For a long time Downtown Crossing has always been "five years away" from being a hot destination. When I opened a bar on Bromfield Street almost 17 years ago, the Suffolk Law School building was a hole in the ground and Hotel Nine Zero was a pile of rubble from a restaurant that had closed a decade before. Just as things were improving, 9/11 dramatically impacted the economy everywhere and our area, of course, was no exception. Filene's closed. Many retail businesses did the same.
But there's light at the end of the tunnel. I've always said (to anyone who might care to listen) that restaurants and bars just might be the savior of downtown. Recently, Stoddard's and JM Curley on Temple Street have entered that void. Now, go a bit further up Tremont Street and turn left. Enter Carrie Nation at 11 Beacon, running with the baton of renewed area nightlife interest, particularly in regard to cocktails. The space is very big and beautiful too, which is a little deceptive from the exterior. But to me, that's what is great about old downtown, old facades, businesses tucked around a corner just off a main street.
Industry veteran Brian Mantz heads the bar program, and he's like a kid in a candy store. "Josh, this is a dream job, I get to do my hobby for a living!" is one of the first things he says to me when I walked in interrupting his lunch (working a double) the other day. His enthusiasm is clear by a great cocktail list and a very extensive American whiskey selection. His side job clearly helps- he is a brand ambassador for one of my favorites- Angel's Envy Bourbon. As we sat together looking over his list, I suggested he maybe make a drink or two. He pulled out classics, much like the space and overall restaurant itself.
He does an Old Fashioned Old Fashioned, Bulleit rye, sugar, bitters. If you like, he puts an orange and a cherry on the glass. His Sazerac is very old school too, not made with rye, but Cognac. Hennessy, Pechaud bitters, Demerara simple syrup, Herbsaint rinse. However there's also new: try The Million Dollar Cup, Hendrick's gin, lemon, Chambord, egg, raspberries and bubbles.
Carrie Nation is named, of course, after the temperance movement crusader, who would enter a drinking establishment with a hatchet, creating obvious havoc. No ghost of her here (although she may be rolling over in her grave); the front room is large and beautiful, with a nod to the past- red leather, turn of the century fixtures. Even more my speed, check out the dark and well appointed back room, complete with two old billiard tables- you'll fell like it's 1915 and Carrie herself might bust in at any moment. Fear not though, Brian will just fix you another cocktail.
What could be better than enjoying the end of summer and Labor Day in beautiful Provincetown? I know- being there and having a cocktail made by David Flower at
Ten Tables. They have a full bar at this location, and David works directly with chef
Eric Cooper to design a bar program that works hand in hand with the dinner menu. David says "I sit down with Eric every week and review produce that he will be using in his dishes to see if there are any selections that might work well in cocktails. We often share ingredients that way, it's such a pleasure to work in synch with the kitchen." With this in mind I'm drinking his Beet Martini- unexpectedly delicious with ginger, citrus and mint. David does recognize that "people have a love or loath relationship with beets. The ones that don't like them always say the same thing- 'they taste like dirt.' I think they taste sweet and savory." A lot of people seem to agree (me too), it's one of the most popular drinks on the list.
Beet Martini by David Flower
2 oz Beet Infused Vodka (I use Ketel)
.5 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
.5 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
.75 oz of Domaine Canton Ginger Liquor (you can also make your own ginger infused simple syrup)
dash of Fees Brothers grapefruit bitters to balance the sweet and sour (optional)
fresh Mint Sprig
Shake all liquid ingredients in a shaker over ice. Slap the mint sprig and place in a chilled martini glass. Pour shaker into glass and serve.
Another heatwave will come eventually to our fair city, and let's be ready. An anti-heat crusade needs a secret weapon and ally: Paulo Pereira at Vinebrook Tavern in Lexington. I've confessed to him that I normally might not order this kind of thing, but after a sip he's put me in a time machine and made me a believer. It's a hot summer night in the Washington, DC of my youth and I'm eating a popsicle, no a creamsicle, and nothing could taste better.
.5 oz cream, .75 oz oj, .75 oz Triple 8 Vanilla, .5 oz Skyy Citrus, .5 oz simple syrup,
5 drops Bittermens Orange Cream bitters. Shake, strain over crushed ice in a double old fashioned glass. Mint leaf garnish.
