This post is going a little off-road, I'm not even going to really talk about cocktails. Instead? Service, service, service. I've always preached that mantra, and thought I was pretty good at putting the customer first. Until Wednesday evening.
After the Boston Bites Back event at Fenway, I stopped into Eastern Standard. Consider this analogy- I'm running a very good race on the track of "service," but the staff at ES has already finished, showered and talked to their adoring fans.
I walked into a packed house, ever graciously greeted by GM Andrew Holden, who took time to catch up even though he had 20 things to do. Next, I turned around, Naomi Levy had come around the bar to greet me with a hug while adeptly not leaving any customers lacking. Bar guru Kevin Martin, after I showed him a photo of the event at Fenway on my phone, had discreetly noticed I only had 20% charge left - "may I plug your phone in for you?" He's like a Ninja. Amber Schumaker, handled a large group of us with aplomb while also working the service bar, which means she was also handling most of the drinks going to the dining room. The point is, although the cocktails are as good as anywhere (if not arguably the best), the food and wine exceptional, they take care of their guests first and foremost, and have been doing so at a very high level for years.
When I grow up I want to be as good as this crew, except that doesn't really work, they're all at least 15 years younger than me.
Harvard Square may have always had crowds and packed bars and restaurants, but a venue like The Sinclair is helping bring the area to a whole new level. Music, a beautiful modern space, patio, great drinks and food? Check, check, check and check.
I picked the following off of Dave Werthman's cocktail menu:
Quality of Life: Wire Works Gin, Bitterman's Amere Nouvelle (their version of Amer Picon), Dubonnet Rouge, Grapefruit, Orange Bitters.
Bittersweet and refreshing, rounded out by the wine-based Dubonnet, enjoy this on the patio on a warm afternoon.
Amaro, Italian for "bitter,” refers to an herbal liqueur category, usually consumed as an after-dinner digestif. With an alcohol content between 16% and 43%, they are bitter-sweet and range in syrupy viscosity. Similar products are available throughout Europe, but tradition and focus here in Boston, Italy sets the standard, and that brings us to
When you see a group of bartenders, with the bar customers six deep, stop everything their doing at 11:00pm on a Friday night, and do a shot, I’ll bet 5 to 1 it’s Fernet- although it’s really meant to be a stomach ailment panacea. It has developed far beyond an industry cult following, can be seen everywhere, locally behind every cocktail bar. On the higher end of the alcohol spectrum, it clocks in at 43%, is bracingly bitter, mint and licorice flavors dominating. Italians really only take it as a sip or two after dinner; I remember being in Rome a few years ago and doing a shot at a cafe in the afternoon to stares that said "that American is crazy."
The history of Fernet Branca revolution in Boston can be pretty much traced to two men. Before the tremendous success of Eastern Standard, ICOB, The Hawthorne and soon to be Row 34, Garrett Harker worked in San Francisco, where he and fellow restaurant workers maybe took sips of Fernet out of espresso cups before service. Traditions tend to follow us, some more than others, and while at No. 9 Park he and Tom Mastricola, then bartender, would come visit me on a nightly basis (we were all a lot younger then). "Josh, could you get us a bottle of Fernet? We'll drink it." I had no idea what they were talking about, but of course ordered a single bottle the next day. A single bottle. In 1998, we were pouring a case a week (12 bottles), and while that didn't touch the present volume of ES, Citizen (Joy has it on tap) or even JM Curley down the street, the fire had been started.
What makes this business rewarding is what comes around goes around, and Kitty Amann, our local Fernet rep to the stars, brought Count Eduardo Branca down for an event at Silvertone this week. What an honor to have the sixth generation of the famous family in the room, I just hoped I wouldn't get in the way. Tremendously gracious and unassuming, he also showcased their other brands, the spectacular Carpano Antica and Punt e Mes vermouths. Time to make some cocktails.
John Nugent (Silvertone, Citizen, Brick & Mortar, Franklin) poured his crowd pleasing Home Wrecker cocktail: 1.5 oz Rye, .5 oz Punt e Mes, .5 oz St. Germain, .5 oz lemon. The drink is delicious, spicy from the rye and vermouth, lechee sweetness from St. Germain, and finishes with the bright lemon and orange flavors. Vermouth works surprisingly well with citrus, so with that in mind comes my version of a classic. My daughters call me Papa, so obviously I poured Papa's Americano, 1 oz Carpano Antica, 1 oz Aperol, .5 oz lime, soda. Perfect for a sunny patio, or at least I think so.
Legendary musician, dj, bartender Brother Cleve pulled an on-the-fly recipe from 1909 out of his vast repertoire, the Fernet Cocktail. 2 oz Carpano Antica, 1 oz Fernet, bar spoon Orange Curacao, orange oil. A full bodied precursor to the Americano, maybe its grandfather.
As we toasted with Fernet Branca to Fernet and the Branca family, things had indeed come full circle. Garrett Harker raised his glass in the center of the room with Eduardo, just as he had showed me the way 16 years earlier.
I'm bad at keeping secrets, so here it goes. Westbridge is great on a Sunday. Smaller crowds, Josh Taylor on the bar and a wonderful patio where guests sip rosè and watch the sunset. I stopped by for a refreshing warm weather drink and, go figure, he hits a home run. Distant flavors of cherry coke, lemon, bittersweet and delicious, it's like I'm drinking Summer memories; this guy is good.
Summer Sublet by Josh Taylor
Rittenhouse rye, Pimm's, lemon, cherry-sassfras syrup, soda.
Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, ironically is not a big holiday in Mexico. Here in the states it has become a celebration of Mexican culture, and also a quintessentially American excuse to have a more than a few Margaritas. Technically the day commemorates the Mexican army's 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War, but I must confess I had to look up those details.
So what to do? Well, I for one am heading to Allston's Lone Star Taco Bar for some killer Mexican food and cocktails. Legendary bartender Cousin Dave Cagle always has an ace up his sleeve; in this case a delicious take on a Sazerac "named after Clint Eastwood's character in the old Enio Morricone spaghetti westerns."
