Good god, y’all, I know it’s been a while. This broad’s been working like a dog at the old day job. Work is the curse of the drinking classes, as Oscar Wilde said. Actually, like a lot of famous quotes, this one’s provenance is not verifiable. The quote does not appear in any of Wilde’s writings; rather, it was attributed to him by his friend and biographer Frank Harris in Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions. It was allegedly uttered in the context of Wilde’s snarky comment about the acting profession over dinner at the Savoy in the 1890s:
It seemed to him a great pity that actors should be taught to read and write: they should learn their pieces from the lips of the poet. “Just as work is the curse of the drinking classes of this country,” he said laughing, “so education is the curse of the acting classes.”
» Project Savoy. Speaking of the Savoy, I recently got word from fellow blogger Erik Ellestad that he is but 50 recipes away from mixing all 750 cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, published by the hotel in 1930. I reported on the beginning of this quest back in ’07. What fun to go back and read that post, as it records when I first became aware of Josey Packard, one of Boston’s best bartenders. (Fun fact: my shout-out in that post to Josey, who lived in San Francisco at the time, resulted in an email from her very shortly thereafter. A year later, she was working at Drink in Boston.) Erik, I do hope you’re planning a wrap party when you finally hit the finish line!
» Boston barkeeps on TV. OK, leave it to a Bostonian to put books before TV, but here’s some big news: not just one, but two Boston bartenders are, right this moment, in Los Angeles taping the third season of On the Rocks: The Search for America’s Top Bartender. Trina Sturm of Trina’s Starlite Lounge and Bill Codman of Woodward Tavern are competing against six other bartenders from around the country for the “top bartender” title and a grand prize of $100,000. Yowza! OK, so it’s a bit of a cheesy reality show sponsored by Absolut Vodka, but how can you not root for our hometown talent?
I spoke to Trina before she boarded a plane for the West Coast to see how she felt about the whole thing. She was both nervous and confident. “I’m sure of my bartending abilities, but what about when cameras are on me? The caliber of the bartenders is good this year. I don’t know how I’ll stack up against them. I know there are people better in certain aspects [of bartending], but the whole package? That’s me.” Episode 1 airs October 30 after Saturday Night Live … but not in Boston, unfortunately. So, fans of Trina and Bill will have to gather ’round the computer monitor and watch it on the web. Here’s a big, Beantown best-of-luck to both!
»”Tiki” sculpture. Hey, are you looking for a really, really special gift for the tiki enthusiast in your life or for someone who appreciates useful sculpture? Then check out these expressive, one-of-a-kind, glazed-clay vessels that are kind of a cross between tiki mugs and “grotesques” carved into medieval cathedrals. The artist is Jim McDonough of North Carolina, who, perhaps not surprisingly, is a plastic surgeon who has performed many facial-reconstruction surgeries. He also happens to be the father of Boston poet and sometime Russell House bartender Jill McDonough. The sculptures/mugs are for sale at the Boston Shaker.
Well, I’m off for a little vacation in France. Stay tuned for a post on Chartreuse and other Gallic liquid delights.
Trina Sturm is a cross between a sexy stew in a Mad Men episode, a kindhearted biker-gang chick, and a diner waitress who calls you “hon” and magically appears whenever your coffee needs a warm-up. It’s a formidable combination that has won loyal fans all over the city.
Trina is the namesake of Trina’s Starlite Lounge, the bar that she and her husband Beau dreamed of owning over the many years they spent working the stick in others’ establishments. At nightclubs like CityBar, Trina learned the all-important skills of speed and diplomacy. At the Beehive she was among an all-star cast of ‘tenders who graced the opening of that artsy jazz club, and at Silvertone she meshed with owner Josh Childs’ laid-back hospitality — meshed with it so well, in fact, that they are now business partners.
As Trina sees it, she has got it made. “I work with the biggest workaholics. I consider myself smart — I just come in and bartend.” And that’s a very good thing for anyone who occupies a stool at the Starlite, especially on the parlor side, where Trina particularly shines. With efficiency and perfect posture, she exerts a den mother’s control over the chaos, at the same time taking a moment to banter with guests. She’s not a mixologist, but rather a bartender who can mix a good drink — whether it’s an Old Overholt Manhattan with a twist or a candy cane-infused brandy. And as professional as she appears, you just know there’s going to be dancing on the bartop after hours.
Past bartending jobs
CityBar, Silvertone, Beehive.
Favorite bar in greater Boston other than your own
Favorite bar in or near your neighborhood
If you weren’t a bartender, you’d be…
The drink you’d like to serve more of
The drink you’d like to serve less of
Ramos Gin Fizz.
A famous person you’ve served
A famous person you’d love to see walk into your bar
Garrett Dutton III, better known as G. Love.
A bartender’s best friend is…
The best thing about drinking in Boston is...
Being served by friends.
The worst thing about drinking in Boston is…
Beings over-served by friends.
Specialty: cocktails, High Life
Prices: Low to moderate
Atmosphere: Retro but not kitschy. Top-notch hospitality without the VIP price tag. Unofficial motto: Be yourself and have a good time. See Best Boston bars for address and contact info.
Remember those cool kids in high school or college who got along with everyone and threw the best parties? They grew up and opened a bar called Trina’s Starlite Lounge (3 Beacon St., Somerville).
Josh Childs, Trina and Beau Sturm, and Jay Bellao have collective decades of experience tending bar in Boston, and Childs is still co-owner of one of Boston’s most beloved establishments, Silvertone. This group’s level of hospitality is right up there with the city’s top-notch dining rooms, but VIP treatment at the Starlite comes dressed in T-shirts and tattoos and for the price of a hot dog and a High Life. And it comes without anyone looking harried; the staff often seems to be having as good a time as their guests. Many of those guests, in fact, are fellow restaurant industry folk who made this bar a favored haunt almost immediately after it opened in September 2009. The Starlite’s Industry Brunch on Mondays is testament to the goodwill between Childs, Sturm, Ballao & Co. and their colleagues. (Monday brunch is open to the general public, too.)
The drink list changes seasonally and tilts more toward accessibility than artisanal purity. That said, it doesn’t dumb things down. Even cocktail geeks can find items that grab them, like the Tony Montana (Pyrat rum, Benedictine, Carpano Antica, orange bitters, $9). Also, the bartenders have the skills — along with the quality spirits and house-made mixers — to accommodate off-menu requests. As for beer, High Life has the kind of cult status at the Starlite that PBR enjoyed a few years ago. You can even order it by the bucket (five pony-sized bottles for $11). Blessedly, there are a few craft beer options (Stone Pale Ale, Saison Du Pont) for those times when you want a brew that doesn’t taste like melted Crayons. The wine list is decent, too, and the food is classic American comfort fare like fried chicken and buttermilk waffles, homemade soup and the wacky DOTD (dog of the day).
Oh, another good thing about the Starlite, besides its affordability, is that there are two separate bars and dining areas with two distinct personalities. For all the regulars who have adopted this lounge as their living room away from home, this is a great way to mix things up.