One of the greatest bars in town did Boston proud down in NOLA at Tales of the Cocktail. The prestigious Bare Knuckle Bar Fight featured 7 invited bars and their respective bartending teams from around the country. Go figure, the "People's Choice" winner? Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar on Boylston Street behind Fenway, and what a team it is. Led by the talented, funny, charming, intelligent, beautiful (let's see if I can get some more adjectives in here): Joy Richard and Sabrina Kershaw. By the way, as if this wasn't impressive enough, Sabrina was also voted "Top 10 mixologists to watch." Chad Arnholt of Trick Dog fame in San Francisco (and former employee) made the trek to assist too, plus other local all-stars, Sean Frederick, John Nugent, Pam Maguire, David Delaney, Jr. and Nick Korn. In fact, Citizen is so good that one of my favorite bartenders in town, Jason Cool, stayed back to mind the fort- now that's dedication. Dream Team.
My message here today is short and sweet- get over and see these folks, it's one of the best spots in America, right in our back yard.
Dave and Will Willis of Bully Boy Distillers help kick summer into high-gear with the launch of their premium barrel-aged Boston Rum. True to Boston heritage and legacy it features a rich fruit flavor profile accompanied by vanilla, caramel and toffee- perfect for summer cocktails.
At Trade, Josh Mendez is offering up his take- an Old Cuban cocktail version on the rocks, made with Bully Boy Boston Rum, lime, mint, brown sugar and Champagne. Not the Hemingway Daiquiri, of course, he's calling it "Hemingway" because “after a couple of them you'll either be ready to A) get into a brawl, or B) run with bulls--both very Hemingway-esque activities.” I've always likened this drink to an elegant Mojito, and I love the Boston twist, I think the old man himself would have approved too.
A cordial license is a funny thing in Boston, it seems there is no clear definition of what it is. Except a grey area. From what I can tell it means you're allowed to sell any liqueur with 2.5% sugar by weight along with beer and wine. In the early 90s this came about at the request of North End restauranteurs who wanted to offer their customers an after dinner Sambucca or Amaro. Anyway, apparently this can include a lot, including Pisco, Grappa, flavored vodkas, flavored bourbons and even Green Chartreusse which clocks in at a whopping 110 proof- or 55% alcohol. I'm not really sure what's going on here.
What all this does mean, however, is that at a great place like the Salty Pig in Boston's Back Bay/South End, Erin Murtagh and team have to get creative with drinks, which they do. I was in the other evening, and had The Greener Side, featuring Lillet, Galliano, Cucumber, Basil, lemon and Erin's celery bitters. Refreshing and delicious, basil mirroring the anise in Gallliano, sweet citrus from Lillet, a well balanced (dare I say) liquid salad for grown-ups? Now just pass me some more of that charcuterie and cheese, I'm not worried about licenses and regulations any more.
Sam's on the waterfront epitomizes everything I love about going out. Esti, Drew and Jon Parsons are the consummate hosts and restaurant professionals always putting friendly, professional customer service first (little things like they offer spare sunglasses if you forget yours). The menu shows a tight, well thought out wine list with great beers and above all a terrific menu. Chef Asia Mei may be Boston's hidden best chef- dinner there the other night was extraordinary- beet terrine, salad of boar bresaola and haricot vert, cod over snap peas- you've simply got to try her food.
Jon's cocktails are equally refined and can be enjoyed on maybe the best patio around, over looking the water and downtown Boston. We tried The Red Wedding (which for you Game of Thrones fans was "formerly called spoiler alert") with blanco Tequila, grapefruit liqueur, sparkling wine, lime juice and hibiscus syrup. It strikes a perfect balance between bitter and bright citrus, floral sweetness and bracing clean young Tequila. Next up, the Clyde, features Pisco and elderflower, lemon, blood orange juice and grapefruit bitters. I like the theme here- a clean spirit with bittersweet floral and citrus, just delicious.
The hits keep coming with new Summer drinks in the works; I'm telling you, there is no time like the present to visit Sam's.
Following up a few posts ago, Eastern Standard has unintentionally upped my ante on Rosè and cocktails. Their Marco Polo features house-made rhubarb vermouth (email me for the recipe if you are adventurous enough to try on your own), sparkling rosè and Aperol. Sipping this is even more fun than playing "Marco Polo" in the water as a kid- all things I love together, the vermouth works with the rhubarb and strawberry in the Aperol, rounded out by cherry, more strawberry and acid in the wine. Yes, please- join me on the ES patio sooner than later, it's like a dip in the pool.
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.