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Barbara Lynch's new bar is open

Posted by Devra First  October 3, 2008 10:20 AM

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Yesterday was Drink's opening night. The basement level bar is an old warehouse space of brick and wood beams, with plenty of room to congregate: There are three different sections of bar to sit at, and plenty of places to stand.

The bars are made of natural wood or dark steel, with dark metal Marais stools to pull up. Bulbs hang from the ceiling -- the lighting is low enough that the tiny menu of canapes is a bit hard to read, and the music is an impressively subtle backdrop, loud enough to enjoy but not too loud.

Behind the bars are several bartenders facing large blocks of ice, which they chip and crush by hand with a variety of torture-ready implements. They move quickly and efficiently, setting down glassware with precision, shaking drinks aerobically. It's as if they're onstage. Welcome to Cocktail Theater. We hope you enjoy the show.

Pots are filled with growing herbs, ready to be plucked and muddled into drinks. Bitters and other liqueurs and juices are stored in little brown glass bottles with stoppers, and several counters for standing along the walls are made of glass boxes filled with pretty/creepy dead bugs impaled on pins and labeled. The effect is sort of downtown/saloon/pharmacy circa the early 1900s. (It works!)

There's no cocktail list here. (Or wine or beer list, just a very small selection of each.) You can order what you want, or you can tell a bartender you'd like something involving gin or herbs or bitters, and someone will whip something up for you. As promised by John Gertsen in an earlier conversation, this is rock-star bartending. A Sazerac was a cold, bitter/sweet few gulps that went straight to the cerebral cortex. A sidecar at first appeared to have no sugar on the rim, till you looked up close and realized pretty much the entire glass had been finely sugared. All of the components of this deceptively hard-to-make drink were in harmony.

Drink is offering a little menu of canapes (above). It currently includes the likes of Swedish meatballs, gougeres, cocktail wieners, deviled eggs, and foie gras lollipops. (The meatballs are 50 cents each and the gougeres 75 cents, a happy sight after the fussed-over $16 onion soup at Lynch's Butcher Shop.) Sadly, the gougeres were served cold, but the bites we tried were mostly darn tasty. The deviled eggs were light and topped with shreds of fried onion, the Swedish meatballs served in berry sauce.

Drink was full on its first night -- there's no break-in period for a hot new place since that newfangled Internet thing came to town. Everyone knows it's open, and everyone comes. There were a few business types in suits, some Amish-style hipsters, hospitality industry and media folks, and a David Foster Wallace look-alike who made us do a double-take. Lynch mentioned previously that she wants construction workers to come in for a beer. It didn't feel like that kind of place last night, but maybe it will as it becomes part of the landscape.

My only real question was why they installed one of those annoying bathroom door locks that looks like a tiny, protruding nail and is nearly impossible to push. This is sure to lead to many embarrassing moments, as the WC faces directly into the bar and it's pretty difficult to ascertain whether the door is actually locked. I don't think one of those nice, secure, and obvious locks with a bar that slides into place would clash too much with the aesthetic here. It seems to be the only small touch the folks who created Drink have overlooked.

Drink, 348 Congress St., 617-695-1806.

About Dishing

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Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.

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