Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen’s Vail Bar

Vail Bar Lounge Area
Vail Bar lounge area

Mixing It Up with the Best

Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen, the impressive new venture by Chris Cannon, opened in Morristown in October 2014 and offers an elegant dining venue to folks who’d been clamoring for an upscale restaurant and lounges in the area.

While there are four distinct dining options at Jockey Hollow (the Dining Room, the Rathskeller, the Oyster and Wine Bar, and the Vail Bar), I’d be hard-pressed to focus on food and skim over the beverage program headed by award-winning mixologist, Christopher James, Master Bartender, and head honcho at Vail Bar.

Anyone fortunate enough to have experienced James’s sexy, delicious libations when he was behind the bar at The Ryland Inn, should be delighted that the czar of cocktail shaking is now in a more central location, easily accessible to most.

Milk Punch
Milk punch

During my two visits to Jockey Hollow, Chris James and his staff crafted some of the best cocktails I’ve had in recent memory. The bar offers more than 200 spirits ranging from everyday favorites to rare bottles. On my first visit, I enjoyed a comforting Midnight Milk Punch ($15): 86co Tequila Cabeza, agave, whole milk, bitter truth molé bitters and Lucid absinthe. The drink was perfectly creamy, packed a punch (pun intended) from the tequila and showcased a now-infamous giant James hand-chipped ice cube. During my second visit, I opted for the classic Moscow Mule ($15): Double Cross vodka, honey, lime and ginger beer—a refreshing drink served in the traditional copper cup.

While cocktails are available throughout the establishment, a relaxing and fun way to experience them is in the Vail Bar where guests can enjoy the live shaking, stirring, and pouring by James and his team. The masculine, wood-paneled space is adorned with antiques, bric-a-brac, and unusual finds that James took months to secure prior to Jockey Hollow’s opening. The room feels comfortable, somewhat speakeasy-like and is a perfect spot to enjoy a masterly-prepared drink over a mountain of crushed ice.

Moscow Mule
Moscow Mule

Though the cocktails are incredible and likely the best in the Garden State, I’d be remiss to not mention the Jockey Hollow wine program, carefully curated by Cannon himself. The use of two wine conservation systems allows for incredible finds by the glass that other establishments don’t have the leeway to offer. The systems guarantee fine wines stay in the same state they were when first opened, for up to 90 days. I’ve visited Jockey Hollow twice for lunch and I was delighted to sample a 10-year-old Barolo and an outstanding 2009 Domaine de la Cornasse Chablis 1er Cru, by the glass. There are cult wines on the list but also more than 50 wines under $50, a real value.

The Vail Bar opens at 12 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and Sunday. On Saturday, the bar opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. there’s an Oyster Happy Hour that features a rotating selection of $1 oysters.

Tables in the Vail Bar are accessible on a first-come, first-served basis. Food is available in the bar area, so go visit the mixology team for drinks and tapas. You’ll be glad you did.

Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen
Vail Mansion
110 South Street

Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry of which she’s a 15-year veteran. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.