In a town known for university bars, this speakeasy offers respite, community, and some great gin drinks.
We’re back in Burlington, Vermont, this time walking through an unmarked storefront, through a door to a walk-in fridge, into a delightful, loungy cocktail bar called Deli/126. We’re not sure what we were expecting, but we did not expect this. It is not very often that you walk through a deli to get to a bar.
“The idea was, this is a New York-style deli during Prohibition, and we use the back room for a speakeasy,” Bar Manager Emily Morton explains, as we settle into the bar. “As we were opening the place, we kept saying, ‘What’s in the walk-in?’ as sort of a tagline, a teaser for the fact that you walk through the walk-in to get here.”
Deli/126 is red-tinted and comfortable, filled with couches, armchairs, and plenty of places to lounge. Emily explains that the idea was always that even at capacity, everyone has a seat here, so this never turns into one of those overcrowded, nowhere-to-hang sorts of bars.
“We are a university town, ultimately, but we try to be the chill adult bar,” she explains. “We’re happy to have the college kids if they want to act like adults, but if they just want to take shots of Jager, they can go to 20 of the other bars around here.”
In our time in Burlington, we’ve noticed that for such a small city, the bar scene is quite impressive. Aside from the standard college bar fare, there are quite a few escapes for the slightly-older crowd to be amongst their own, to drink in relative peace, to find post-university community. Emily tells us that this has absolutely gone hand-in-hand with an increased interest in wider bar trends outside of their humble state.
“All of the guests are starting to get it a little more, starting to expect more of a craft side.” By now, Emily is multi-tasking: grabbing syrup bottles, checking the date on her lemon juice, cracking open a fresh bottle of Brockmans. Let’s face it, this is what we’ve been waiting for. “There are still people who say, ‘Oh, less sour mix on my margarita,’ and we have to say, no, we don’t use sour mix. But there are, more and more, guests who are like, ‘Oh, I’m really curious, tell me about an egg white cocktail.’ Which is so cool!”
Even just a few minutes with Emily and it is clear she is the real deal—actually quite passionate about this industry and quite the people person. With several cocktail competitions under her belt, part owner of Deli/126, and full owner of a home, we ask her what’s next.
“I would really love not to live in the city.” She laughs. Small city life does not agree with her bartender lifestyle. “I’m trying to sleep at 10 am, and my neighbors are mowing the lawn, and the trash man is coming, and my next-door neighbour is having an argument, and someone is vacuuming upstairs.”
Aside from that, however, she has every intention to stay in the industry, for now.
“It’s my hobby and my job, which a lot of people don’t get to have. And I have to remember that.”
Mr. Willard’s Mistress
by Emily Morton
- 2 oz/60 ml Brockmans Gin
- .5 oz/15 ml house-made curacao
- .5 oz/15 ml cranberry syrup
- .75 oz/20 ml blackberry syrup
- 1 oz/30 ml lemon juice
- Add all ingredients, except for the Cava, to a shaker.
- Shake vigourously for just a few seconds.
- Strain into a hurricane glass, or Brandy snifter, over crushed ice.
- Top with Cava, and garnish with a lemon wheel and a mint sprig.