Archive for the ‘Nips’ Category

August 12th, 2010

Nips – 8/12/10

A friendly reminder that this coming tax-free weekend doesn’t just apply to TVs, leather armchairs and solid-wood shellcases for your iPad. It also applies to booze. Have your eye on a bottle of green Chartreuse VEP ($130)? Strathisla 1967 Speyside scotch whisky ($175)? Remy Martin Cognac Louis XIII Grande ($1700)? Well, grab your shopping cart and boogie down the aisle of one of these fine establishments.

» Boston wins. Damned if Boston didn’t hit it out of the park during Tales of the Cocktail in July. First of all, more Boston bar industry folk represented our city at New Orleans’ annual drinks convention than ever before. Second of all, Drink won the Grand Marnier-sponsored Barroom Brawl, besting five other top-notch cocktail bars from around the U.S. and earning the title Best Bar in America. Third of all, Drink’s Misty Kalkofen won the Pisco Sour Pentathalon and will in the near future enjoy her prize: a trip to Peru to see how desert-grown grapes turn into white brandy. Congrats to all! Liza Weisstuch offers a vivid snapshot of the competition and, more generally, the Boston slant on Tales in today’s Phoenix. Good stuff.

» Remixology. Speaking of contests, there’s a new bar celeb in town: John Mayer of Cambridge’s Craigie on Main. A relatively new member of the staff there, he wowed everyone at the Appleton Estate Rum Remixology contest earlier this week with his mixing skills, sense of humor and ability to explain how a favorite song inspired a new cocktail. His presentation involved Frankie Valli’s “Sherry Baby,” a powder-blue brocade blazer, three mixing glasses spinning on a turntable, a small disco ball, a history lesson on Jamaica’s first prime minister — Alexander Bustamante — and the year 1962. He will compete in the national finals of the competition in NYC on August 30. Go, John! Here are recipes for the Bustamante and the other semi-finalists’ tasty drinks.

» Literature. Geoff “Psycho-Gourmet” Nicholson’s fantastic essay, Drink What You Know, appeared in the New York Times’ Book Review recently. He starts by comparing the advice writers dispense about drinking to the way they depict drinking in their literature, and arrives at his thesis:

“When you think about it, rules for drinking are not so different from rules for writing. Many of these are so familiar they’ve become truisms: Write what you know. Write every day. Never use a strange, fancy word when a simple one will do. Always finish the day’s writing when you could still do more. With a little adaptation these rules apply just as well for drinking. Drink what you know, drink regularly rather than in binges, avoid needlessly exotic booze, and leave the table while you can still stand.”

Read it. And then check out the response over at Jezebel: the Reader’s Drinking Game.

» History. I was putting off going to Plymouth to learn about Pilgrims until my retirement years, but now I have a reason to go earlier. Pilgrim Hall Museum (“America’s museum of Pilgrim possessions”) is running an exhibition called “Plymouth History in a Glass: The Artifacts and Culture of Beverages and Drinking” until December 31. Silver tankards. Ceramic punch bowls. Glass tumblers. Ooh, I’m getting hot flashes. Not only that, there are two related lectures: one on historic Plymouth-area taverns on August 25 and one on September 29 called “The Design of Drinking: from the Jazz Age to the Space Age.” Far out.

» Name that bar. What would you call a bar frequented by venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and hardworking graduate students from all over the world who converge on the high-tech cluster that is Kendall Square, Cambridge? The people behind the in-the-works “Venture Cafe” are seeking a more clever name than the working title for their “place-based social networking” project. They have partnered with restaurateur Gary Strack from Central Kitchen and the Enormous Room and are scouting Kendall Square locations for a 2011 opening. With any luck the place will liven up the woefully nightlife-less neighborhood. Got a suggestion for what to call the place? Chime in on their Facebook page.

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Posted in Bartenders, Booze in the news, Cocktails, New Orleans, Nips, Pisco, Rum | 1 Comment »

July 7th, 2010

Nips – 7/7/10

freakytikiparty

On a steamy summer Friday afternoon, who doesn’t dream of heading straight from the office to a magical oasis of exotica music and tropical drinks? Well, pinch yourself, ’cause this is no dream: Beginning July 9, Brother Cleve, Boston’s oracle of tiki, will host Freaky Tiki Fridays at the new Cambridge “bistro-theque” Think Tank (1 Kendall Sq., Bldg. 300) from 5:00-9:00 p.m.

