Cocktail Club

Meet the Southie bar manager getting creative at GrandTen

"I love getting people that tell me they hate gin because by the time they're leaving, they're drinking bee's knees and buying bottles of our gin."

At GrandTen Bar, you go because you definitely want to be there.

Tucked away behind a garage door off of Dorchester Avenue, the Southie distillery produces small-batch spirits, offers tours and tastings, and slings their own cocktails from its laid-back bar. In recent years they’ve been named the best neighborhood bar by Boston magazine and voted among the top 25 distilleries in the country.

With a distiller’s license, bar manager Nino Geraci keeps the cocktail menu fresh with creations like Weekend At Ernie’s, a cocktail that uses their New Medford rum and Craneberry liqueur. During the pandemic, Geraci stayed busy by selling bottled to-go cocktails, which continues today.


Geraci joined the Cocktail Club on Thursday for a virtual class mixing sustainable cocktails, including an orange-infused gin Collins and a Hemingway daiquiri. Ahead of the event, the local bartender shared how he got his “shot” at GrandTen, why he loves converting non-gin people, and what he built during the pandemic.

How did you get into the hospitality business?

I am really good friends with Scott Marshall, who’s an exceptional bartender and actually worked for Jackson [Cannon] at the Hawthorne and Drink. I walked into GrandTen for the first time with him while Steve Schnelwar was the bar manager. I was blown away by the place, and I asked if they were looking for any help. And he hired me just for being Scott’s friend [in 2017]. He gave me a shot.

Had you mixed drinks before?

Not much, just to making them at home. Through Scott and his wife, Danielle, we’d have house parties and make craft cocktails there, but never in a work setting.

What was that learning curve like?

Steve Schnelwar was the bar manager, and he was the one that I learned the most from at the bar. I became a really good bar-back when I got the job, and I just watched and listened to everything he had to say to me. Fake it ’til you make it.

What do find people ordering most?

The people that come to GrandTen just want to try everything that we distill there. So usually they’ll do a flight and then decide what they want to drink after that. American palates don’t like gin. They feel like it’s too piney, like drinking a Christmas tree. We make American-style gin where we dial the juniper back. I love getting people that tell me they hate gin because by the time they’re leaving, they’re drinking bee’s knees and buying bottles of our gin.

If you were a cocktail, what would you be?

A bee’s knees. It’s simple. It’s delicious. And that’s the drink I usually convert a lot of the non-gin people with at GrandTen.

What’s something we might not know about you?

I played in a band in Boston for many years. I used to do tattoos for a living. I have a 10-year-old daughter, and I started playing guitar with her in the pandemic. We actually built her first guitar during the pandemic. She picked out all the colors … a Telecaster. Orange glitter was her choice.

What was the name of your band?

Smog Monster.

Tell us more about the limitations of GrandTen’s liquor license.

We have a tasting license, or a distiller’s license. Which means we can only serve spirits that come directly from our still. So I can’t I buy vermouth. If we don’t have an orange, we don’t make a triple sec or orange-flavored liquor. [If] I want to use something like that, what I have to do is take a neutral spirit off the still and infuse it with either orange peels or lemon peels or whatever flavor spirit I’m trying to get.

That’s probably forced to you get pretty creative.

Yeah, I do another one. It’s a hibiscus cherry gin; we use hibiscus flowers and dried cherries. So you have to think on your toes. Otherwise you’re going to have the same menu every every season.

How can people support you and your colleagues in the hospitality industry right now?

If they’re comfortable going out and having some drinks, I would say just do that. Go out and have some fun. Go to your favorite spot. I can see it’s starting to pick up again. It’s kind of a catch 22 at GrandTen because we don’t have an outside patio. So when it’s really nice out, people want to be out in the sun or on the deck, but we do have a big bay door, so we keep that open and sometimes have food trucks.