Archive for the ‘Nips’ Category

March 6th, 2010

Nips – 3/6/10

schlitz-boys-1978

If you’re insulted by Men’s Health magazine ranking Boston the soberest city in the nation, get yourself over to the Boston Combat Zone: 1969-1978 photo exhibit at the Howard Yezerski Gallery in the South End. It’ll cheer you up with images of hookers, strippers and guys driving around in muscle cars drinking Schlitz. Hurry — you only have until March 16 to catch the show, which WBUR profiled nicely on the web and the airwaves with A Puritan City’s Experiment in Adult Entertainment.

» Now, about that Men’s Health article. America’s Drunkest Cities ranked Boston the least drunk of 100 metro areas. (Fresno, CA, was ranked the most drunk.) Reactions around town ranged from the fitness-and-moderation crowd giving themselves pats on the back to boozing homeboys lashing out as if Men’s Health had ranked Boston last in penis size. In any case, if the results sound surprising, you’re not alone. I mean, it was only four years ago that Forbes ranked Boston among the top five drunkest cities. You see how things get weird with these surveys when you examine the data on which they’re based.

Men’s Health ranked cities according to “most liver disease, most binge drinking, most deaths in DUI-related crashes, most DUI arrests and least stringent DUI laws.” As some people have pointed out, DUI crashes and arrests would logically be lower in Boston, where many people take public transportation or walk, than in cities where driving is the primary way of getting from bar to bar. Staggering around drunk results in fewer deaths than driving around drunk. But the survey doesn’t appear to correct for those sorts of disparities.

Forbes, meanwhile, looked at “state laws, number of drinkers, number of heavy drinkers, number of binge drinkers and alcoholism.” The problem with statistics like “number of heavy drinkers” and “number of binge drinkers” is that they are derived from self-reporting, which, when it comes to alcohol, is infamously inaccurate.

Why not just look at per-capita consumption of alcohol based on more reliable sources like wine/beer/liquor sales and tax revenue? Well, it seems no one is tallying that data — not at the city level, at least. However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism put out a recent report on per capita alcohol consumption state by state. Massachusetts is in the 4th decile, with the 1st decile representing the highest levels of consumption and the 10th representing the lowest. So, it appears that our state — and its capital, I’m guessing — rank above average in boozing.

Oh, but wait. The report notes that “many factors may result in inaccuracies in estimates of per capita alcohol consumption. For instance, per capita consumption estimates in some States can be inflated by such factors as cross-border sales to buyers from neighboring States.” Hello, New Hampshire! Turns out the Granite State is in the 1st decile. Would Massachusetts’ and New Hampshire’s rankings look different if all the lower-priced liquor that Bay Staters purchased north of the border — not to mention all the drunken crashes on I-93 involving Mass plates — were accounted for? I’m guessing yes.

» OK, I’m done being a wonk. Now back to the fun side of alcohol education. It seems that the Saturday-night bar scene at Lineage in Brookline is worth checking out. From 9:00 – 11:30 p.m., the restaurant’s website tells us, “resident mixologist” Ryan Lotz is exploring the Lineage of the Cocktail by way of mixing up recipes from Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: from the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and Beyond. It’s one of my fave cocktail books, and I’m not just saying that because Haigh mentions me and drinkboston in the revised edition. Each Lineage session features two different drinks in two different sizes (about $5 for the smaller and $9 or $10 for the larger). Call ahead if you want to see what’ll be on the menu: 617-232-0065.

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Posted in Nips | 6 Comments »

January 25th, 2010

Nips – 1/25/10

haiti-barbancourt

» HAITI. Like a lot of people responding to the needs of disaster-striken Haiti, I’ve been texting donations to the Red Cross, over-tipping Creole-speaking cab drivers, and ordering Haitian rum (or rhum) at bars. Recently, Drink joined several bars across the country in fundraising for Haiti by creating a menu of drinks using quality rhums agricoles and donating some of the proceeds to Doctors Without Borders. If you’re near Fort Point this week, pop by and raise a glass to an urgent cause.

