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Documentary celebrates local craft cocktail makers, screens tonight at Brattle Theatre

Posted by Melissa Massello  August 13, 2013 11:33 AM

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Photo: Doug Tirola/4th Row Films

Perhaps here in the Hub, home to the Old Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide and modern "startenders" like Brother Cleve and the ladies of Booze Epoque, the modern craft cocktail movement could be taken for granted. But that would be a complete disservice to the art of bartending, which — as Connecticut filmmakers Douglas Tirola (above) and Susan Bedusa show in their new documentary Hey Bartender, screening tonight at the Brattle — all but went extinct after the revolutionary decades of the 60s and 70s, when the cultural focus shifted from booze to mind-bending drugs.

Hey Bartender, produced by 4th Row Films, looks at the revival of the culture of cocktails through the eyes and passion of those who create, study, and celebrate drinks as an art form, and the important function of the local watering hole as a cornerstone of any community.

Through cameos from award-winning local mixologists like Misty Kalkofen of Drink in Fort Point and Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square, Hey Bartender serves not only as inspiration for those who want to up the ante of their cocktail game when entertaining at home — using fresh, high-quality, and seasonal ingredients — but imparts an appreciation for the skill and showmanship that go into the craft cocktails served at cocktail bars across the country.

The documentary also offers rare access to the monarchs and rock stars of the craft cocktail movement, including: "King Cocktail" Dale DeGroff, widely respected as the first bartender to use fresh juices in his cocktails at The Rainbow Room in New York City in the 1980s, leading the industry away from soda guns, powdered mixes out of packets, and other artificial ingredients; Julie Reiner of Flatiron Lounge, who brought seasonal menus and fresh fruit macerations with her from San Francisco to New York City, single-handedly launching the green apple martini craze of the late 1990s; and Dushan Zaric, owner of Employees Only in New York City, a classic cocktail bar envisioned for bartenders and chefs by bartenders and chefs, which won Spirited Awards for World's Best Cocktail Bar and World's Best Drink Selection at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans last year.

Through the dichotomous stories of Employees Only in NYC and a "dive bar" called Dunville's in Connecticut, Hey Bartender also shows just how important craft cocktails have become to the restaurant industry and to American pop culture in general.

No spoilers here, but in homage to the underdog story of Dunville's owner Steve "Carpi" Carpentieri and his do-it-yourself tenacity for keeping his business afloat, here's a summer craft cocktail to make at home this week:

Watermelon & Blood Orange Habanero Margarita
courtesy of Stephen Carpentieri, Dunville’s Bar in Westport, CT


  • 2 oz Milagro Reposado tequila

  • 1 oz Solerno blood orange liqueur

  • 3⁄4 oz fresh lime juice

  • 1⁄2 oz habanero infused simple syrup

  • 4 cubes fresh watermelon

For garnish, use 1 slice of jalapeno, 1 cube of watermelon, and 1 lime wedge. In a mixing glass, muddle watermelon, lime juice and simple syrup. Add Milagro reposado tequila and Solerno blood orange liqueur and ice. Hard shake and strain over fresh ice. Salted rim is optional. Simple syrup ‐ in a sauce pan bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil. Stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and add one habanero pepper cut it half. Simmer for approximately 15 minutes. Strain to remove pepper and chill. For a little less spice, simmer for approximately 7 minutes, remove pepper and continue to reduce for another 8 minutes.

Hey Bartender screens tonight at 8 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle Street in Cambridge (Harvard Square), followed by a Q&A with writer & director Douglas Tirola and an exclusive after-party at The Hawthorne (entrance granted with ticket stub). For more info go to BrattleFilm.org, or for tickets, go to BrownPaperTickets.com. To watch Hey Bartender online, go to Amazon.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the Authors

Melissa Massello is a newspaper journalist turned startup junkie and lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her do-it-yourself attitude. From making her prom dress out More »
Tara Bellucci is a Boston-based writer that lives for fonts, food, and flea market finds. Whether decorating jars of her homemade jam for The Boston More »

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