FOR THIS FREEHOLD BARTENDER, THE JOURNEY FROM ROMANIA TO THE U.S. WAS WORTH EVERY STEP

BY GILDA ROGERS • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE

Barman Emeric Kosa takes pride in putting what he terms a “sexy spin” on traditional favorites, not least the venerable martini. A timeless piece of Americana, the martini, according to lore, was created in 1912 by Martini di Arma di Taggia, an Italian immigrant and bartender at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City, crafted of equal parts dry gin and dry vermouth and spiced by orange bitters.

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Mr. Martini would likely be astounded to see the many variations
of his signature drink. At the Metropolitan Café, for example, a jewel in the crown of the Great Restaurants group in the heart of Freehold’s bustling downtown, it’s become a hallmark.

“We’re known as a martini bar,” said Kosa, bartender and the general manager of the Asian fusion establishment. “They make a statement, in part simply because of the sexy looking glass.” With names like the “Flirtini,” which consists of house-infused pineapple vodka, St. Germain elder-flower liqueur, a splash of pineapple, and a prosecco oat, his creations live up to a storied reputation.

Kosa, who hails from Romania, graduated from veterinary school there before emigrating to the United States 15 years ago. He worked briefly as a veterinary technician in Freehold, but soon realized the work wasn’t for him.

What followed were stints working at Six Flags Great Adventure
Amusement Park in Jackson and bussing tables at various locales.
Traversing Freehold, the busy Monmouth County seat, he noticed
that the Metropolitan Café’s attractive sidewalk patio was often packed with people, and decided to go inside to inquire about employment.

Herve Spread

He was hired, and proceeded to work his way up from waiting tables to tending bar. He learned to make the basics, then began to experiment and gure out the correct ratios and pours for artisanal cocktails like the “Metro Old Fashioned” (Makers Mark bourbon, walnut liqueur, orange bitters, and sweet vermouth over an ice ball with an orange garnish).

“I like to play with the drink list seasonally,” said Kosa, whose
selection of warm-weather favorites includes the “Starburst Martini,” concocted of pineapple and watermelon- infused vodka.

While discussing economic conditions in his native Rumania, he
reflected on coming to America and the opportunities it offers.

“I like the lifestyle,” he said, adding that now that he’s found a niche at the Metropolitan Café, “life is good.”

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Metropolitan Café
8 East Main Street, Freehold / 732.780.9400
metrocafenj.com