At this week’s special kickoff event, says Cleve, “our old pal Mr. Ho will be bringing the condensed version of his Orchestrotica — we can’t really fit all 22 members of the full ensemble, so we’ll take the quartet — for a set of exotic sounds in the style of ’50s Hawaiiana like Martin Denny and Les Baxter.” [NOTE: Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica unfortunately won’t be appearing, but the tiki party’s still on!) Of course, when live music isn’t on the bill, Cleve will spin his own vast collection of tunes to sway your grass skirt to. Meanwhile, Think Tank owner Vincent Conte has sprinkled his cocktail menu with a few mixtures that hark back to his days as bar manager of the South End’s departed Pho Republique, and each Freaky Tiki Friday will feature a drink or two from Beachbum Berry’s terrific books, which put tiki drinks back on the map of legit drinking. Soak up the rum with Think Tank’s 5-for-$5 pan-Asian appetizers that will make you “feel like you’ve gone to the Kowloon, but without the indigestion,” says Cleve. See you there!

» Congrats to Todd Maul of Clio for being named best bartender in the Improper Bostonian’s annual Best of Boston list, out on newsstands now. Maul elevated the cocktail program to the level of the cuisine for which this restaurant is famed  — and he did it with a sense of humor, e.g. a list of tiki-inspired “drinks for two … 2 straws, 1 bowl.” While we’re on the subject of fine-dining bars, here’s a shout-out to Carrie Cole of Craigie on Main. She and her mixology crew have made the cocktail program established by Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli continue to kick ass. Check out this Public Radio Kitchen interview with her, and then go have a Bird Bath.

» If you’re fairly new to Massachusetts, you’ve probably had this rude awakening: you’re out for brunch at 11:03 a.m. on Sunday and order a Bloody Mary, only to be told you have to wait until noon. Thank god that foolishness is over. Last week, the state made it legal to buy a drink on Sunday morning. I mean, with Boston-area bars closing at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., you’re plenty well rested to start drinking bright and early the next morning.

» There’s nothing like finding your niche. Local cocktail enthusiast and California native Devin Hahn blogs about a single cocktail — the Periodista — at the Periodista Tales. So far, his posts constitute one man’s entertaining and well-researched quest for why this rum-based drink, which means “journalist,” is something of a fixture in Boston while being unknown in virtually every other city he has visited.

» A few good reasons to stay out late on a school night this month: the Franklin Southie continues its Thursday Industry Night series on July 15 at 9:00 p.m. with a $6 cocktail menu featuring quality Luxardo spirits (e.g. Amaretto, Maraschino, Espresso, Fernet, Amaro Abano, Sambuca, Bitter, Sangue Morlacco, Triplum and Limoncello). And Emily Stanley, who traded in her bar towel for a new career as a brand ambassador for the malty Dutch gin Bols Genever, will host two events: a Bols Genever dinner at Aquitaine ($65) on July 19 featuring four cocktails by the talented Matt Coughlin, and a punch party at Highland Kitchen on the 26th starting at 10:00 and featuring $4-$6 punches and cocktails. See you there!

» Here’s something you might like: drinkboston’s Facebook fan page.

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Posted in Events, Nips | 9 Comments »

June 3rd, 2010

Nips – 6/3/10

montanafrobisher

The latest happenings in and thoughts on Boston’s world of drink… First, ‘bad guy’ cocktails. OK, two cocktails does not make a trend, but maybe more will follow from this post, and then we’ll have conveniently manufactured one. (I love social media!) What I’m getting at are Eastern Standard‘s Frobisher and the Starlite Lounge‘s Tony Montana.

I was delighted when Jackson Cannon, who, like me, is a devotée of the FX series Damages, told me he was naming a new cocktail on the menu after Arthur Frobisher, the Enron-inspired CEO played by Ted Danson. Frobisher stands out as a bad guy in a show populated almost entirely by bad guys (and girls — the protagonist is the ruthless high-stakes litigator Patty Hewes, played by Glenn Close). That’s because Danson has elevated playing an unmitigated tool to a high art form. Cannon celebrates that achievement with a stirred, straight-up mixture of 2 oz Oxley gin, 3/4 oz ES’ own rose vermouth, 1/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur, orange oil and a Luxardo cherry.

Then there’s the Tony Montana, which Beau Sturm is known to serve while uttering its name in the Cuban accent with which Al Pacino menaces his way through the gangster training video Scarface. The recipe: 2 oz Pyrat rum, 3/4 oz Carpano Antica, 1 barspoon Benedictine and 1 dash orange bitters, stirred well and strained. The thing about these drinks is that they’re not just ridiculous concoctions slapped with a badass name to get people to drink them. The cocktails themselves are badass — all spirits, straight up, not to be trifled with. Never mind that both Frobisher’s and Montana’s substance of choice is powdery and white, not fiery and wet.

