Archive for March, 2007

March 16th, 2007

Poor St. Patrick

The man was a saint, and this is how we celebrate him: Last year on St. Patrick’s Day, I went to Bukowski Tavern in Cambridge because I knew it wouldn’t be as crowded as an Irish pub and there would be no deedle-ee-dee music. I just wanted a few beers. As the place started to fill up, a line for the toilets formed. I took my place in the girls’ line, which was face to face with the boys’ line. At one point, the men’s room opened up, and the guy who was next turned to a damsel in drunken distress and made her an offer: “You take the toilet, I’ll take the sink?” In they both went, as the horrified and amused people who remained in line visualized the scenario. The peeing couple came out a minute later, and the men’s room door once again swung open invitingly. Having just witnessed a great new way to impress a lady, the next guy in line turned to the girl facing him and simply gestured as if to say, ‘Well, how ’bout it?’ With an ‘are you kidding’ expression, she answered, “I don’t think so,” thus mercifully nipping this custom in the bud.

Posted in Beer, Boston bars | 3 Comments »

March 15th, 2007

El Presidente

Maine-based journalist Wayne Curtis is an understated and witty writer who can tell a solid yarn about a cocktail’s history. He wrote this article, about “tracking a lost Cuban cocktail to its lair,” for Lost magazine. Here’s the recipe for El Presidente, verbatim from the article:

Over ice in a tall mixing glass, pour:

1-1/2 oz. rum
3/4 oz. curacao
3/4 oz. dry vermouth
1/2 tsp of grenadine

Stir well with ice for three or four minutes, then strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel twist.

Posted in Booze in the news, Cocktails, Rum, Vermouth | 5 Comments »

March 8th, 2007


John Byrd of the Alchemist

Thanks to all you pisco-loving fools who ventured out into the arctic air last night to join at the Alchemist Lounge for pisco cocktails and Peruvian dance beats. There was a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on behind the bar as John Byrd and Nicky Poirier whipped up nine(!) different drinks using pisco from Macchu Pisco, a small producer of the grape-based spirit. My fave mixtures were the nicely sweet-n-sour Peruvian Americano (pisco, apple liquor, falernum, lemon), the elegant and refreshing Cucumber Pisco Martini (pisco, cucumbers, simple syrup), and the Pisco Punch (see recipe below), which was as soft and sweet as a spring breeze — something we all longed for last night.

Thanks to DJ Brother Cleve for the excellent tunes and to Alchemist owners Relena Erskine and Lyndon Fuller for offering up their lounge as the evening’s venue. If you want to get on the mailing list for events, email drinkboston (at) comcast (dot) net.

The Pisco Punch recipe, direct from John Byrd: “We took 2 bottles of pisco, 1 can of pineapple juice, .25c of simple syrup, 1 whole pineapple chopped and one big splash of falernum. We let it sit for 4 hours and shook [each serving] up with an egg white. After the party we added grape halves & some very inexpensive California champagne, and that was very good!” Served in a double rocks glass over ice.

Posted in Events, Pisco | 6 Comments »

March 6th, 2007

The Saratoga

When Esquire drinks writer David Wondrich made a guest appearance behind the bar at Eastern Standard a couple of weeks ago, he mixed a drink I’d never had before: the Saratoga. Equal parts cognac, rye and sweet vermouth, the Saratoga is one of those cocktails that flies in the face of the number-one rule you were taught during your formative drinking years: do not mix your spirits. Cognac and rye? Mixed together in the same glass? Run and hide!

No, don’t. Try it. It’s one of those drinks whose seemingly simple ingredients and proportions form something eye-openingly new. Here’s the recipe, along with the brands of liquor Wondrich used that evening. Note: he colored outside the lines with the bitters he used — a Peruvian brand that Eastern Standard happened to have lying around. They were a bit funky.

Saratoga Cocktail
1 oz cognac (Hine)
1 oz rye (Rittenhouse 100-Proof)
1 oz sweet vermouth (Martini & Rossi)
2 dashes Angostura bitters or other aromatic bitters, such as Fee’s Old-Fashioned
Stir well with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and twist a lemon peel over the top.

If you order this in a bar, be sure to specify that it’s the above version you want. There are several other cocktails named Saratoga, and they tend to involve maraschino liqueur and/or pineapple syrup.

Posted in Brandy, Cocktails, Vermouth, Whiskey | 1 Comment »

March 1st, 2007

Fernet Branca – Jäger for men

Fernet BrancaIn certain Boston bars, if you see a group of people drinking shots of brown liquid poured from a dark green bottle, the people probably work in a restaurant and the liquid is probably Fernet Branca. Fernet (fer-NETT), as devotées call it, is among the broad range of intense, botanical-infused spirits classified as bitters. These include highly concentrated potions administered to drinks by the drop (Angostura, Peychaud’s, orange bitters) and herbal spirits that you can drink straight or base cocktails on (Campari, Aperol, Jägermeister, Fernet). Fernet is made in Italy with 27 different herbs (one of them, gentian root, will be recognizable to anyone familiar with Angostura bitters or Moxie) and is aged in oak casks for a year.

Fernet most often gets compared to Jägermeister, the German bitters that became so popular 15 or 20 years ago that it marketed its own chiller-dispenser to bars (yeah, it’s that rectangular metal box with the stained plastic tubes sticking out of it, right next to the Apple Pucker). However, it makes the sweeter, slightly lower-in-alcohol Jägermeister seem suitable for children. Jackson Cannon, bar manger at Eastern Standard, calls it “Jäger for men.” The first time you taste Fernet, it literally assaults your senses. It’s intensely bitter, peppery and mentholated. ‘I can’t believe I just swallowed that,’ may be your first thought. But, intrigued, you try it again. You like that cleaned-out buzz, that feeling that your insides have been sandblasted. The next thing you know, you’re working in a restaurant.

Why do waiters, bartenders and chefs gravitate toward this stuff? Well … It’s a badass drink that very few people know about, much less like. Drinking it conveys both that you have an advanced palate and that you embrace the ridiculous. And it’s the antithesis of all the insipid Cosmopolitans and Grey Goose martinis that restaurants churn out to earn their rent money.

I’m not sure when Fernet became the de rigueur libation among restaurant industry personnel and their companions. Many drink trends move from the West Coast to the East Coast, and San Francisco is by far the U.S. capitol of Fernet consumption. Check out SF Weekly’s detailed treatment of San Fran’s Fernet obsession, “The Myth of Fernet.”

Bostonians appear to have entered the race, though. Eastern Standard, Green Street, the Independent and Deep Ellum all serve cocktails made with Fernet. Jackson claims that Eastern Standard is the leader in sales. “It’s impossible that another account in Mass. is even close to ES!” I’m not going to argue with him; I was at Eastern Standard recently with a group of bartenders for whom mere shots of the liquor wouldn’t do; they ordered a whole damn bottle. Granted, they shared it with the kitchen staff.

Posted in Bitters | 9 Comments »