Drink & Tell is not a big, glossy, coffee table cocktail book. It doesn't have to be. What Fred Yarm has done, importantly I might add, is assemble a personal modern history of drinks around Boston. Basically, he has used his years of research (appearing on the cocktailvirgin blog) and given it to us in one concise reference. Often I have had customers ask something like "can you make me a Fort Washington Flip? Misty made it for me a few years ago at Green Street." Instead of being completely dumfounded, I now merely access Fred's book- presto, there it is.
Fred Yarm is a Biochemist by day, not officially a bartender. Although that poses an interesting question: if one is enamored with cocktails and the historical techniques of making them, aren't we all bartenders? His scientific note taking reflects his background in focused precision. He told me: "my wife and I always had a two hand rule at the liquor store," never leaving with more than a couple bottles- focused. The extension, in Drink & Tell makes sense, "I wanted to make a drink book I would like to buy... and if it's a good drink I'll write about it."
I inquired if he had an "aha" moment that propelled his love and fascination with cocktails. "It mostly was a mix of going to places like Green Street and Eastern Standard in the early days. But a turning point certainly was when I made a Pegu Club at home (Gin, orange liqueur, lime, Angostura bitters). How can lime and bitters become grapefruit-like flavors?" This question added to the fuel that was already accumulating to propel him further into cocktail culture and drink execution.
Do you have a touchstone foundation cocktail?
Fred: For a friend's wedding I was asked to stock the bar and recommend some drinks. There was surprise when I suggested a Manhattan. But, really, you can get a good one, or walk the bartender through a good one, pretty much anywhere.
You can't always want cocktails, so what else?
If I take a break, it's a beer.
Ok, now I'm putting you on the spot. Any guilty pleasure cocktails?
Well, years ago, early '90s, I might panic and order a Red Death. I quickly went to the Manhattan- I needed a business appropriate drink. Of course my palate's gotten a lot drier.
A Rusty Nail. And it's still a legitimate drink.
Fred's mission is to help Bostonians learn what's out there and add to their personal drinking experiences. He highlights the cocktails and those making them as a culinary art "done in front of you at a bar."
Hmm, sounds like there's possibility for a second book. In the meantime, Drink & Tell can be purchased at the Boston Shaker in Davis Square, and Amazon.com.
The author is solely responsible for the content.