With its largely New American menu bringing in dishes from across Asia and beyond, well, it’s difficult to really call Highway Restaurant in East Hampton New American, right? What’s often hailed as the best restaurant in the Hamptons doesn’t just bring international flair to their food, though. Head bartender / lead mixologist of the joint, Fred Kumwenda, actually brings his barcraft to the palates of the east end all the way from his native Zambia. And, of course, we just had to find out more. Here’s the DRL Cocktail Club, Highway style.
What’s your name? Age? Originally from?
Fred Kumwenda, originally from Zambia, 37 years old.
Where was your first bartending job?
My first gig was at Morans in Chelsea–a little Irish pub.
What first got you into mixology / creating craft cocktails?
The beauty of a well balanced cocktail. A mentor described it to me in the metaphor of music–notes are combined to form a melody that’s pleasing to hear. Just, instead of musical note we use spirits.
How long have you been at your current bar or restaurant?
I have worked at Highway for 5 seasons. The amazing team coupled with the best food keep me coming back.
What inspires your creation / craft?
I see changing cocktail trends as an open space to redefine what a drink is.
What’s your signature ingredient, cocktail and/or style?
Fresh ginger juice is a magic wand for me. I particularly love using it in a Bourbon Storm (bourbon, lemon, bitters and house-made ginger syrup) or a Ginger Margarita.
How do you adapt or create a cocktail menu specifically for the Hamptons summer scene?
Just like our food menu, our cocktail menu is hyper-seasonal. Our cocktails become lighter and more fruit-forward.
What makes your cocktail program special or unique?
We try to make Highway Restaurant feel like your home away from home! People come to us for the whole experience–the ambience, amazing cocktails, and delicious food.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of the DRL Cocktail Club featuring Highway Restaurant’s own Fred Kumwenda. We can’t wait to head in this summer and see what new drinks Fred’s got in store for us. See you guys there.