By:Amy Rosner By:Amy Rosner | June 27, 2022 | Culture
Many associate the famed Amagansett bar, Stephen Talkhouse, with its wraparound lines and notoriously hard door during peak season.
“I’ll literally cut off my left arm for a VIP pass,” is a common sentiment heard around the crowded streets of East Hampton.
Talkhouse has evolved into something much larger than a storied dive bar—it’s an East End institution that far transcends time and space.
We all have slightly different versions of Talkhouse—our own memories and our own stories. Experiences we feel ownership over. Experiences that are inherently personal to us.
Yet, in this individualism lies a sense of collective. A shared experience we can all relate to, but can’t necessarily put our finger on.
It’s the beat of the drums vibrating beneath your toes, the ocean smell permeating throughout the air, and the high-pitched squeals of long-lost friends reuniting over cranberry vodkas and tequila shots.
It’s a feeling of belonging to something that’s nearly impossible to quantify—it's the feeling of community.
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And who better to recount both the personal and the collective than Ruby Honerkamp, the woman who not only grew in height and shoe sizes, but in perspective, within Talkhouse’s four walls?
Daughter of Peter Honerkamp, owner, and curator of Stephen Talkhouse, Ruby Honerkamp has witnessed the landmark’s evolution through the lens of both innocence and maturity.
We sat down with Honerkamp to recall Talkhouse’s past, bask in the present, and look toward the encore we didn't know we needed.
“I grew up in a dive bar, not just any dive bar though. It’s the smallest bar in the world putting on major national acts. Over 65 members of the rock n’ roll hall of fame have played here and a host of famous athletes, movie stars, and politicians have been here. But you’d never know it,” Ruby explains.
“It's a place, turned oasis, where everyone is equal and accepted. A place where you can show up in board shorts or a tuxedo and it's all the same. I’ve seen local bands fill the room and Coldplay do the same. It’s a sanctuary that has comforted so many through good times, heartbreaks, and all the moments in between.”
The beauty of Talkhouse is that it’s a dichotomy by nature: it’s reliable and surprising all at once, stable throughout tumultuous times, yet able to adapt and evolve.
Leaning into this contrast, Ruby says, “The Talkhouse is an always evolving, ever-changing confluence of musicians and patrons and yet it feels comfortably frozen in time. The staff is ever the same, the vibe is laid back and unpretentious and you can always spot lots of folks from the last time you were there. Talkhouse is a place where you seek comfort and refuge – it’s remained consistent and authentic in a time of rapid change.
“The staff has become family... It’s a motley group where most have worked there for over 20 years. It’s been a familiar family and watering-hole for generations… a destination and a curator of community for so many years. It’s been the heartbeat of the community on the east end for over 35 years and values bringing a wide range of people together.”
But Talkhouse’s artful balance between static and dynamic doesn’t stop there.
There’s something unique—perhaps unpredictable—about each individual experience, encounter, and conversation at East End’s most intriguing spot.
“The experience at Talkhouse is so serendipitous – for instance, you can come to the bar and see Jimmy Fallon jumping on stage with a cover band or see a national act that was just on tour playing in an intimate setting. The experiences can be low-key where you’re having one-on-one conversations with the bartenders or you can end up having a wild night running into people from all walks of life,” Ruby continues.
So how was Honerkamp going to continue her family legacy?
In reflecting on the past, she states, “I grew up at the Talkhouse. I grew up with the staff protecting me. I grew up with bands crashing on our couch before we could afford to put them up at hotels. I grew up enjoying the drinks, the music, and everything the bar has to offer.”
“In 2020, along with so many, the Talkhouse was rocked when the pandemic hit. The doors were closed and the soda streams were turned off. It was scary and lonely but it gave me an entirely new perspective. How do we maintain this endless party - how do we maintain this community even when our doors are closed and the stage lights are off? How do we bottle up this energy, this familiarity, the music, the intimacy, and this …. Oh, we do just that. We bottle it up... Or rather can it up,” Ruby exclaims.
How would she pay proper homage to the past, while putting a more modern twist on it?
Ruby continues, “In late 2020, I founded Talkhouse Encore with the hope to maintain (all while expanding the reach of) my family's legacy. Talkhouse Encore is a ready-to-drink canned cocktail that captures the Talkhouse spirit in beverage form. Our drinks are spirit based and are the classic dive bar staples. Everything you want in a drink without all the fuss.
We worked with an expert mixologist to craft the perfect version of these staples while using premium ingredients to balance quality with a health-conscience lens (i.e. no added sugar and no artificial flavors). Whenever I would go to a bar, I always noticed inconsistencies in a standard drink order from bar to bar - even at the same bar -….the alcohol base brand is different, the pour is either too little or too much, the soda might be flat, the mixer might be pure sugar concentrate… I could never find confidence in a drink I enjoyed. Our drinks fill that void - quality, consistency, and ease all in one.”
How was she going to start the next generation of The Talkhouse?
“Encore is my way of finding my voice within the legacy that my father built. He is the reason why Talkhouse is known for what it is today and I wanted to create my own iteration of this household name and make it something of my own with a fresh spin on it. This is the first time that the Talkhouse legacy is making its way outside of the East End. Since the Hamptons is a summer destination, with Encore, you’ll be able to reminisce and ignite these memories beyond summer,” Ruby begins.
“My goal is to trigger nostalgia.. .where you once danced, who you once saw, songs you heard, people you’ve met. I want the energy of Talkhouse to become more contagious and sustained beyond physical location so that the energy is ever-present.
While we’re just getting started, my hope is that Talkhouse Encore will turn the music up, keep the doors open and lights on, and ensure the dancing never stops, no matter what, no matter where no matter the season. Talkhouse Encore will be a stage for musicians, a dance floor for all, and a familiar drink no matter where.”
Photography by: Courtesy Encore