» BENEDICTINE. Congrats to Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard for being one of five finalists from around the country in Benedictine Liqueur’s  “Alchemists of Our Age” cocktail contest. The contest, which marked the 500th anniversary of the French herbal elixir, announced its winner earlier this month: Damon Dyer of Louis 649 in New York City. The finalists, along with their cocktails, are featured in the January 2010 issue of Esquire. Check out Boston Herald writer Julia Rappaport’s blog post about Boston bartenders and Benedictine, and Dyer’s and Cannon’s recipes below.

Monte Cassino
Damon Dyer

3/4 part Benedictine Liqueur
3/4 part yellow Chartreuse
3/4 part fresh lemon juice
3/4 part Rittenhouse Rye

Shake, fine-strain into a chilled coupe (or small cocktail glass).  Lemon twist garnish.

Vincelli Fizz
Jackson Cannon

1 egg white
1 1/2 part Benedictine Liqueur
1 1/2 part house-made rose vermouth
1/2 part fresh squeezed lemon juice

Dry-shake above ingredients to emulsify. Add ice and shake again until well chilled. Pour into a coupe glass. Top with 1 ounce Champagne. Garnish with flamed madjool date essence. Proportions to be adjusted as needed for variations in vermouth and citrus.

» IRISH WHISKEY. My friend Lew Bryson, a beer and spirits writer based in PA, recently called to pick my brain about Irish whiskey. We both admitted being confounded over the assertion (made by Spirit Journal editor Paul Pacult, among others) that Irish is the fastest-growing spirits category in the U.S. That’s because neither of us are noticing it being downed in greater-than-usual quantity, at least not in the places we drink. How is all this whiskey being consumed, we asked? As shots alongside a Guinness (my fave method)? On the rocks, like Scotch? In cocktails? We guessed one of the first two, since there just aren’t a lot of cocktails containing Irish whiskey.

I addressed that dearth recently when I brought my brother to Drink for his birthday and introduced him to the fabulous Red Breast, pot-still Irish whiskey. Misty Kalkofen gamely created a cocktail with the stuff, which was delicious and needs a name: 2 1/4 oz Red Breast Irish whiskey, 1/4 oz Punt e Mes, 1/4 oz green Chartreuse, stirred well over ice and strained into a chilled rocks glass.

» ULTIMATE BEVERAGE CHALLENGE. Speaking of Paul Pacult, he is leading the launch of the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, a judging event that aims to evaluate spirits with the “most authoritative, accurate and consistent results.” Part of the overall Ultimate Beverage Challenge, the first-ever spirits challenge takes place March 1-3 at Astor Center in New York City, followed by the Ultimate Cocktail Challenge in April. Check it out.

» SCOFFLAW. Did you know that January 16 was the anniversary of the official coining of the term “scofflaw,” for which the Scofflaw cocktail is named? And that the word came about as the result of a contest held by the Boston Herald in 1923? I didn’t either! It was one of those “I can’t believe I didn’t freakin’ know about this” revelations.

“The Scofflaw drink followed the coining of the actual term by less than two weeks,” writes Ted Haigh in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. “Another invention of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, the cocktail hilariously baited Prohibition sensibilities.” Read more about it in the intro to Robert “DrinkBoy” Hess’ video about the Scofflaw. And thanks to Paul Harrington for being perhaps the first modern drinks writer to mention the history of the word and the cocktail.

» BOSTON DRINKING SOCIALS. Finally, this just in from Stuff Boston: Great Minds Drink Alike: Local booze crews give the term “social drinking” a whole new meaning.

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Posted in Books & resources, Cocktails, Liqueur, Nips, Rum, Whiskey | 17 Comments »

December 30th, 2009

Nips 12/30/09 – the year in drink

2009-year-in-drink

In this last installment of Nips for 2009, let’s consider some of the key developments of Boston’s year in drink.