Hombre sin Nombre
2 oz blanco tequila
1/2 oz agave syrup (equal parts agave nectar and water)
6 dashes Peychauds bitters
2 dashes molé bitters
Stir and strain into a chilled old fashioned glass the has been rinsed with green Chartreuse
squeeze the oil from a big piece of lime peel into the cocktail and drink!
You can find Lou Saban behind Oak Long Bar at the Copley Plaza Hotel. Lucky for all of us recently he found himself abroad, and penned the following piece.
By Lou Saban:
Bartending is a real mixed bag.
When all is said and done, it’s pretty nice holding the keys to the stuff that most adults use to make themselves feel better about their spot on the planet. Unfortunately, for every generous tip or compliment on a well-balanced cocktail, sometimes you also have to answer the question, “So, what’s your real job?” In my head I respond, "when I am not doing this, I’m the CEO of a non-profit organization that provides neurosurgery for puppies."
Still, it’s a gig with a lot of cool benefits. In my mind, the greatest perk is the sense of community with your fellow barkeeps. If you do this job long enough, you start to recognize the people who also make their living pouring things into glasses. You always love to see these people sitting at your barstool because they tip well, are low maintenance, and can always relate to the condescending sneers that you may have received that day. Camaraderie is a beautiful thing.
What’s even better is that this bond doesn’t just stop at the nation’s borders. I am lucky enough to work for a hotel chain that has many locations around the world. When I noticed that there was one in London, I was interested. When I noticed that it was
The Savoy, I was elated.
Most bars worth their salt will have an old copy of the Savoy Cocktail Book somewhere on their shelf. It was written in 1930 by an American named Harry Craddock. Craddock flew the coop from the prohibition-afflicted United States in 1920, and became the head bartender at the American Bar at The Savoy in London. He spread the joys of the American cocktail to Europe and used his cocktail book to preserve recipes that may have otherwise been lost to antiquity. Despite a few renovations, the American Bar is still there, and it is really something.
When you first walk in, you notice the beautiful black and white sign that looks like it could have been there in 1920 as Craddock walked in for the first time. Immediately to your left, there is a small museum (you heard me right, this bar is so cool it has its own museum) full of old placards and menus from its many decades of existence. There are also telegraphs for Charlie Chaplin and Georges Clemenceau, bills for Sir Lawrence Olivier, and countless pictures of Vivien Leigh, John Wayne, Winston Churchill, and essentially anyone who was anyone in the last century.
All of that is well and good, but the real stunner is the case of vintage booze. Inside this treasure chest contains Gordon’s Gin, Pernod, Luxardo, and Carpano Antica from the 1950s; Van der Hum from the 1940’s; and a Jourd Cordial-Medoc from 1933. The crown jewel of the whole collection is this: a bottle of Sazerac de Forge Cognac from 1858. I wasn’t even aware that something like this existed, but there it was right before my very eyes. This bottle is pre-Civil War. Its nine years older than Canada! More notably, it’s a time capsule of what French grapes tasted like before they were nearly destroyed by the Phylloxera parasite in the late 19th century. It’s so beautiful that it even makes even its neighboring bottle of Moet Chandon from 1884 pale in comparison.
Once your head stops spinning, you proceed into the bar for a dozen or so of London’s finest cocktails. The bar consists mostly of a large lounge with a piano player to your immediate right. The bar itself is very small; only four seats with no standing room allowed. There is one man on service bar, and the friendly and knowledgeable Tom Walker for the rail. The small setting ensures that the drinks are made at a deliberate pace to ensure that nary a step is missed in both the creation of the drink and the presentation. The result is a simply wonderful libation.
The menu is a mixture of Savoy originals from the White Lady, to contemporaries such as the Green Park, to the totally outrageous. Remember that cognac that I mentioned earlier? They use it to make an original Sazerac cocktail along with the Pernod from the 1950s and Peychaud’s Bitters from the early 1900s. Its 5,000 GBP. Depending on the exchange rate, that’s about $8000 USD. For one cocktail. Once I picked myself up off the floor, I decided this cocktail was only for people who have absolutely no idea what to do with their money. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “It takes all kinds of people to fill up a world.”
All in all, it was a privilege to sit at this piece of living history and share a few drinks with Tom Walker and his more than capable colleagues. The international brotherhood of bartenders may not be out there splitting atoms or making contributions to string theory (or puppy neurosurgery), but we know how to take care of the people who do. More importantly, we know how to take care of each other, which makes it all worth it. And yes, this is my only job. Cut me a break, will ya?
As I left Tavern Road the other night I said to Louis Dibicarri that his spot is the kind of place I wish I'd opened up- but I'm not jealous, his team could not be more deserving. Led by the tandem of Chef Louis and brother GM Michael Dibicarri, both come with formidable backgrounds at Sel del la Terre and Eastern Standard. You'd think that would be enough, but add Ryan Mcgrale of No. 9 Park and Flatiron Lounge in New York to the mix and you've got the restaurant equivalent of the 2008 Celtics trifecta. Visually beautiful with a great open room highlighted on one side by the kitchen, the other, the bar. Built for success and fun.
I must confess that most of our drinking was a delicious bottle of Domaine Peyrassol rose, but we did start with cocktails. I had to get 'Straight to Hell,' not only because it's one of my favorite Clash songs, but features Scotch, Aperol, Amaro and lemon bitters- all things I like. Citrus (orange, lemon), rhubarb, spice and a little smokiness- an ideal aperitif! Nicole's 'Perfect Bamboo' was a perfect Manhattan without the whiskey, in its place, a cool twist- the nutty caramel of sherry. Judging by an already packed bar by 7:00, many people are also enjoying these libations.
