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.
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