» Stoddard’s (48 Temple Place). My first impressions are pretty positive. The place looks beautiful, with its brick walls, massive, century-old bar imported from England, prints of old Boston, and local artifacts including old street lamps and corsets from an early incarnation of the Stoddard’s space (before its days as a cutlery shop of the same name). The lamb sausage sandwich and the steak frites over braised oxtail were really good, as was our bar service by Jamie Walsh. The Gin Sling and Stone Sour, both tall drinks over ice, were well made, but the Brandy Crusta was a bit watered down, and the Pegu Club was out-of-whack — too heavy on the Plymouth gin and without Angostura bitters to balance the orange flavors, as Stoddard’s house recipe strangely dictates.

We were fortunate to get a peek at the already infamous, not-yet-open private club downstairs. For a membership fee of $2,000, you get your own key and entrance (in the Winter Place alleyway right next to Locke-Ober) to this low-lit den, plus privileges to use the space for meetings and parties. Stoddard’s was taken to task several months before it opened when a rumor circulated that the club would be men-only. That’s not the case, although Stoddard’s seems to really, really want to skew its demo to recreate a late-19th-century gentlemen’s bar, albeit with TVs. The bar staff appears to be entirely male, and General Manager Billy Lyons said that while membership for the private club is building, only two women have bought in so far.

» If, the next time you go to Drink in Fort Point, you notice a lot more Europeans than usual, blame John Gertsen. He recently traveled to the 2010 Cocktails Spirits expo in Paris as the representative of an American cocktail bar. He gave a well-received presentation about his landmark bar, including a demo of the Chee Hoo Fizz, a cocktail invented by Randy Wong of the exotica orchestra Waitiki, which spearheaded Drink’s now famous summer Sunday tiki nights. While at the expo, Gertsen also encountered a bunch of rare spirits like Portuguese tequila from 1920 and a 1917 vipérine — booze flavored with a big, ol’ poisonous snake. Here’s a video of a good chunk of John’s presentation, and here’s another one of him and fellow Boston barman Scott Holliday (of Rendezvous) looking at the vipérine and other rare liquids with spirits collector George Dos Santos. (Thanks to Jörg Meyer of Le Lion Bar in Hamburg, Germany, for those videos.) Congrats, John!

» Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar. A new outpost of the growing Franklin South End/Franklin Southie empire, the Citizen will open on Boylston St. overlooking Fenway Park in July. Joy Richard, whom drinkboston has mentioned several times as a cocktail contest winner and founding member of LUPEC Boston, will oversee the bar as she does at the other two restaurants. Expect good cocktails, beer and wine but, most important of all, a whiskey bar! In fact, Joy and I happen to be heading to Kentucky next week to visit several distilleries along the Bourbon Trail, starting with Maker’s Mark and a tasting of its new whiskey, Maker’s 46. I’ll be sending regular communiqués via Twitter from that jaunt. Until then…

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Posted in Boston bars, Cocktails, Gin, Nips, Rum, Whiskey | 10 Comments »

May 2nd, 2010

Nips – 5/2/10

clio-menuA friend of mine told me that an old flame put the moves on him recently after plying him with drinks. Acknowledging the futility of the attempt to rekindle, the old flame apologized for her brazenness. But she offered this excellent excuse: “It’s spring, and I’m a mammal.”

Well, it’s spring, and I’m a blogger. So here’s some link love…

» LUPEC Boston reviews Todd Maul’s new bar menu at Clio, which leaves all previous bar menus at Clio in the dust.  “The 80-plus drinks … run the gamut,” say the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails, “from aperitifs ($9) to drinks for two ($25) to tiki drinks & daiquiris ($13), and feature a blend of pre-Prohibition and modern classics.” Many of the offerings are designed to pair nicely with the raw delights at Uni, the sushi bar adjacent to the Clio bar.

» Speaking of tiki drinks … doesn’t the balmy spring weather make you thirsty for the serious Donn Beach/Trader Vic-style versions of these rum-tastic cocktails? Sure, you can get them on demand at Drink, Eastern Standard and now, of course, Clio, among a smattering of other spots. But could somebody open up a REAL tiki bar in Boston, already? This city was once a tiki mecca, and, well, how ’bout sprucing up down-on-its-luck Downtown Crossing with a ridiculously fun bar? Silvertone and Stoddard’s (yes, it’s finally open!) can’t do it all by themselves. Sheesh.

» Speaking of LUPEC Boston and new joints, one of the Ladies, Jane Robertson (aka Pinky Gonzales), does an astute write-up of Harvard Square’s new Russell House Tavern for Joonbug (which reviewed drinkboston’s Bartenders on the Rise event not long ago). She pretty much echoes drinkboston’s first impressions of the place: it’s got some baggage to overcome, but its bright spots — including the cocktail list and the horseshoe-shaped, marble bar downstairs — make us root for the place.

» Congrats to these talented barmen and women — who work in some of drinkboston’s fave joints — for making the Improper Bostonian magazine’s long-running Boston’s Beloved Bartenders list: Trina Sturm of Trina’s Starlite Lounge, Scott Marshall of Drink, Corey Bunnewith of Coppa and Ned Greene of Hungry Mother.