Service and friendliness really sum up Tavern Road, exemplified by great bartender Andrea Novak who was pleased to make a terrific raspberry lemonade for my daughter Emily and checked to make sure she was enjoying it. Further, Mara Ratiu could not have been a more gracious server if we were visiting her own home. A terrific evening, I will be writing more about this crew again soon I'm sure. Oh, and one more thing, Louis has a guilty pleasure drink I've made him for years- but you will have to ask him what the acronym means.
Louis' POA by Louis Dibicarri
2 oz Maker's Mark Bourbon
.75 oz Lazzaroni Amaretto
Rocks, Luxardo Maraschino cherry
Beer cocktails are not easy, but when they succeed, well, everyone's happy, including me. Chris Balchum pouring the other night at Park in Harvard Square is doing just that with:
Tom Terrific by Daren Swisher
1 ¾ oz. Hayman’s Old Tom Gin (slightly sweeter style than London dry)
½ oz. Cherry Heering (Brandy based cherry liqueur)
½ oz. Demerara Syrup (richer simple syrup made with sugar in the raw- named after a formerly colonized area of Guyana)
½ oz. Lemon Juice
2 oz. Great Divide Titan IPA
Combine ingredients over ice. Shake and strain over fresh ice in a Collins glass.
Top with 2 oz. IPA; roll back and forth in a shaker tin.
Garnish with an orange and cherry flag. Sweet, sour, pleasantly bitter hops, perfectly balanced and ready for Spring refreshment.
Absinthe has it all, mystery, mystique, danger even. Once illegal, on Monday April 22nd get to the south shore, Alma Nove, Chef Paul Wahlberg's waterfront Italian restaurant in Hingham for some answers.
Mixologist Chris Lincoln will be pouring free cocktail samples straight from the restaurant's authentic Absinthe Fountain as well as discussing Absinthe history and debunking some of the many myths. There will also be complimentary small tastings from Chef Wahlberg's Italian Mediterranean menu.
Monday April 22, 8:00. Free tastes of Absinthe cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Full drinks $10. Alma Nove, 22 Shipyard Drive, Hingham, MA.
It started for me in South Station the other day, but really years earlier.
Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon, elusive to say the least, equivalent to the cult cabernet fandom of Napa Valley's Screaming Eagle or Bordeaux's Chateau Petrus in the wine world. So, I began a voyage to Mecca of sorts, in Providence, RI, and Matt Jennings' stellar restaurant Farmstead. The Pilgrims with me: Ryan Sosti (Ruby Wines), TJ Douglas (Urban Grape and organizer of the trip), Chef Michael Scelfo (Russell House Tavern and soon to be Alden & Harlow).
It was also a trip down memory lane, my first bar shift ever was over two decades ago on South Main Street- maybe you can go home again? A sunny afternoon, I remembered one of my old haunts, The Hot Club, which was the same as ever; perfect, sitting on the deck enjoying a beer, there is a reason this place has been here so long. We met up with an old buddy of Ryan's who cringed (and affably took it in stride) when he regaled us with the story of his nickname- Vodka Bill. As if I didn't already know I was in for a long night? Then, on to Farmstead on the East Side (driven by Vodka Bill in an Escalade), for dinner, and of course, Pappy. Ushered in to a warm welcome from our gracious host and Chef Matt, we were quickly handed a cocktail.
The Kentucky Flower
1.5 oz W.L. Weller Bourbon, .5 oz St. Germain, .5 oz lemon juice, cranberry, egg white.
Light, frothy and delicious, be careful you could probably drink many of these- thank goodness we were in the process of being seated and greeted by the man himself- Julian Van Winkle III.
Matt Jennings had a tough task, to pair big, spicy, high proof whiskey with food. He performed with aplomb. Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 year Lot "B" is the lightest of the whiskeys we tried at only 90 proof- but this is by no means a simple spirit, delicious, rich vanilla and spice. Best part is you might even be able to get your hands on a bottle. Matt served a pungent and very tasty smoked cod rillette which held its own.
Next up was TJ's favorite, the Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 15 year, 107 proof. This is booming stuff- fig, vanilla, tobacco- spicy and tannic which paired with chicken terrine, vegetables, chicharrones and bourbon mustard. This was, indeed, bourbon lovers heaven- particularly after a couple of eyedrops of water to lower the proof (Julian's suggestion by the way).
Mr. Van Winkle introduced the main course with a nod to his grandfather who started working for the W.L. Weller distillery at the age of 18 in 1893. "I like to refer to this as butter bourbon, smooth and delicious." He continued with a wry smile, "I'm so glad you like our family's bourbon but in your enthusiasm you've created your own competition."
Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 20 year, absolutely my favorite with molasses, toffee and round vanilla creaminess. Chef Scelfo, across from me, thought this pairing was Chef Jennings' best- slow roasted pork shoulder and loin, turnip puree and golden raisins, fiddlehead ferns and pickled oysters. "Perfect along side the bourbon, not trying to go at it, you know? Let's the whiskey shine."
Ryan is a self-proclaimed dessert guy, so he was eagerly waiting on the final pairing, which beyond delivered. Pineapple upside down cake with candied ginger and bourbon ice cream along side Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23 year? Wow, I don't know how I got past security but I'm glad I did. The spice and proof of this spirit married very well with sweetness and showed of the whiskey's honeyed character. As if this wasn't enough, Julian's southern gentlemanly nature treated us to a special surprise. From Kentucky earlier that day he grabbed 2 bottles of a bourbon his father made in 1970 and bottled in 1984, then sat in his garage for almost 30 years. It was 14 year Pappy that drank like a mellower 15 year- what a way to end the evening.
We found the terrific new bar (only a couple months) called The Eddy, on Eddy street downtown on the way back to the train. Perfectly made cocktails with a tight, well thought out beer and wine menu- check it out when you're in town.
A train ride home, full and a only little buzzed (thank goodness the pours were small), swirling thoughts of bourbons I may not try again- this was a legendary boys night out.
