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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.