Archive for January, 2007

January 30th, 2007

Props from Playboy

In a nice alignment of the stars, both and one of Boston’s best bartenders, John Gertsen, are currently featured on John, principal bartender at No. 9 Park, makes’s list of America’s Top 10 Bartenders. Congrats, John! Well deserved. You can see this guy in action at’s upcoming champagne cocktail party at Green Street.

Another article, Brew Romance, describes 10 top American microbrews selected from votes by a panel of beer experts. That panel included’s publisher, me. Yep, that’s right — it’s not all about cocktails for this imbiber. You can find a few of the Ms. Mug columns I write for the beer newspaper Ale Street News here.

Posted in Bartenders, Beer, Booze in the news, drinkboston in the news | No Comments »

January 26th, 2007

The Alchemist Lounge

Alchemist Lounge logoYou know that when a bar is willing to stick its neck out and make cocktails with egg white, it is serious about drink mixing. John Byrd, a bartender at the Alchemist Lounge (435 S. Huntington Ave. Jamaica Plain), wants to convince customers that egg white is a legit cocktail ingredient, and not some weird, gross thing that people in the olden days used to put in drinks because they didn’t know any better. It’s an uphill battle, but one worth fighting. That’s because anyone who tastes John’s Boston Sour will suddenly get it: egg white, shaken up hard with liquor and ice, lends a soft, fluffy texture that is really pleasant. Egg white does the same thing for drinks that it does for desserts like lemon meringue pie and tiramisu.

The Boston Sour, like most drinks on the Alchemist’s menu, is a variation on a classic, with Benedictine, fresh orange juice and bitters dressing up the whiskey, lemon juice and egg white in the bare-bones version. The Ginger Gimlet naturally consists of gin and lime, only the gin is infused with raw ginger and, instead of Rose’s, a house-made lime cordial is used. The Alchemist’s play on the Sidecar is the Cable Car: house-made spiced rum, triple sec and lemon juice with a cinnamon and sugar rim. You get the idea.

Like many of the city’s great bartenders, John Byrd is a former employee of the B-Side Lounge. He thrives on the combination of speed and craftsmanship he perfected there, and he has a demeanor that’s both upbeat and edgy. One of the Alchemist’s owners, Lyndon Fuller, remembered John from his days at the B-Side and convinced him to tend bar in Jamaica Plain even though he now lives in New York City. John seems unfazed about spending Wednesday through Saturday in Boston and the other half of the week in NYC.

When the Alchemist opened last year, lots of JP residents were up in arms about it replacing a beloved neighborhood bar called Triple D’s. This is a story played over and over in every gentrifying neighborhood in every city in America. Change is hard, and yes, sometimes good watering holes are elbowed aside by yuppie foolishness. But I’m going to be callous and admit I have no lament here because a) I never went to Triple D’s and b) the Alchemist is a good bar. It’s a spacious but warm place with brick walls and polished wood floors. The whole gothic, “alchemy” theme isn’t overly played up. The music is cool (musician, DJ and cocktail historian Brother Cleve walked in, and Lyndon cued up a track from Cleve’s old band Combustible Edison), and there are DJs and/or bands Thursday through Sunday. The food is good — get the wild mushroom flatbread — and pretty cheap (entrées from $8 to $18). And finally, the cocktails are a reasonable $8-$9, there’s a house pale ale on tap that comes from the nearby Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams), and the Boston Herald calls the wine list hip and affordable. Hey, not everybody wants hip, but you can’t go wrong with affordable.

Posted in Boston bars | 2 Comments »

January 19th, 2007

Champagne cocktails at Green Street 2/12/07

Champagne cocktail partyChampagne is special. Cocktails are special. Put the two together and you get something even greater than the sum of its fabulous parts, a champagne cocktail. And I’m not talking about the drink where you drop a sugar cube and some bitters in a glass of champagne (though that is a good drink). I’m talking champagne with booze in it. I’m talking the Seelbach: bourbon, Cointreau, Peychaud’s bitters and Angostura bitters, topped with bubbly. To the uninitiated, that may sound scary, like the liquor equivalent of PCP. But one sip and you realize it’s just the opposite — oh so sophisticated. The champagne mellows the bracing effect of the bourbon and bitters, which in turn give the champagne a dangerous quality. One Seelbach makes you feel like you’re at a lawn party at San Simeon. A few Seelbachs make you feel like you’re in a nightclub balancing glassware on your boobs.