I received a wonderful email from Nancy Usiak a few days ago asking if she got the Apple Blossom drink from me (Spiced rum, St. Germain, maple syrup, Angry Orchard cider); which sounds delicious but I can not take credit. She continued, referring to modern cocktails: "new edge is not a current concept here in Tallahassee, FL, I'm a Waltham transplant here for retirement." Her drink of the moment? A classic warm weather sipper with an added surprise- cheers from the south!
Beady Eyes by Nancy Usiak
2 oz Beefeater, 4 oz tonic, dual olive and lime garnish.
The best boss I have ever had was Nelse Clark. Rewind to 1993, West Street Grille, downtown Boston- we were just a few blocks from the combat zone, The Naked Eye strip club was still there, adjacent to an old "adult" theatre. Playland Cafe was around the corner, a few steps away from what is a Starbucks now. But only a few blocks further North, the venerable Locke Ober Cafe was still packed.
Nelse was the face of West Street, a great front man always with a smile, you wanted to know him and hang out at his spot- I was lucky to work the bar. It does not surprise me at all that he is working with Andrew Cabot now creating a unique American Rum which can hold a place of honor in the deep New England distilling history. When I walked into the Privateer warehouse outside of Ipswich the other day, his friendliness made me feel like I was walking into his bar years ago- he's still the consummate host.
Andrew Cabot (1750-1791) was a merchant and rum distiller who became one of the most successful American privateers. He deployed a fleet of ships including Pilgrim, Revolution and True American for which this Rum is named. He was said to be uncommonly clever and an astute judge of men and situations. Whether smuggling molasses past British patrols or prizing British ships, Cabot was a true American. -Andrew Cabot, 2011
Of course I was there to taste the spirits, and also meet Maggie Campbell, Privateer's terrifically talented head distiller. The warehouse itself is impressive (Nelse mentions "you definitely get more space up here in Ipswich"), with thousands of square feet dedicated to racking barrel space, fermenters, still, and true to form, a bar. After a taste of cane sugar and wonderful fig-nuanced molasses, Maggie walked me first to the NSI Canadian fermenter where sugar cane and/or molasses will sit at 72 degrees for a slow 7 day process closer to what they do in Cognac as opposed to the islands for rum. This makes sense, as one of her mentors is Hubert Germain-Robin of the famous California brandy house. Distillation in a pot still and short column still for as Maggie says, "polish."
Privateer white rum is Agricole style, meaning it is distilled entirely from sugar cane, while the amber is from both cane and molasses. Maggie is constantly tasting and refining the spirit in the process, nothing is added or filtered out. "For me it comes down to marrying alchemy and science to make the best spirit I can," and even though young, she does mentoring of her own with recent visits from aspiring distillers from Sicily and Israel. As if her job wasn't enough, she's also studying for Master of Wine certification- no wonder her spirits are so good.
Don't just listen to me, the legendary Paul Picault, gave both the silver and amber 4 stars, superb and highly recommended. This is a big deal. He raves of the amber, "slightly bittersweet, and even slightly sherried; mid palate is delicate, honeyed, gently sweet, spicy, cocoa-like." Sounds like time for a sip with an ice cube, or better yet, a cocktail. I was honored to jump behind the bar and make a-
Privateer rum old fashioned:
.5 bar spoon cane sugar, drop off water to make a syrup in the glass, 1.5 oz Privateer Amber, 2 dashes Angustura orange bitters, stirred with ice, orange peel oil and garnish.
Nelse swept in to my left and fixed what he calls a-
Mexican Garden Party:
1.5 oz Privateer Silver, .75 oz fresh lime juice, .5 oz simple syrup or agave, small handful of fresh cilantro,1/3 of a Jelepeno pepper, muddle ingredients, add ice, shake and strain.
During distillation, the first off the still is called the "heads" which is imperfection heavy, then the "heart" (desired part for finished product) and finally the "tails," which are discarded. Maggie's art is defining the cut, and her comment, I'm taking and using as a metaphor for life: "when things get tail-y it gets messy." Thank goodness we have her to watch over the process.
Privateer rums can be found at the Urban Grape, Silver $25, Amber $36.
I think twitter and instgram have eliminated anyone's desire to send me a cocktail (c'mon... a quick photo and recipe to firstname.lastname@example.org- it can really be anything!).
So... I'll submit one we made this weekend: a variation of a classic.
Nicole's Blood Orange Blood and Sand
.75 oz Chivas 18yr Scotch
.75 oz Dolin sweet vermouth
.75 oz Luxardo Cherry liqueur
.75 oz blood orange juice
Luxardo cherry garnish
Smokey malt, sweet ripe cherry balanced with tart blood orange- but not too bitter or sweet. A little commitment to get the bottles which can be found (or easy substitutions) at liquor stores, and a bag of blood oranges is around $4 at supermarkets. Worth the effort!
Booze Époque. Mission statement: "boutique cocktails & spirit alchemy for private parties and events." Honestly, that is just the tip of the iceberg, co-creators Meaghan Sinclair and Harmony Dawn Kelly bring even more to the table. Wow, did they blow me away with a high level of skill (leaps and bounds over me) and more importantly, hospitality. We were friends who had not yet officially met; I was graciously welcomed into Meaghan's home, which by the way, is laid out for epic parties. I felt like a wide-eyed kid in a candy store, peering into a case full of bottles, baskets of fruits and herbs, glassware and bar tools.
These ladies both have worked esoteric jobs from therapist to tarot reader (that's pretty much what a bartender is anyway, right?). Harmony's family owned the Honey Lounge on the site that now houses The Pour House in the back bay, Meaghan's father (bartender and chef) worked on Legal Sea Foods original chowder recipe. The bar and hospitality world is clearly in their genes. But it took days of bartending at 2011 Burning Man to achieve their eureka moment (lots of people, I'm sure have these moments at such a festival and never end up acting on their epiphany). "We were sick of our jobs, thought let's get serious and jump in." Meaghan continues, "we knew the hurdles we might have, but let's elevate this and make it fun!" That's an understatement, by the way- Booze Époque has done more- weddings, pop-ups, competitions, drinks in a peach orchard on Martha's Vineyard, classes at Cambridge Adult education, even Kentucky Derby parties. They make an event an experience.
