September 4th, 2009

Operation 1919 – Part 2

early1900s-bartender

Wow, has it really been two years since I wrote the original Operation 1919 post urging Boston imbibers to demand pre-Prohibition and other rare cocktail ingredients from their local liquor purveyors? Well, some positive developments since then indicate that our voices have been heard.

Several stores have beefed up — and in some cases continued to stock — their selection of classic cocktail spirits, including BRIX Wines in Boston (South End and Broad St.), Downtown Wine & Spirits and the Wine & Cheese Cask in Somerville, the Wine Gallery in Brookline and Boston (Kenmore Square), Gordon’s in Newton, Liquor Land in Roxbury, Mall Discount Liquors in Cambridge (Fresh Pond), and Julio’s in Westborough.

The Boston Shaker at Grand in Somerville opened this past year and has become a Mecca for those seeking bitters (could you imagine buying celery, cherry or whiskey barrel-aged bitters two years ago? Ha!) and non-alcoholic ingredients like Luxardo maraschino cherries, fruit shrubs, real grenadine, orgeat and falernum, not to mention cocktail tools and books. Many people have chimed in here and elsewhere about specialty-food and international stores that carry stuff like orange flower water, passionfruit juice and pomegranate juice. These include Christina’s spice shop in Cambridge, Super 88 grocery stores, and assorted Brazilian, Caribbean and Asian stores in a neighborhood near you. (Also check liquor stores in these ‘hoods for stuff like cachaca, pisco and funky eaux de vie.) Then there’s Cirace in the North End for hard-to-find aperitivos, amaros and digestivos (Cynar, Averna, Fernet, etc).

Just for fun, here’s a wish list of items culled from comments on that first 1919 post, as well as from myself and various other cocktailians since then. I divided the list up into rough categories of availability. I say “rough,” because a lot of this stuff is still only available at a handful of places, and is often unpredictably stocked. So please don’t take my word for it — call ahead. And I know a few people out there who have more comprehensive knowledge of Boston-area liquor store inventories than I do, so please let me know of a) any hot new finds or b) unavailable items to start a new wish list.

More or less available at some/most of the places above
(Starred items available at the Boston Shaker)

Batavia Arrack
Bitters (other than Angostura and Fee’s orange)*
Bluecoat Gin
Creme de Violette
Falernum (Fee Bros.)*
Genever (Bols, Anchor)
Herbsaint
Luxardo Maraschino cherries*
Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
Old Tom Gin (Hayman’s)
Orgeat*
Pimento Dram (St. Elizabeth Allspice Liqueur)
Rye whiskey
Shrub (fruit syrups preserved with a little vinegar)*
Sloe Gin (Plymouth)
Vermouth (Vya, Dolin)

Sighted locally but generally hard to find

Amer Picon/Torani Amer
Bonded Applejack
Carpano Antica
Kummel
Marie Brizard liqueur (particularly Apry, or apricot)
Velvet Falernum

Unavailable or should be easier to find

Bitters (clones of Abbott’s or Boker’s — some bars are making their own)
Byrrh wine
Kola tonic
Raspberry syrup
Swedish punsch

One “hard to find” item that was mentioned more than once by commenters on that first post? St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur. Hard to imagine, since its ubiquity now has earned it the nickname “bartender’s ketchup.” Also, is Cherry Heering really that hard to find, or is it just me?

To conclude, I think we’re getting there. But one-stop shopping for much of the above still seems far away. Is a huge, unfussy liquor warehouse that features Rittenhouse 100, Herbsaint, Luxardo cherries, grapefruit bitters and Creme de Violette, along with the usual 97 flavors of vodka and econo-sized Mudslides, too much of a pipe dream?

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30 Responses to “Operation 1919 – Part 2”

  1. robmarais

    Just some quick props for Bauer Liquors on Newbury St: I’ve seen and bought creme de violette, creole shrub and pimento dram there. Whatever you want, if you don’t see it there, the owner will stock it for you.