On Monday, February 12, Green Street (280 Green St., Central Square, Cambridge) and will host a party featuring the Seelbach and other champagne cocktails presented by four of Boston’s best bartenders: Dylan Black of Green Street, John Gertsen of No. 9 Park, Misty Kalkofen of Green Street and the B-Side Lounge, and Ben Sandrof of Noir. Tickets are $20 and include four champagne cocktails, passed apps, and the fun of mingling with other imbibers who appreciate an expertly mixed drink and a little cocktail history in one of Boston’s best bars. This 7:00 p.m. event will likely sell out, so order your tickets in advance by calling Green Street at 617-876-1655 or emailing owner Dylan Black at dylanblack (at) verizon (dot) net.

The drinks:

Black Velvet (stout and champagne)
Dylan Black, owner of Green Street
Said to have been created at London’s Brooks Club in 1861 during mourning over Prince Albert’s death. Also called the Bismarck, as the drink was a favorite of German statesman Otto von Bismarck.

Diamond Fizz (gin, lemon juice, powdered sugar, champagne)
Ben Sandrof, bar manager at Noir
A dressed-up gin fizz (which uses seltzer instead of champagne). Similar to the French 75, only it contains less sugar and no garnish.

Bâ‚‚Câ‚‚ (brandy, Benedictine, Cointreau, champagne)
Misty Kalkofen, bartender at Green Street and B-Side Lounge
Misty says this drink was “created by American intelligence officers at the end of WWII. They had all of these wonderful goods that had been looted from the French by the Germans and then left behind during the Germans’ retreat.”

Seelbach (bourbon, Cointreau, Angostura & Peychaud’s bitters, champagne)
John Gertsen, principal bartender at No. 9 Park
Invented at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, circa 1917. The recipe was lost, probably during Prohibition, until being rediscovered by the hotel in 1995.

Posted in Champagne, Cocktails, Events | 2 Comments »

January 12th, 2007

The bar at Radius

Rosemary Gimlet at RadiusRadius, which has been on the short list of Boston’s best restaurants since chef Michael Schlow opened it in 1999, specializes in the kind of contemporary cocktails found in most chic dining spots. That is, cocktails with up-to-the-minute ingredients that change with the seasons, much like the dishes on the menu. Example: the late-summer Family Heirloom, a chilled, straight-up mixture of heirloom tomato water (the colorless, pulpless, pure liquid from an heirloom tomato), Absolut Citron, Absolut Peppar, lemon and lime juice, a splash of simple syrup and a few drops of parsley oil, which form gem-green circles on the surface of the drink. I know: half of you are saying, “Mmmm, delicious,” and half of you are saying, “That’s preposterous.” You’re both right.

Walking into a swanky place like this, you are right to assume that there are professionals working behind the bar. But you also wonder, ‘Will they give me the time of day if I’m not carrying a Prada bag?’ Karen Olson puts those fears to rest. This barwoman has an easy, genuine laugh and readily admits to being a geek; she’s addicted to playing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire on her cell phone. And it doesn’t hurt that she looks like an Ivory girl. Karen moved to Boston from the Midwest several years back and developed her chops where all out-of-towners congregate when they first arrive in Boston — Legal Sea Foods. She eventually made her way to Radius as a bartender and server.

When I ordered a Pink Cashmere (Plymouth gin, Campari, Cointreau, lime, grapefruit soda and muddled black peppercorns over ice), Karen told me that she and her co-bartenders decreed that every Radius cocktail menu include a drink named after a Prince song (the Raspberry Beret preceded the Pink Cashmere, which I’m going to admit I didn’t know was a Prince song). Some of the most frou-frou-sounding drinks here have surprising backbone, like the Floating Cloud: Bacardi light and Myers dark rum, apple cider and Frangelico topped with almond-flavored whipped cream. Lurking underneath the frothy topping is a belt of rum worthy of a sailor.

The Rosemary Gimlet (pictured), an Olson creation, is my favorite drink at Radius: Hendrick’s gin, lime juice, simple syrup and muddled fresh rosemary topped with ginger beer. It’s the perfect balance of “classic” and “creative” mixology. Have one of these with the duck quesadilla, the frites with three dipping sauces … or anything on the menu, really. Radius gets its bar food right with comforting, familiar-sounding dishes that are kicked up to the level of great cuisine.

Posted in Bartenders, Boston bars, Cocktails | 1 Comment »

January 7th, 2007

Cocktails on vinyl

Cugi's Cocktails

Cocktails are prominently featured on lots of vinyl album covers from the ’50s and ’60s, but seldom do they inspire the album title, cover art and entire song list. Good, old Spanish-Cuban bandleader Xavier Cugat took it to the limit with “Cugi’s Cocktails.” Unfortunately, we don’t own this album — Scott found the cover on Retrolounge, and I’m sharing it with you here.

Speaking of sites that satisfy the lounge-o-phile, check out this well-stocked, well-written blog: LoungeTracks — “Rare and out of print vinyl records for your eazy listening pleasure.”

Posted in Cocktails | 1 Comment »