For me, they lined up careful rows of syrups, tinctures and garnishes which added to the kitchen's wonderful apothecary feel. Lemon, lavender- fennel, lemon grass, lemon thyme- cinnamon- Cocchi Americano (aperitif wine like Lillet) soaked raspberry- brandied maple cranberries- home-brined olive- ginger peppercorn- burnt Taza chocolate and caramel- hot pepper shrub- I was wonderfully overwhelmed. Meaghan's husband Pete arrived and showed off his very clean, pure, orange bitters. He makes his own bacon (as if I didn't love this group enough) which led to a taste of bacon infused Bourbon, then spicy pickled green beans, perfect for a Bloody Mary- or the juice for a pickle-back sip after a shot of whiskey. Flavors and smells swirled around me, I was, indeed in a different era.
Harmony and Meaghan kept my mini-event going, time for a Spring cocktail, a play on the famous Ramos Gin Fizz. Harmony called it the "Ostara, goddess of Spring, who's celebration eventually became our modern day Easter." These women are fabulous, I guarantee you'll being seeing a lot more of them in every season.
2 ounces Barrel Aged Ethereal gin
1 ounce Meyer lemon juice
1 ounce Ostara Syrup (see recipe below)
1/2 ounce cream
1 egg white
1 sprig lemon thyme leaves removed
2 inch piece of fresh lemongrass separated
1 ounce NOS'd Ostara Soda (see recipe below)
Add all ingredients to a shaker, muddle lemon thyme and lemongrass, dry shake. Add ice, shake vigorously for several minutes. Strain into glass. Garnish with thyme, lemongrass, and fennel.
1 Meyer lemon zest twist
1/4 cup lemongrass
1/3 cup chopped fresh fennel
1 sprig lemon thyme with leaves pulled off
1/8 cup fresh fennel fronds
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
Bring to boil then simmer for 40 minutes (see note below)
Strain out fennel at 20 minutes, add same amount of fresh ingredients at 20 minutes and cook together for another 20 minutes. Strain.
NOS'd Ostara Soda
3 ounces water
1 ounce Ostara syrup
Add to whipped cream maker, discharge nitrous cartridge, shake.
One of the wonderful things about growing up in Washington, DC was the spring: cherry blossoms around the tidal basin and Jefferson memorial are something to see. Here, we get a foot of snow March 19th, or as I well remember 16 years ago a foot and a half April 1st- no joke. But the warmer weather will eventually come (we're getting there) so let's get prepared with some Spring libations from around the city.
Idlewild by Sean Frederick, Citizen
2 oz St. George Botanivore Gin, .75 oz rhubarb syrup, .75 oz lemon juice, .5 oz Salers Gentiane, 8-10 tarragon leaves.
Add the rhubarb syrup and tarragon to a mixing glass and muddle.
Add everything else, then shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe.
Top with 1 oz. Champagne Brut. Garnish with a mint sprig and slice of rhubarb.
"Fresh, tart rhubarb is one of my favorite seasonal ingredients. Botanivore, one of a trio of fantastic new gins from St. George Spirits, provides a perfect base for it. Packed with 20 botanicals (including zippy flavors like peppercorn and citra hops), the aptly-named gin complements rhubarb and the gentle anise notes of fresh tarragon. A splash of bubbles lends a light effervescence, letting the drinker know spring has sprung."
Warmer weather cocktails seem perfect for a trifecta between Bully Boy Distillers, Bonnie's Jams and a great bartender (or in this case two). These jam cocktails are made with pure ingredients without the use of pectin and less than half the sugar of commercial jams, letting bartenders can show off bright spring flavors such as peach, strawberry and rhubarb without artificial flavorings or heavy syrups.
Toast & Jam by Kevin Martin, Bar Manager, Eastern Standard
Leave it up to Kevin with a perfect double entendre- the cocktail has toasted bread with jam notes from Bully Boy’s White Rum, bitters and Bonnie’s Strawberry Rhubarb Jam but add champagne and you're (thanks Jen!) giving a toast.
1 oz room temperature Strawberry/Rhubarb Jam, 1 oz Bully Boy White Rum, .5 oz fresh lemon juice, .5 oz Bauchant Orange Liqueur, 1 dash Peychauds Bitters.
Mount ingredients into a mixing glass, add ice and shake until properly diluted. Double strain into a champagne flute and top with 2 ounces of cava.
Franklin’s Ghost by Vikram Hegde, Head Bartender, ICOB
"Bully Boy White Whiskey and Bonnie’s Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, the name Franklin’s Ghost pays homage to the rumor that Benjamin Franklin first introduced rhubarb seeds to the American East Coast, while white whiskey delivers an ethereal, ghost-like quality to the cocktail with nuttiness from Benedictine and Orgeat (almond syrup). The small pinch of salt integrates the flavors while masking any underlying bitterness, resulting in a bright, smooth cocktail."
1 oz Bully Boy White Whiskey, .5 oz Benedictine Liqueur, .5 oz Orgeat syrup, .5 oz fresh lime juice, 1 dash Peychaud's Bitters, 1 pinch of salt, 2 barspoons Bonnie's Strawberry Rhubarb Jam.
Mount all ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice and shake. Strain into a lowball over ice. Mint sprig garnish.
Ratonita by Noon Inthasuwan, Moksa
2 oz of Lunazul Reposado Tequila, .75 oz of Mariposa Agave liqueur, .75 oz of Cynar, 1 oz lemon juice, .5 oz of simple syrup.
Topped with a preserved lemon foam.