    Likewise for Elite Liquors on Mass Ave near the Church Park apts. Staff there is very eager to please, and if the store doesn’t have it, I’ve been able to make them get it in. For example, I got them to start stocking rye (even if it was Jim Beam, which BTW I like for mixing in rye cocktails).

    Also the Wine Emporium on Columbus Ave in SE is awesome: Carpano Antico vermouth, Michter’s rye and Regan’s Orange Bitters bought there have made awesome manhattans. Slowly and surely, our local liquor stores might be becoming more classic cocktail-friendly.

  2. Laura

    I saw the Cherry Heering at the Mall Discount Liquors in Cambridge last week and the liquor store on charles street in beacon hill.

  3. Sean

    More good news on the Carpano Antica Formula front:

    It’s at Cirace. Lisa Cirace says she remembers her granddaddy drinking the stuff decades ago. (No worries, the stuff on the shelf is brand new.)

    Brix (Washington St. location) is also stocking it. Their months-long birddogging of the distributor was rewarded just last week.

  4. ljclark

    Yay! I knew this would generate some great tips tout suite! Thanks y’all.

  5. sushiesque

    The first time I found Cherry Heering was at Charles Street Liquors sometime in early 2008. I think I’ve also seen it at Liquor World in Porter Square, which has some wonderful, unexpected stuff — Hayman’s Old Tom, Bitter Truth, Cynar, Plymouth Sloe Gin, more varieties of Fee’s every time I look, Branca Menta (but why?), Batavia Arrack, and as much absinthe as anyplace else.

    Dave’s Fresh Pasta, in Davis, has Velvet Falernum.

    Bauer has the cheapest Luxardo cherries.

  6. Frederic

    Boker’s Bitters are being made in the UK by Adam Elmegirab. They’re pricey but apparently rather good (no store in the US can sell them since they do not have FDA approval). I’ve made my own and would gladly talk anyone through the process (see the instructional post on the CocktailVirgin blog). It’s one of the easier bitters to make.

    The Apry and other Marie Brizards are at Marty’s in Newtonville. Along with Velvet Falernum, Batavia Arrack, various Amaros, Vya vermouths, and others. Including the coveted 1860 bottle of rye (see locked glass case).

    I have been impressed with the prices at Atlas Liquors in Medford (they have other locations). They have Carpano Antica in the metal collectors tin, about 5 Amaros including Cynar for the cheapest prices I’ve seen).

    Kappy’s on Rt28/16 has Cherry Heering, lots of Amaros, and rhum agricoles.

    Also need to mention Ball Square liquors as a source of Dolin. They have other good cocktail reagents (decent price on St. Germain) and they are in the process of expanding their space and he has been taking suggestions from me and others.

  7. stephen

    clayton’s kola nut tonic is back in stock at tropico in roxbury.

  8. david

    For those in the South End, the Wine Emporium on Columbus stocks Carpona Antica.

    Liquor Land at 1033 Mass Ave sells Cherry Heering and lots of Amaro.

  9. JG

    Just wanted to second Liquor World in Porter. They always manage to surprise me every time I go in there … so much so that I’m no longer surprised when I go in there :)

  10. gregor rohda

    Martignetti’s in Newton reported 2 weeks ago that through some horrible international business wranglings, Maraschino liqueur was going to be nearly impossible to stock until a buyer was found for a distribution ctr in florida.. . . . . . i was skeptical, but my skepticism got me no bottle, so. ….

  11. eas

    Since June there’s a tall stack of Velvet Falernum in the MA distributor’s warehouse – all ya gotta do is ask your retailer (or find one that listens to you).

    I’m skeptical on a lack of maraschino, though sourcing the Maraska variety has become easier in recent months.

    Swedish Punsch is coming, though you might see Santa first.

    The current collapse in tiers of the wine market may have further collateral damage on spirits access (and in some cases production). Think upstream and buy accordingly as needed/wanted.