» Booming business for Boston’s best bars. Probably the pleasantest surprise of the year for imbibers. It’s usually expected that the cream of the crop will thrive, but we’re in the middle of the biggest economic downturn since the Depression, for chrissakes. I know, I know — people drink more when times are tough. But it’s not like we’re talking dive bars, here. And it’s not only existing bars that are doing well. So are some newly opened ones, such as…

» Trina’s Starlite Lounge, Lord Hobo and Woodward. These three fine establishments opened in 2009 for our drinking pleasure. The ’50s-inspired Starlite has quickly become the kind of place that’s like a second living room for denizens of Cambridge and Somerville. It has two full bars to choose from, the vibe is genuinely welcoming and easygoing, the prices are recession-proof, and if you don’t run into someone you know there, then you probably know at least a couple of the bartenders by name.

After months of wrestling with anti-bar curmudgeons from the neighborhood, and amidst much nose-wrinkling over its loony name, Lord Hobo finally opened in the space formerly known as the B-Side Lounge. With a beer list that keeps the likes of the Publick House and Deep Ellum on their toes, serious gastropub fare coming out of the kitchen, and a good-looking cocktail list (albeit one I haven’t tested enough to judge), Lord Hobo has already established itself as a place for serious bargoers.

I’ve only sampled Woodward, in the Ames Hotel, once since previewing it a few months ago. But it’s clear that the place is making a serious attempt to be, for downtown Boston, a rare combo: an upscale tavern with top-notch food; a serious cocktail bar; and a magnet for nightlife. It appeared to be succeeding on all counts when I visited. More study needed.

» Legal Sea Foods discovers real cocktails. One of the most successful restaurant chains to come out of Boston does the right thing by hiring Patrick Sullivan as a beverage czar.

» Boston bartenders get noticed. Some of our best appeared locally on NECN and Chronicle, as well as nationally in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Bon Appetit. Plus, drinkboston appeared in two new books: Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails and Lonely Planet’s Boston City Guide.

» The annual Craft Brewers Conference. It convened in Boston this year, giving a boost to our bona fides as a beer town.

» BarSmarts. Dozens of bar industry people around Boston and New England received top-notch training through this fast-growing program.

» Some positive trends… Tiki. Real tiki drinks could be had regularly at Eastern Standard and Drink, the latter of which had tiki Sundays all summer long. Shared cocktails. The above two spots also raised the profile of punch, one of the most sure-fire ways to put a whole crowd in a good mood. Meanwhile, the Marliave serves FDR martinis by the pitcher. Genius. Bitters. Bitters became more available, and in more flavors than ever before. The Bitter Truth is just one example, and bars continue to have fun making their own. Mezcal. I’m talking about the artisanal stuff, which Del Maguey pretty much single-handedly put on the map around Boston and elsewhere. Look for DM’s brightly colored, folk art-inspired labels at a bar that’s serious about spirits, and order a measure. You won’t look back.

» Last but not least, drinkboston got a stylin’ new design and taught its first class on the history of drinking in Boston. What’s up this blog’s sleeve for 2010? Let’s think about it over drinks.

Happy new year, everyone!

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Posted in Bitters, Boston bars, Nips | 9 Comments »

December 7th, 2009

Nips – 12/7/09

santa-leaving-bar

Here we come a wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a wandering
So fair to be seen.

— Traditional Christmas carol
* * *
We serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don’t need any characters hanging around to give the joint “atmosphere.”

— Nick the bartender, It’s a Wonderful Life

» Clarence the Angel, the character who prompted that famous remark from Nick the bartender by ordering mulled wine, would be pleased with the offerings this Thursday, December 10 at the Franklin Southie (152 Dorchester Ave., South Boston). Drinkboston joins with Kate Palmer (aka Saucy Sureau) of St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and Franklin bev manager/bartender Joy Richard for St. Germain Industry Night. Like the inaugural industry night that featured Fernet cocktails last month, this informal gathering is an enticement for bar and restaurant workers but welcomes non-industry folk alike with signature cocktails, swag and whatever shenanigans ensue. The menu of $6 St. Germain cocktails launches at 8:00, the $1 Island Creek oysters at 9:00. The festivities last ’til closing time at 2:00. Don your reindeer sweater and come on by!

