A visual cure for a heatwave:
I think Martha Reeves would agree, don't you?
Hailing from Cartagena, Spain, Liquor 43 is a versatile sweet liqueur with vanilla, citrus and orange blossom- think Summer in the Mediterranean. A couple of Mondays ago, a great group of bartenders fought it out using it as a base at Moksa in Cambridge. The competitors in the ring: Josh Taylor Westbridge, Oronde Popplewell Moksa, Sam Gabrielli Russell House, Jason Kilgore Catalyst, Taso Papatsoris Casa B and Amber Schumaker Eastern Standard.
Here's the drink, like a grown up strawberry-rhubarb pie, ready for hot weather imbibing:
The Backyard Cocktail
1.5 oz Licor 43
.75 oz Rhubarb Shrub
.5 oz Strawberry Juice
.5 oz Lime Juice
Gaspare Campari (yes that Campari) invented the famous bitters in his bar sometime in the 1860s. The herbal liqueur was most famously mixed with vermouth and soda, called the Milano-Torino. (Campari is made in Milan and Cinzano Vermouth hails from Turin). Somewhere around 1910, American tourists seemed to have an insatiable thirst for the drink and it became better known as the Americano. Was this an homage to Americans or perhaps that Americans couldn't pronounce Milano-Torino?
The drink continued it's transformation in the 1920s when in his local in Florence, Count Camilo Negroni asked for his favorite drink to be fortified even more by adding gin instead of soda water and an orange peel rather than lemon to visually distinguish the two. Boom, cocktail.
So famous the drink that Imbibe Magazine is encouraging National Negroni Week this week, so let's follow suit and order one out! While I don't know of any bars specifically celebrating, I roped social media guru and bon vivant Rebecca Jane Millette to sample a few and send me photos back (pictured below).
Negroni 1 oz Gin, 1 oz Sweet Vermouth, 1 oz Campari, straight up/rocks, orange garnish.
This is Straight Up's 100th post, and to be completely honest, I never thought I'd make it so far. Hopefully I'm batting .500 (maybe half are pretty good), but I'm just a bartender after all and you, of course, are the judge. Actually, some of my favorites have been deftly written by friends and colleauges- so maybe I'm somewhere in the neighborhood of 90. Regardless, I celebrated 100 with, appropriately, a sparkling cocktail other than a Miller High Life.
Joanne Chang launched her second cookbook, Flour, too, this week, and it's not often that one can sip a cocktail in Flour Back Bay- perfect timing. Peter Juusola made punch versions of their house-made sodas, and Nicholas Orpik and Courtney Moy poured away. A Raspberry Fizz with Vodka, raspberry syrup, lime, soda and a Cantaloupe Juelp with Bourbon, cantaloupe puree, mint, soda. Needless to say, I had a private cheers to 100 posts.
The best part is you can get non-alcoholic versions of these in the bakery, and the food is superb. From the roast lamb sandwich to (my favorite) oatmeal raisin cookies, I couldn't stop snacking. And Joanne could not be a more gracious, lovely host- she is a real gem in this business, one of the nicest people who deserves every bit of her success.
Straight up posts may not always satisfy, but make sure you get into Flour soon, it will certainly hit the spot. Cheers, and hoping for 100 more.
I imagine Cuba of another era, heightened by imagery I've seen from black and white sepia toned photographs; and I'm sipping daiquiris at the famous La Floridita in Havana. The namesake cocktail is a slight variation on the classic- it adds wonderful depth with the addition of Maraschino liqueur.
Daiquiri La Floridita
2 oz White Rum (try the local Privateer)
.5 simple syrup
.25 Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
Hemingway himself varied it further, added grapefruit, removed the simple syrup. Rumor has it he would order a double which got the name Papa Doble. Order either version (or make it on your patio) as the warm weather hits and you don't have to pretend, you'll be sipping a taste from another time that holds up just as well today.
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!