» Dan Okrent, whose Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition was recently reviewed on drinkboston, will talk about his book at an open-to-the-public lecture at the Boston Athenaeum on May 27. So much material here for us history-minded imbibers — reserve your seat starting May 14. And by the way, yours truly will be serving a Prohibition-era cocktail at the post-lecture reception (which also features wine, beer and cheese from Capone Foods).

» Speaking of alcohol, history and lectures, I’m also attending Boston Beer: a History with Michael Reiskind at the Boston Public Library on May 12. Oh, and speaking of beer, don’t forget that the annual American Craft Beer Fest is coming up at the Seaport World Trade Center June 18-19.

dean-martin-highball» If you like to drive your car to Boston-area bars but don’t want to risk a DUI (or worse) on your way home, Boston’s Designated Driver is a good service to know about. I haven’t tried it out yet and would love to hear from anyone who has — leave a comment, will you?

» Hey, did you know that drinkboston and Trina’s Starlite Lounge are having a Highballs party on Sunday, May 9? Reserve your ticket at 617-576-0006 or info@trinastarlitelounge.com and come party like it’s 1965. See you there!

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Posted in Bartenders, Beer, Booze in the news, Boston bars, Nips | 10 Comments »

April 2nd, 2010

Nips – 4/2/10

mcc-gala-2009

A few items to wet your whistle this month as springtime alternately entices and enrages us like a temperamental lover…

» Cheap drinks. Thank you, Boston magazine, for this article on where to get bargain cocktails around greater Boston. The list features establishments that sell mixed drinks for as little as $5.75 (for a Sazerac at Grendel’s Den in Harvard Square — formidable!) and no more than $10. Many of Boston’s best bars are included, which brings up a good point. I don’t think any of the “craft” cocktail bars in the city charge more than $12 for a cocktail, and several charge less than that. Yes, $12 is a nice chunk of change, but it’s not exactly $15 or $18 or whatever it is that swank nightclubs and hotel bars charge for the privilege of consuming an underchilled vodka martini on their glamorous premises. Generally, the creed of better cocktail bars has been that if you are forking over $10 or more for a drink, it should contain good ingredients (quality spirits, fresh juice, real grenadine, etc.), have balanced flavors (this usually involves measuring), be properly shaken or stirred, and be served with hospitality.

» Bar rules. Patrick Maguire, the blogger behind I’m Your Server Not Your Servant, has published a handy list of 64 Suggestions for Bar Customers. A couple gems: Rule # 12. “If you’re standing in the bar area, be aware that the folks seated at the bar need space too, particularly if they are eating.  It’s annoying for a seated customer to get bumped repeatedly by people standing behind or around them.” Rule # 45. “Don’t ask, Why don’t we get one?, loud enough for everyone to hear when a bartender announces something is on-the-house to someone sitting next to you. There’s a reason why they’re getting a complimentary treat and it’s none of your business.” If Maguire starts circulating photos of habitual offenders like they did in Edwardian England, look out.

» Manhattan Cocktail Classic. For cocktailians, if it’s springtime, it must be World Cocktail Week (May 6-13, 2010). The Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans launched the concept practically in tandem with the museum’s founding in 2005. Basically, MOTAC encourages bars and cocktail enthusiasts to throw a collective, worldwide party in celebration of one of our nation’s greatest inventions. As it tends to do, Manhattan has gone whole hog in this endeavor with the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, which launched in pilot mode last October and is debuting as a full-blown event May 14-18. If you’re planning on going, get your tickets now, as they are expected to sell out quickly. Meanwhile, drinkboston has a little World Cocktail Week party of its own in the works, so stay tuned.

» 19th century pub crawl. I have to admit I’m a bit ruffled that a group of New Yorkers, of all things, has organized a 19th century pub crawl in Boston, of all places. But hey, history is history and drinking is drinking. The crawl, led by the New York Nineteenth Century Society, begins at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 10. It starts and ends with 19th-century cocktails at Eastern Standard and Drink, respectively, and in between hits the Red Hat Café, Union Oyster House and Bell in Hand Tavern. The promo says, “Appropriate nineteenth century attire is encouraged, but by no means required.” Phew, ’cause I think I left my whalebone corset in a cab after drinking too much Fish House Punch.

» It’s official. We exist. Wow, this must be the NYC edition of Nips. The Village Voice has deemed Boston’s cocktail scene “not far behind” New York’s, praising us for our lack of “handlebar mustache and speakeasy aesthetic.” Um … thanks. The bars Drink, Eastern Standard and Craigie on Main and the cocktail supply shop the Boston Shaker all get mentions. Congrats to all!

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Posted in Boston bars, Cocktails, Nips | 4 Comments »

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