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Drinking in the scene

(Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Luke O'Neil
Globe Correspondent / February 5, 2010

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Although it’s been up for a while now, it’s still a shock to come around the corner onto Stuart Street and be confronted with the gleaming glass high-rise of the W Boston. Whether you find the hotel’s looming presence to be a good thing probably depends on how fondly you remember the gritty old Theater District. And how many pairs of expensive shoes you own. Regardless, progress marches on.

The hotel’s two new entries into the bar and restaurant scene have had a transforming effect on the area as well. Foodies are already flocking to Market, and W Lounge has become a destination for the power-lounging set - socialites in training, fashionistas - and, of course, theatergoers.

It’s a pretty fancy operation. In fact the word operation is the first thing that came to mind when we stopped in. This is a serious endeavor they’ve got going on here, with serious-looking people wearing earpieces hustling around on serious-looking business. There are a lot of moving parts in a machine like this. And as you might expect, some of them work a little better than others.

The bar at Market is more an extension of the dining room. The lounge however, is the real scene. It’s like a sophisticated cocktail party thrown by your rich friend with an eclectic design fetish. The bar is small, but low-slung pod couches sprawl throughout the room. Long mesh curtains hanging from the ceiling separate each table into its own pseudo-VIP section. It engenders a sense of removal from the crowd, but not so much that you don’t still feel like you’re in the middle of a scene. A fire pit is a nice touch, and hints of other elements throughout - water fountains, a metal, ivy-like installation climbing the granite walls - help create the outside-comes-in motif they’re shooting for here.

In keeping with the feel of the room, the drinks offered are more of the nightclub-style fruity variety than the ubiquitous retro-craft cocktail sort. This won’t be the historical cocktail hero’s bar of choice, but they do make some surprising nods in that direction. “We believe everything old can be new again and that is why you see some classic drinks offered,’’ says hotel GM Marcus Palmer. “We tried to hit a broad spectrum of flavors, mixed between the classics and our own specialty drinks so that there is something for everyone.’’

Market’s bar offers a larger selection of drinks, and you may be pleasantly surprised to find a Pimm’s Cup (Pimm’s No. 1, Cointreau, cucumber, mint, ginger ale, $12, pictured) amid various fruity cosmos and mojito variations. The Ginger Margarita (Sauza Hornitos Reposado tequila, ginger, lime, ginger salt, $12) is spicy, strong, and has plenty of heat, but it stays refreshing. It’s built from one of their house-made bar bases which can be ordered as non-alcoholic sodas like Cheery Yuzu, Passion Chili, Jasmine Lemon, or Fresh Ginger Ale ($4). The base is fresh pureed ginger, steeped for hours then mixed with lime juice and sugar.

The Whiskey Passion Fizz (Bulleit Bourbon, passion fruit, ginger ale, $10) also uses one of the sodas to work up a cocktail thick with fruit and a deceptive heat. It’s made with passion fruit juice, lime juice, sugar, and red Thai chilies. The chili component isn’t announced, so it took us a while to figure out why our cheeks were hot when we were drinking it. We thought it was the fireplace.

W Boston, 100 Stuart St. 617-261-8700. www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels

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