"This is the fun play on the Margarita. Instead of rimming the glass with salt, we use a salty & sweet preserved lemon foam to top the drink. This adds the salty note as well as the texture to the cocktail. When, I think of spring, I think of Tequila because of the grassy herbaciousness. The Cynar adds an earthy vegetal note, which reminds me of potting soil and new seeds to be sown. The foam is just fun, because Easter is in March and I think of the fluffy marshmallows that is abundant around this time of the year."
Old friend and superb bartender Domingo (only first name is really necessary- yup, he's a star) offers up a simple, an elegant refreshing drink for the Culinary Concepts Sring Menu changes. He does spectacular stuff- go check him out at the W.
Lavender Gin Fizz by Domingo-Martin Barreres, Market
1.25 oz Bombay Sapphire gin, .75 oz. house made lavender syrup, .75 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice, soda water, thin lemon wheel
This drink gets built in highball glass; put gin and lavender syrup into a highball glass then fill 1/2 way with ice, place the lemon wheel midway on inside wall of glass for garnish and effect then fill the glass with ice. Fill most of the way with club soda then top off with the lemon juice, mix thoroughly before drinking to combine flavors.
I have made it no secret that I love this next guy, his Spring drink maybe driven by bee tattoos on his right arm?
Cassiopeia in Bloom by Tony Iamunno, Stoddard's
2 oz St. George Spirits Terroir Gin, .75 oz brandy, .75 oz saffron simple, .75 oz orange juice, 1 dash ango.
Cocktail glass, flower garnish.
Fiore by Brendan Pratt, Lineage
1.5 oz Deaths Door Gin, .75 oz St Germain, .75oz fresh lime, .5 oz Hum Botanical Liqueur, .75 of an eye dropper of Bittermens Boston Bittahs (chamomile and citrus bitters).
Shake and serve up with a lime twist.
Brendan mentions "I came up with it for a regular of mine that wanted something tart and floral. The drink is surprisingly grapefruit-like, although there's no grapefruit in it."
Soon enough, patios will be open, and you'll want to check out 75 on Liberty Wharf; it's a little neighborhood bar down on the water, a modern version of its Beacon Hill big brother- I'll meet you there.
Kombucha Sparkler by Markus Ripperger, Chef, 75 on Liberty Wharf
(Organic and Raw grape Kombucha (Japanese tea), Chia seeds topped with St. Germain and Prosecco)
1 oz of St. Germain, 2 oz Kombucha with Chia seeds, 3 oz of Prosecco.
In a Champagne Flute add first the Prosecco, then St. Germain. Top with the Kombucha.
Grand Ten Distilling, right here in South Boston, makes some delicious products, I particularly like Wire Works Gin. So much, in fact, I persuaded staff member (and longtime bartender in his own right) Lonnie Newburn, to add the following refreshing rich cocktail which he notes "has a nice dry finish that leaves you wanting more!" Coincidentally, great photographer, Tom Kates, was on hand at the distillery to snap a photo of it.
The Grapefruit Spoon by Lonnie Newburn, GTD
1.5 oz Wire Works Gin, .5 oz grapefruit juice, .5 oz Apricot Brandy, .5 oz Cynar, 2 dashes Fee's Grapefruit Bitters
Out in Jamica Plain, perhaps after a stroll around the pond, head over to Canary Square for a taste of the season.
The Green Street by Bryce Mack, Canary Square
2 oz Bombay, .5 oz St. Germain, .5 oz lemon juice, .5 oz simple syrup, 4 basil leaves, 1 dash Peychaud's bitters, 1 dash Regan's orange bitters
Gently muddle basil and lemon juice, add remainder of ingredients, shake and strain over ice. Garnish with an orange wedge and a bail leaf.
Punchy's First Strike by John Henderson, Tavern Road
.75 oz Becherovka, .75 oz Cherry Heering, .75 oz Creole Shrubb, .75 oz lemon, .25 oz Allspice Dram.
Dry shake, pour over crushed ice. Garnish with 5 dashes of Peychaud's.
"Named for an early Hawaiian Punch ad campaign, where the mascot named Punchy, punches everything he can find. Dogs, fire hydrants, kindergarteners....
It's an adult version of Hawaiian Punch. Fruity and tropical, but not overly sweet due to the addition of allspice dram and peychauds. Goes down way too easily."
Yes, Spring means Kentucky Derby time is getting closer, so when at Foundry in Davis Square a julep variation seems in order.
I'll Have Another (named after last year's winner of the Kentucky Derby jockeyed by Mario Guiterrez) by Manny Gonzalez, Foundry on Elm
2 oz of Bulleit Bourbon, 2 dashes of Aztec chocolate bitters, muddled mint and sugar,
topped with a float of Mejor Anejo tequila and garnished with mint sprigs and powdered sugar.
Josh Taylor always has wonerful seasonal menus, Spring is no exception. His cocktail "was inspired by the delicious new rosé quinato from the Cocchi house. It is allowed to shine alongside two other bright and clean products to create a light and beautiful stirred cocktail for Spring. The name El Niño refers to the Pacific weather pattern that occurs every 2 to 12 years."
El Niño by Josh Tayor, Westbridge
1 oz Bauza Pisco, 1 oz Cocchi Americano Rose, 1 oz Dimmi.
Stir and serve down with no garnish.
Everyone is a bartender to some degree. Maybe not working a 12 hour shift, but I'll bet if you're reading this you have made a cocktail or two. So, why not send me a photo and recipe? I can't promise I will post all entries, but if you have a drink you've made and enjoyed email me a photo (from your phone is fine) and how to make it to email@example.com. On a weekly basis or so I will feature someone's entry- so get mixing and pouring!
I've seen the future of bars, and it lies in the past. While the product presented twenty years ago maybe did not include fresh ingredients, unique spirits, esoteric bitters, service and the neighborhood bar was king. It's back, particularly at a place like Local 149 on P Street in South Boston. Sure, it replaced the decades old institution The Farragut House (in fact people still stop by with the aim of going there), and in doing so had to fight an uphill battle of neighborhood acceptance. But on a rainy Wednesday evening the place was well on the way to being full by 6:30.
