters) from Mack Hartman of The Revelry comes with a provocative photo of him luxuriating in his bathtub.

As is the case with all bars and restaurants throughout New York state, Iron Smoke Distillery’s tasting room has closed during the coronavirus emergency, forcing the layoff of its staff. Concerned barflies can reward bartenders a tip for the drink advice, through the websites or All of the proceeds go directly to the bartender.

Adeline Ainsworth's The Place Beyond the Pines.

Some of the recipes are classics, although Ralph DiTucci of Bar Mecca suggests the bourbon-built Old Fashioned can be customized to the drinker’s taste. Other drinks are edgier: Emmy Chelle of The Firehouse Saloon offers the rum-driven Liquid Marijuana.

And some drinks are simply good advice: Adeline Ainsworth of The Playhouse and Redd suggests The Place Beyond the Pines, a gin concoction with ice, that you “shake until the world has healed itself.”

Jeff Spevak is WXXI's Arts & Life editor and reporter. He can be reached at

Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle.