October 3rd, 2009
» The biggest news for this installment of Nips is the opening of a fun, new neighborhood bar: Trina’s Starlite Lounge in Inman Square, Cambridge (in the former home of the Abbey Lounge — R.I.P.). If the Starlite were a film, its opening weekend would make it a blockbuster. My preliminary review: energetic, funky vibe; a bar and management staff full of heavy hitters who balance skills with a good-time attitude; a somewhat spare-despite-its-retro-decor look; a very wallet-friendly menu of American picnic ‘n’ patio fare; a list of classic- and culinary-inspired cocktails that’s decent but doesn’t knock my socks off (although a rye Manhattan with Carpano Antica did); and a puzzlingly suburban beer list (Coors Light? Blue Moon? However, Reading Lager in cans and a bucket of High Life ponies are a nice touch).
» Two very different booze promotions rolled through town recently. One was for Grand Marnier, at Drink. The other was for The Macallan, at the Cyclorama.
Jeff Grdinich, New Hampshire barman and consultant with aka wine geek (which represents GrandMa), enlisted bartenders/mixologists around Boston to create cocktails featuring the sweet, cognac-based orange liqueur. Basically, GrandMa’s like, ‘Hey, all the cocktail geeks are mixing with Cointreau — we want a piece of the action, too.’ It’s true that a lot of vintage cocktail recipes call for the less syrupy Cointreau for orange flavor. But the mixologists stepped up, and the drinks at this party were for the most part tasty and balanced. I’m partial to one that I’ve written about before: Grdinich’s Root of All Evil. Also check out Cocktail Virgin Slut’s assessment of not only their own Lioness (of Brittany) but also Scott Holliday’s Alicante, Matt Schrage’s Hugo Ball and John Gertsen’s Mission of Burma. Interesting stuff.
Where the GrandMa event was a mingle-friendly, French-themed cocktail fête (co-organized by the saucy broads of LUPEC Boston), the Macallan event was a slick presentation, complete with pulsing club music and moody, black-and-white images of a nude model posing among barrels of aging scotch. Not what I expected, to say the least. Brand ambassador Graeme Russell, whose red tartan pants accented the bizarro atmosphere, told the 150 or so guests about the distillery’s history and methods, including its unusually small copper pot stills and predominant use of sherry barrels (as opposed to bourbon barrels). He talked us through tastes of the 12-, 15-, 17- and 18-year-olds, with the latter two being the most impressive (they retail for about $120 and $150, respectively). The 18-year, aged entirely in sherry barrels, was an ethereal balance of honey, flower and orchard fruit notes with just enough smoke to let you know you were drinking scotch. The 17 was earthier, with an acidic, phenolic character coming from a portion of whiskey that had been aged in bourbon barrels, which are more charred than sherry barrels and produce bolder flavors. Great scotch, weird presentation.
» And now for some literature… Finally, a useful dictionary. Drunk: The Definitive Drinker’s Dictionary just came out, with a record 2,964 terms for, ya know, blotto, plastered and Dean Martoonied. There’s a companion website, too. Once you’ve purchased the tome online, check out Wayne Curtis’ astute, witty profile in Downeast magazine of a Portland, ME, bartender who badly needed profiling: John Myers. We see Myers’ “Wild Bill Hickok” demeanor around Boston now and again, but not enough. Finally, you’re well aware that a brewer for Guinness perfected a statistical method called “small sample theory” in the early 1900s, thus ushering in the modern capability of brewers and other manufacturers to produce tons of product and produce it consistently, right? Oh, you’re not? Well, read this Salon post about how the human thirst for alcohol can lead to great scientific advances.