Bar manager John Mayer has been at Local 149 since inception over a year ago, opened by the same team who has the great spot The Biltmore in Newton. John lives nearby and couldn't emphasize enough the importance in community. An exceptional 25 tap constantly rotating beer program, a thoughtful inexpensive wine list, charcuterie and oysters behind the bar, yet I was there for the cocktails. I walked in to a warm greeting from great bartender Matt Whitney, another young pro who gets old school hospitality (I wish I had been so good when I was his age). The two met while working at Craige on Main, their drinks nod to that level of execution but come delivered, like the two of them, in a casual and relaxed way. To give you an idea, I asked for a crowd pleaser and was presented Sunday Disco, 1 oz Aperol, .5 oz Pechaud Bitters, .5 oz house grenadine, .5 oz lemon, Prosecco. Indeed, on a cold day I felt like I was at a Sunday tea dance on South Beach- and that's a good thing. No overly sweet concoction here though, Aperol's strawberry and rhubarb work as a perfect foil for the bitters, lemon balances the bittersweet grenadine, and bubbles liven the whole drink up- delicious.
The cocktail list is broken down into three easy to navigate sections (with icons depicting the appropriate glassware), 'Easy Sippers, Bright & Lively, Heavy Hitters.' John explains while not overly large, the selections all change seasonally and "are good starting points to lead a customer other directions." Directing me, for my final drink to a heavy hitter- The Second Wife, a joke with his wife Suzy regarding what his work has become. 1.5 oz Power's Irish Whiskey, 1 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, .75 oz Suze (for Suzy- a French gentian based aperitif bitters) gives a warming rich character, with orange and bitter spice notes, perfect to brave the cold.
I did not want to leave, a couple of hours slipped by easily, but before walking out the door I had to ask what their personal shift drinks would be.
Matt- Bud and a little Santa Maria al Monte (an Italian bitter liqueur).
John- Campari on the rocks and a very, very, cold beer.
I'm not sure exactly how I feel about St. Patrick's Day, even though my ancestry would say differently. Crowds start drinking at 8:00am, which can be a recipe for disaster, although this year that's been delayed a few hours because it falls on a Sunday. But, I do love the parade, celebration of Ireland's most famous Patron Saint and the idea that we are are family for a day. Oh yeah, and the excuse to drink a few extra pints of Guinness.
There are, of course, many, many, Irish pubs to choose from in the Boston area, but none is better than The Druid in Inman Square, Cambridge. It's the real deal, owned and operated by Mike(y) Crawford who originally hails from Ennis Tymon in County Claire. During the early 90's he came to the States and worked at The Burren in Davis Square, Somerville. In fact, he's always worked in pubs. "It goes by quickly, we took over The Druid in 2004," he says with a wistful smile, "great to be part of this neighborhood, this spot was once a five and dime store you know." I didn't, but the number ten still holds true- that's about how many kegs of Guiness they'll pour Sunday. Do the math, that's about 100 Imperial pints (20oz pours per keg), 1,000 total pours at the Druid alone. Multiply that by hundreds of bars and pubs, the volume is staggering- well, we can all do our part.
What makes a great pub? I say it's people like Mike, a good pint and delicious food- for what it's worth I think they have the best burger in town, although corned beef and cabbage is mandatory Sunday. Come and say hello to the great staff: Michael John, Paul, Alyssa, Colum, Celia, all hands will be on deck. As if that wasn't enough reason- Hugh McGowan and the McGowan Rovers will be playing. Irish music, Guinness, maybe a shot of Power's Irish Whiskey? Any apprehension about the day will wash away with a few pints.
I annoyingly kept asking everyone for a good Irish quote, and while Mike was nervous that many sound cheesy he kindly passed this along:
Tis better to spend money like there's no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there's no money. Slainte!
Imbue is a hand crafted aperitif wine company from Portland, Oregon; products made with love by three veterans of the wine, restaurant and bar industry. In fact, the start-up company's funds began "without outside investment… seed money all came from bar tips and borrowed wine." I like their style. They take Pinot Gris grapes, secret herbs and spices (like all great producers hotly guard their recipes) and distillate from the famed local Clear Creek Distillery. Right now they have 2 aperitif offerings available, their flagship Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth and Petal & Thorn which aims to be stylistically like an Amaro (Italian Bitter) but aperitif rather than digestif.
The golden straw colored vermouth is excellent with characteristic herb flavors like thyme and lavender. There is also citrus and vanilla. While it worked great in a martini (I used 2 oz of gin, 1 oz of Imbue vermouth, with lemon verbena bitters and a lemon peel), I think I like it better on the rocks as an aperitif before dinner.
Petal & Thorn has a red hue from beet juice, orange citrus elements and is also bittersweet with a ton of cinnamon. I think I know what happened: The famous Czech bitter Becherovka travelled to Italy and had a Roman holiday with the Italian Amaro Montenegro. The daughter of the affair is Petal & Thorn, ready for cocktails. Nick Demjen of Origin Beverage played around and has a terrific Manhattan variation- 2oz Rye, 1/2 oz Imbue Petal and Thorn, 1/4 oz Meletti Amaro, 1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino, Luxardo cherry garnish, 2 dases Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Bitters.
Nick kindly visited mutually friend and one of the best bartenders around Todd Maul at Clio. On the fly he came up with a delicious and esoteric blend of Plymouth Gin, Dolin Sweet Vermouth, Imbue Bittersweet, snap pea essence and shimeji mushroom.
Stoddard's downtown has always been one of my favorite bars- great cocktails and staff. I got a message from Tony Iamunno (extraordinary bartender by the way) with a photo of their new downstairs bar drink menu which I have included here. Sandwiched between two classic and legendary cocktails, the Sazerac and the Boulevardier, is my guilty pleasure the Amaretto Sour- and wait, scroll further down, my name in lights. This is a little bit like getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Well, maybe the Sazerac is Humphrey Bogart to Amaretto Sour's Betty White, but she is pretty awesome (and has a star too).