    On the Wondrich request list – and by not so silent hand, you’ll have again next month pure pot still navy strength full flavour Jamaica rum, and no less Imperially brought via London.

    If you didn’t catch it – and even though likely not in Boston in 1919, the Neisson line of agricole appears starting this month – and be sure to get a tast of that Sous Bois.

    A few more historic varieties of vermouth/aperitif wine may be forthcoming back to market. Too much deliciousness to ignore. Tu vuoi far l’Americano?…

  12. fishmatt

    I’ve been psyched about Cocchi Americano since I heard it existed.

  13. ljclark

    Wow, a lot has improved in two years, indeed. Thanks a million to all of you for reporting on your finds. And thanks to eas for the valuable insider info.

  14. sleeplessjake

    Sighted this evening at the Wine & Cheese Cask on Camb/Smvl line:

    Creme de Violette
    St. Germaine
    Reagan’s Orange Bitters
    Marie Brizard Parfait Amour
    Velvet Falernum (well, at least until I bought the last bottle)
    Luxardo Maraschino
    Bols Genever
    Dolin’s red & white vermouth
    At least 1 Rhum Agricole
    Good selection of amari/appertif bitters (incl Cynar)

    OK so they’re not the cheapest but it’s a pretty good selection for a place that is mostly a wine shop. Happy mixing!

  15. Adam

    Two comments:

    A) Where have you seen Herbsaint locally? I haven’t… and would certainly like to!

    B) Raspberry Syrup, hard to find? Stonewall Kitchen makes a good one; should be easy enough to locate in the area. It tastes fantastic in a Knickerbocker.

    Okay, three comments:

    C) Giles Wine and Spirits in Medford has a fairly interesting selection of stuff. Worth a look. Unfortunately, it tends to be a bit on the pricey side, but I occasionally find things there that I can’t locate elsewhere, e.g. mirto.

  16. sushiesque

    A) Liquor World.

  17. Frederic

    I believe I’ve seen Herbsainte at Marty’s in Newtonville & at mall Discount Liquors in the Fresh Pond Mall. I know that Marty’s has Mirto as well.

    Raspberry syrup is easy to make yourself (can even use frozen berries in the off season). And a quick short cut is to muddle 3-4 raspberries with 1/2 oz simple syrup. Otherwise, I have not seen it or Groseille (red currant) syrup in liquor stores in Boston, but a dessert aisle at a better supermarket might have it.

  18. Br. Cleve

    It’s amazing what a difference 2 years makes (and a special thanks to EAS..we couldn’t have enjoyed it without your efforts). It’s even more amazing what a difference 20 (or even 10) years makes, when this Cocktail Rennaisance was just beginning. I used to have to go to Indiana to get Orange Bitters, fer chrissakes! You kids today don’t know how good you have it! All kidding aside, what we really need now is political reform in Massachusetts, so that spirits can be received here by mail. Why should you have to drive to New York to buy Neisson rhum, for example, when the majority of states allow you to buy it on the internet and have it shipped to your mailbox?! Because of the way the liquor distribution system is set up, not all spirits are available in every state. But, outside of opening a PO box in RI or NH, there’s no way we can get booze shipped. UPS even destroys the bottles! Maybe Drinkboston could jump start a petition for our civil rights (the right to remain hammered!) here in Taxachusetts.

  19. ljclark

    Cleve, why don’t we just run for office together?

  20. Br. Cleve

    I’m registered with the All Night Party

  21. lantheaume

    re: Raspberry Syrup. I’m (still) working on getting the Smucker’s syrup after the strong recommendation in Dr. Cocktails VS&FC.

    Since I don’t really need to carry all their other product lines finding a distributor has been a bit of a challenge.

    Keep up the fight fellow Cocktailians!