» Patrick Maguire, a regular commenter on drinkboston and a frequenter of Boston restaurants, is on a mission to drum up respect for people in the service industry. He recently launched his own blog, Server Not Servant, and was interviewed in Sunday’s Globe about his mission and its related book project. If you happen to run into him while you’re out on the town, be sure to shake his hand and say hello. Especially if you’re in the service industry — he’s got a questionnaire for you.

» Given that I touched on the topic recently, I was really excited to see an article on Massachusetts’ liquor licensing racket in the latest Boston Magazine. That’s because there isn’t a lot of thoughtful explanation out there on the matter, which looms large over Boston’s drinking culture. “The Drinks Are on Them,” by Jason Schwarz, is about how the law firm of McDermott, Quilty & Miller dominates the city’s liquor licensing. With their success in winning over state and city politicians, the liquor licensing board and persnickety neighborhood associations, “these lawyers are the arbiters of where, and how, we eat in this town,” argues Schwarz. It’s an interesting read, but, in typical Boston Mag fashion, it doesn’t delve nearly deep enough into an issue that deserves a good investigative report. For instance, the article offers up this tidbit: “That’s why a lot of [restaurateurs] boycott the city,” says Charlie Perkins, who brokers restaurant (and liquor license) sales as the head of the Boston Restaurant Group. “You have to pay $200,000 just to serve a drink. A lot of people go to the suburbs.”

Hey, how about an anecdote or two about those restaurateurs who forsook Boston for the ‘burbs? There’s nothing like a sharp-clawed exposé of Boston liquor law to put me in the holiday spirit!

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Posted in Cocktails, Events, Liqueur, Nips | 4 Comments »

November 14th, 2009

Nips – 11/14/09

murry-stenson

Finally, last night, I met Seattle legend and internationally renowned bartender Murray Stenson. What a treat. As I’ve said here before, I’m one of many people nationwide who have encountered Murray’s hospitality from afar, by way of a surprise, complimentary drink delivered by a mutual bartending acquaintance. (I first heard about Murray from one of our city’s best bartenders, Scott Holliday, and was flattered to learn that Murray has been a drinkboston reader from early on.)

Acting as ambassador of the Murray Stenson Fan Club, New England Chapter, I presented him with a book on the history of Boston signed by several of our city’s bartenders — most of whom, like me, have only admired him from afar — plus a bottle of Chartreuse milk punch from the staff at Drink. Murray opened the punch right then and there and poured several shots for patrons at the bar. Then he mixed a few rounds of strong, elegant drinks — doling out some rare treats like the above — for me and my companions, West Coast drink writers Paul Clarke and Charles Munat. I’ll tell you more about Murray and my Seattle bar-hop in a later post.

johnny-bond-10-bottles» Save the date for drinkboston’s next event: Barstool Mountain Monday: Country Drinking Songs and Country Drinks, November 30 at the Independent in Union Square, Somerville. Think southern-style cocktails, shots of bourbon and Lone Star beer flowing to a soundtrack of classic country drinking songs spun by Brother “Taco Brim” Cleve. There’ll be well-known faves like “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Made a Loser Out of Me),” but also lesser-known gems like “Four on the Floor (and a Fifth Under the Seat),” and “She’s Acting Single (I’m Drinking Doubles).” More details to come soon.

» Also this month, swing by the bar at Clio between the 16th and 22nd, when bartender/mixologist Todd Maul celebrates the birthdays of David Embury and William “Cocktail” Boothby. Embury, born in 1886, is the author of the biblical Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. Boothby, born in 1862, was perhaps the best-known bartender just before Prohibition. He plied his trade most notably at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco and authored World’s Drinks And How To Mix Them and The American Bartender.

“We will be serving the Boothby Cocktail, the Casino and two creations from the Clio bartenders. For 10 bucks you get a drink and some rock shrimp,” says Todd, who provided the recipe for his homage to Embury and Boothby below.

Todd Cocktail

2 oz Rittenhouse 100 rye whiskey
1 oz Aperol
1 oz Dolin sweet vermouth
Dash Angostura bitters

Stir over ice, serve straight up.

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Posted in Bartenders, Cocktails, Events, Nips, Seattle | 3 Comments »

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