Thanks boys, I have finally arrived.
Spaghetti Western Mondays, I've posted about them before, but was actually there in person at the Blue Room for the grand finale. Nick Korn and
John Nugent, bartending dream team rounding up Whiskey and Italian bitters- Amari. I'm not sure which I liked more the Duck you Zucca! (after the 1971 western Duck you Succa! Bully Boy whiskey, Benedictine and Zucca- a rhubarb based bitters) or the Shot and a Chaw (Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and bubble gum). The bartenders got iced (sent a secret package from the crew at Tavern Road with Smirnoff Ice they then had to chug), wore ponchos, shot cap guns. We all had a ball in the wild west of Cambridge.
I was in Miami, but on family time. I had every intention of going to the hip cocktail joints, maybe even sip on Rose Champagne in an elegant hotel lounge.
Real life intervenes.
I did have a great time at two old school restaurants off the beaten path that have both been around since the 1950s- the Rustic Inn Crabhouse in Ft. Lauderdale (we went right after airport arrival), and Captain's Tavern in Kendall, Miami. I was also offered a crystalized lime packet with my Corona on the plane- that's kinda mixology right? I'm going to make a gimlet with it- or a Jet Blue lime rickey.
Anyway, leave it up to the cool kids of Island Creek Oysters, down for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, to pick up my dropped baton and run with it. Shore Gregory, CJ Husk, Chris Serman, Jess Fortin, Dana Hale and PR cutie Nicole Kanner took over as I flew out of town. Their mission? Let me know about The Broken Shaker- it just so happened they would be shucking oysters there for an event at the hotel.
The bar was closed (bummer), but they shucked oysters in the beautiful garden enjoying wines from Maureen Hautaniemi of Lush Life Productions and Wines of France. Clearly the review and message is simple, on vacation roll with it, check out new spots if you can, but enjoy the scenery regardless. Go to the Broken Shaker though, have a drink and report back to me.
So I've posted about Rock and Rye before, and yes, I make a personal version which is good enough for me if legendary woman about town Rebecca Jane likes it. However, leave it Rob Cooper (St. Germain liqueur fame) to come out with a great bottled version-
Slow and Low. His, appropriately is more rough and tumble at 98 proof. Bitter, sweet, citrusy, reviving, to be best enjoyed on ice if you ask me, although I hear alongside a beer works pretty well too. Like in the old days it may just cure what ails you, maybe a substitute for the flu shot?
Perhaps too obvious, but imagine the Beastie Boys of the cocktail world, which leads me to the following video:
"Slow and Low was inspired by the original Hochstadter’s Rock and Rye recipe and a few other 19th century recipes Rob Cooper discovered. It is made strong; using the best aged whiskey and matured slowly. 6 Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey is macerated with three citrus peels: lemon, grapefruit and orange, pure cane rock candy, honey and a hint of horehound" (a wild bitter herb). 98 proof, about $32 in liquor stores.
is more than industry terminology (i.e. who's on the bar at Deep Ellum tonight?), it's also an app. That's right, pick your bartenders and find out when and where they're working on a given night to find them in action.
A simple, intuitive idea, how come I didn't think of it? Ok, hold off the jokes.
Luckily, the guys at onthebar did, and we have founders Ian Stanczyk and TJ Connelly to thank. The team is rounded out by Corey Bunnewith (industry advisor) and Anthony Roldan (software development), but I met up with just Ian over coffee the other day.
Born in Connecticutt, he began web building in the 90's when he was just 10 (personal computers didn't exist when I was 10, by the way), so he had a big head start when he got to Northeastern, also studying economics. After graduation he worked short-term with a software company and figured it was time for business school, got accepted, and prepared to enter Dartmouth for the fall term of 2011. The only thing in the way was a Summer off- 4 months, which I probably would have goofed around and gone to bars. Well, Ian did too, but his savvy parlayed into a great idea of how to find bartenders, in his case his Northeastern roommate, Ted Killpatrick, now of No. 9 Park.
"We grew up on the same street, were roommates, I dove into the bar world visiting where he worked- Radius or Sel de la Terre at the time. I thought how great it would be if he had a button on his phone when pressed would let me know he was working… It was maybe selfish, but I wanted kind of a 'bat signal' alerting me." The app now tells a bartender the 'bat signal' has been sent when they sign in.
Ian first called the app Bostonflip after his favorite drink Ted made him, and didn't want it to fall through the cracks when he went off to school. Enter the awesome TJ Connelly, who people had been telling Ian he had to meet, and did, over brunch at Toro, and prepared to hand off the baton. I've got a feeling a lot of great things have happened over brunch at Toro. Turns out TJ had been thinking of a similar platform- a match made perfect sense. At the 11th hour, the night before heading off to school, his eureka moment happened, and he stayed, all in. The team revamped the name, and the rest is history. "Grass roots, it heightens one's relationship and experience with a bartender," Ian says, "they are often the face of an establishment." Presently the focus is Boston, but bartenders from New York, Providence, Portland, Arizona and San Francisco use it. I love onthebar's nonjudgmental nature where there's no rating system, any and all bartenders may use it from local joints to high end lounges, a level playing field.
Download the app, if you're a customer, bartender or both, find when and where people are working- I use every night, if you can call what I do work.
George Dickel died in 1894, but his legacy lives on. I have always been a fan of the Tennesse Whisky, but after just trying the recently released 5 year rye- well, it's on. 95% rye mash whisky (no corn at all, the remaining 5% is barley), chilled, charcoal filtered- spicy, caramel and oak, with cherry fruit notes- very dry.
Good solo, even better in a Manhattan.
Its journey is a bit different from the sour mash whisky- distilled and aged in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, then true to house pedigree, onto sugar maple filtering in Tullahoma, Tennessee. 45% ABV, about $25 in stores.