  22. Ken Young (Preiss Imports)

    I am just jumping in here to clear a few things up from our end. We import all LUXARDO liqueurs for the U.S. In Boston, Atlantic Importing (508) 665-4272 carries all available LUXARDO products including the ever-so-popular Originale Maraschino Liqueur. We are working on getting more Maraschino to more retailers in the greater Boston area. Additionally, we are excited to have an original Creme de Violete being produced by Pages Vedrenne – a French company owned by Jean-Pierre Cointreau. We are getting great feedback on this item, most notable for it’s true Violet flavor and mouthfeel, and it is available in MA. If you can’t find it at your local shop, have them order it from Atlantic. Please feel free to email me directly if you need any assistance or have any product questions. Cheers!

    Here is a link to the Violete product page:
    http://www.preissimports.com/productsdetail.aspx?PARFAIT%20AMOUR

    And please don’t forget The Boston Shaker always has our authentic Luxardo Cherries in stock!

  23. ljclark

    Ken, this is much appreciated. We loooove hearing from actual suppliers.

  24. Adam Elmegirab

    Hello all,

    In reply to Frederic’s comment;

    “Boker’s Bitters are being made in the UK by Adam Elmegirab. They’re pricey but apparently rather good (no store in the US can sell them since they do not have FDA approval).”

    I am currently working on gaining FDA approval and hope to have this resolved in the near future so my Boker’s Bitters are available for purchase in the US.

    Please keep an eye/ear out for developments, if anyone is interested or has any questions then please get in touch – adam.elmegirab@evo-lution.org.

    Sláinte!

    Adam

  25. Frederic

    Monin raspberry syrup spotted at Marty’s in Newtonville earlier today. No clue how this compares to homemade (but could be close to what many bars used backed in the day). Believe it was $10/750mL.

    Also spotted there: both Velvet and Fee’s falernum, Cherry Heering, some new Pages products, Luxardo Maraschino, and lots of random liquors and liqueurs.

  26. John Rosevear

    I was in Julio’s earlier today, and they have all of the Fee’s bitters, several of the Marie Brizard products (including Apry, Parfait Amour, and their excellent orange Curacao), a whole row of Monin syrups (including raspberry, pomegranate, passion fruit, and almond (a decent orgeat)), the Luxardo cherries, and a bunch of other tasty things of interest to your readers. They’re getting there. For instance, they finally have all of the rums called for in Jeff Berry’s books, which is great — but some areas still need work (what’s with only having 2 or 3 kinds of Calvados?) And they still don’t have Branca Menta, which I’ve asked for a couple of times, but I remain hopeful.

    FWIW, I went there today to buy Cherry Heering and St Germain, and they had both.

  27. Striperguy

    There is an amazing shop in Salem, MA called Witches Weeds that has all of the most exotic botanicals for makeking your own bitters: chinchona, artemesia, valerian, wormwood, etc. etc. etc. And the prices are great.

    Do be a tad careful with some of these, because though many are traditional ingredients in bitters they can bad for you if consumed in large quantities:

    Artemisia Botanicals & Witches’ Weeds
    Pickering Wharf, 102 Wharf Street, Salem, MA 01970
    978-745-0065 | artemisiabotanicals.com

  28. Eric Witz

    Jumping into this old thread to give another shout out for Marty’s in Newtonville. I was surprised to see a newly opened case of Carpano Antica when I was in there last week and it’s now stocked on the shelf right next to the Punt e Mes, et al. They also have Herbsaint, Creme de Violette, Pimiento Dram, Vya and Dolin vermouths, and many other items listed above, not to mention that coveted bottle of 1860 rye. Also, I don’t know if it’s become more widely available in recent months but I’ve had no trouble finding Cherry Heering at most stores in the area.

  29. Brian

    Hi all,

    I know I’m jumping into this thread VERY late in the game, but I’m a relatively new resident to the Boston area and I’ve been scouring the area looking for Torani Amer. I see that it’s mentioned in the “sighted locally” section of this post and I’m wondering if anyone has a recommendation of a store that may carry it.

  30. ljclark

    Brian, 1st try Cirace & Sons in the N. End, then work your way down the list on my Supplies page. Cheers!

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