Finding Islands with Bronya Shillo, the Founder of Fishers Island Lemonade
It’s fair to say that we don’t get over to Fishers Island as much as we’d like. The broken squiggle of land that looks a bit like it had the good sense to break off from Connecticut and is sneaking away to Long Island for the weekend, isn’t far at all as the crow flies, but it’s a world away from anywhere else. To get there from here, here being Montauk, you have to swing around the North Fork to Orient Point and then ferry it to Connecticut and then ferry from Connecticut to Fishers Island, or maybe better yet, charter a Mon Tiki sailing catamaran.
There may be another, easier way to get yourself there though. Pop a top on a Fishers Island Lemonade, a 9% ABV canned cocktail that is the unofficial official drink of the Island.
There is only one bar on Fishers Island. That would be The Pequot Inn, which opened in 1902. And at this bar, a potent and quaffable mix of whiskey, vodka, honey and lemonade is served—Fishers Island Lemonade.
Bronya Shillo grew up on Fishers Island, working at her family’s bar, The Pequot. In 2014 she canned the cocktail and founded Fishers Island Lemonade to share the Island with the world. So now you can sip one without chartering a boat—find Fishers Island Lemonade here.
Let’s Play the Game
The Pequot is famous for a couple of things besides its signature cocktail—one of which is its Saturday Night Fever-style light-up dance floor. Inspired by some late-night dance parties there, we challenged Bronya to play a round of Play, Repeat, Skip—our playlist version of that game you’d play back in grade school where you’d pick who you’d want to marry or kill but with music instead of a potential dating pool.
The rules are simple—most people can follow them without too much trouble: We make the playlist. Player One, in this case, Bronya, founder of Fishers Island Lemonade, has to pick one song she’d put on repeat, and can skip one. She tells us which and why.
Here’s the playlist
“Annie Lenox’s “Walking on Broken Glass” is a classic and always gets people moving. And Ol’ Blue Eyes’ “New York, New York” is the closing song every night at The Pequot, so I’d add that to this playlist if I could. If it was on repeat, it means it’d never be last call and the night would never end, right? It is one of my dad’s favorite songs from Sinatra and is fitting to FINY.”
“If I’m at the ’Quot and a tune like “Hot Topics, Hot Tropics” came on… I wouldn’t skip over the song, but I’d skip out on the song. It might be time for a dance break, a shot, and another Fishers Island Lemonade at the bar!”
Then we chatted a bit more with Bronya about founding Fishers Island Lemonade, seafood and light-up disco floors.
What prompted you to create the canned version of the bar’s signature cocktail?
Bronya: Fishers Island Lemonade was the house cocktail at The Pequot Inn (est. 1902). The recipe was passed down from bartender to bartender over the years, and made in 15-liter batches to quench the thirst of the weekend crowd. While tending the bar late one night and grabbing a canned beer from the cooler, the idea came to me: “If I canned FIL, we’d be able to serve customers quicker.”
What was the experience of launching Fishers Island Lemonade like?
Bronya: Launching Fishers Island Lemonade in the can was a Memorial Day surprise in 2014. The ready-to-drink version of Fishers Island Lemonade was a huge hit on and off the Island. I didn’t have enough inventory to make it through the weekend, and had to start rationing out the cans during Friday dinner shift. We later had a 4th of July kick-off party to introduce the brand, product, and mission to the Island community. Since day one, we have had a philanthropic business model, and have given back to the Island’s nonprofit organizations.
Fishers is now distributed in 10 states, including all of New England, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, and Colorado. As we say, “Find your island” here.
What was it like growing up on Fishers Island and in particular at the Pequot Inn?
Bronya: Growing up on Fishers Island, New York, was like an endless summer camp. Friends and family are always ready for adventure and lots of beach time among Fishers’ natural beauty.
Once I was old enough to work at the family bar on Fishers, The Pequot Inn, I jumped right in, from working in the kitchen, waiting tables, learning how to make repairs, and finally tending the bar. I took a lot of pride in the building, the history, and the customer experience. I really appreciate my parents teaching my sister and me about running a business; it was the best practical education and foundation for life skills I’ve had. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
To this day, on each boat or ferry ride to Fishers, you get the feeling of everything releasing. Even my dog Finn smiles on the trip over.
One night THE Jimmy Buffett stopped in and we convinced him to go paddleboarding with us.
When was the light-up dance floor installed at the Pequot?
Bronya: The Pequot Inn is known for its disco dance floor—circa 1970s. The floor was meticulously maintained by my father and mother’s “no drinks on the dance floor” rule, or “you’ll blow the lights out.”
Any especially notable dance parties there over the years?
Bronya: Of course, every Saturday night, or early Sunday morning! Honestly, I feel I could write a book of the things I’ve witnessed and experienced, all in good fun. One night we had THE Jimmy Buffett stop in and we convinced him to go paddleboarding with us. Other than that, what happens on the ’Quot disco floor, stays on the floor.
What is your favorite food pairing with FIL?
Bronya: Canned cocktails have the ability to go anywhere, so we love pairing FIL with our favorite take-out food, food trucks, and BYOB restaurants like Ford’s Lobsters in Noank, CT, or with a little something from Gosman’s if we’re in Montauk.
Fishers Island is known for its oysters, so of course we had to create a mignonette sauce using Fishers Island Lemonade. Find the recipe here.
Follow @filemonade and check out filemonade.com.