Archive for May, 2007

May 28th, 2007

Dave Cagle

Cousin Dave Cagle

Bartender profile
Dave Cagle’s tatoo-covered forearms, reticent demeanor and loosely tied black apron may lead the newcomer to think, ‘Uh-oh, I’m not going to get any service from this guy until I go out and get my lip pierced or punch someone in the face.’ But then Dave comes over, politely takes your drink order and mixes up your cocktail without a word or gesture wasted. As you sip your excellent drink, you realize your trepidation was unwarranted. Later, you notice the way he cracks a smile only when genuinely amused, and the calm way he spots you among a crowd as you signal for “one more” — and you find yourself wanting to be a regular member of this guy’s laid-back scene.

Seven years ago, “Cousin” Dave, as he is known, came to town from North Carolina to see the Queers at T.T. the Bears. He and his cousin (the two called one another Cousin while growing up in Fayetteville, Arkansas) had drinks at the B-Side afterward. Dave liked the place — and the Boston-area music scene — so much he moved to Cambridge and started working at the neighborhood-hipster lounge. The only things he misses about the South, he says, are “fishing and people being nice. Southern boys are polite.”

On Thursday nights, Dave brings his southern hospitality to Allston during his shift at the beer and cocktail bar Deep Ellum. Besides B-Side, this is the perfect place for Dave — he likes his bourbon, and whiskey is the unofficial house spirit here.

Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Past bartending jobs
JR’s Lightbulb Club – Fayetteville, Arkansas; The Icehouse, Charlie Browns – Wilmington, NC.

First drink you ever had
A 40 of Old English “800.”

Favorite bar in Boston other than your own
TC’s Lounge.

The drink you most like to make
Old Fashioned.

The drink you least like to make
Anything pink.

What you drink at the end of your shift
Budweiser and bourbon.

If you weren’t a bartender, you’d be…
A hitman.

A bartender’s best friend is…
The barback.

A bartender’s worst enemy is…
Fruit flies.

People drink too much…
Light beer.

People don’t drink enough…

Drink for a hot summer day
Mint Julep.

Drink for a cold winter night
Glass of bourbon.

The best thing about drinking in Boston
There are a good number of great bartenders in this town, so tracking down a well made drink isn’t as tough as it might be in other places.

The worst thing about drinking in Boston
The hangover.

Posted in Bartenders | 3 Comments »

May 26th, 2007

Gin-dig at OM with Charlotte Voisey

Charlotte Voisey

The sun never sets on the British Cocktail Empire. It seems that every week there’s some redcoat cocktail consultant and/or liquor brand representative jetting into Boston and concocting drinks for a promotion party. In the past six months, I’ve met Jamie Walker, brand ambassasor for Bombay Sapphire, Angus Winchester, founder of Alconomics Ltd., and, now, Charlotte Voisey, “brand champion” for Hendrick’s Gin and company mixologist for William Grant & Sons USA. She was in town recently for a Hendrick’s party at OM in Harvard Square.

OK, I’m jealous. Charlotte is young and gorgeous, and she travels around the world promoting gin and mixing cocktails. How the hell do I get a job like that? Apparently by running cocktail bars in Barcelona, Buenos Aires and London, being named UK Bartender of the Year (2004), winning a silver medal at the World Female Bartending Championships (2006), and consulting on cocktail programs at London’s Dorchester Hotel and Manhattan’s Gramercy Park Hotel. That’s what Charlotte did before moving to New York for her current gig.

At the OM event, Charlotte struck me as someone who takes her job seriously but doesn’t take herself too seriously. She wasn’t swanning around the room talking up her brand — she was actually behind the bar mixing drinks with the stuff. Two of her Hendrick’s cocktails stood out for me: the Cucumber Collins and the Rose & Lychee Martini (see recipes below).

Afterward, Charlotte and I were part of a small group that headed downtown to check out the newly opened KO Prime (formerly Spire) in the Nine Zero hotel. We sampled a few nouveau cocktails, some of which were quite good (more on that in another post). Finally on to No. 9 Park, where John Gertsen mixed us up a tasty smorgasbord of spirits, including an elegant mixture of scotch, Lillet and Drambuie whose name escapes me. The drink was fitting, since Charlotte used to represent Glenfiddich and promote scotch-based cocktails. How does a woman represent a scotch brand? “Communicate in terms of flavour and allow for marketing that is not just about golf and celebrating bonuses,” said Charlotte in an Adams Beverage Group interview last year. Yep, she’s alright.

Cucumber Collins
1½ oz Hendrick’s Gin
3 oz cucumber puree
Shake and strain over fresh ice in a Collins glass, garnish with a long cucumber rod.
(To make a batch of cucumber puree: blend 1 cucumber with 3 oz fresh lemon juice and 3½ oz simple syrup.)

Rose & Lychee Martini
1½ oz Hendrick’s Gin
½ oz rose syrup
1½ oz lychee juice
¼ oz fresh lemon juice
Dash egg whites
Dash Angostura bitters
Shake very well and strain up into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an edible flower.

Hendrick’s, with its delicate flavor and rose and cucumber notes, naturally works well in these drinks. I have no idea where to get lychee juice and rose syrup. I’d try Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or Christina’s Spice & Specialty Foods in Inman Sq. Cambridge. Also, you might find lychee juice at Asian markets.

Posted in Boston bars, Cocktails, Gin | 4 Comments »

May 24th, 2007

Book Review – The Joy of Drinking

Joy of Drinking - book

By Scott N. Howe

In days gone by, people drank booze because drinking pretty much anything else would kill them. This may sound scary but, believe you me, our ancestors made the best of this bad situation. They built villages around beer, formed churches on wine, raised armies with rye. Our founding fathers even wrote the U.S. Constitution in between epic sessions of whiskey, wine, and cider intake.

This all may be hard to comprehend in our modern era of $12 appletinis sipped while sending text messages to clients from a booth at the back of a theme bar. Still, understanding how we got from there to here can teach valuable lessons to today’s tippler. Fortunately, author Barbara Holland has collected these lessons in a small but tasty new tome, The Joy of Drinking.

Holland explains how booze has been part of all the world’s cultures since the world started developing cultures. Everywhere and forever, people have been picking the local fruits, vegetables, nuts, and flowers and concocting soul-soothing, mind-expanding potables. She calls drink “the social glue of the human race,” and claims that “(N)o major civilization ever arose from a land of water drinkers.” As such, she cannot abide prohibitionists or coffee achievers, and she heaps special scorn on modern health nuts with their plastic water bottles and desperate commitment to wellness. Holland also takes a few shots at know-it-all drink snobs. “(I)n the metropolitan haunts of the highly sophisticated,” she snarls, “the cocktail is no longer an instrument of friendship but a competitive fashion statement, or one-upmanship.” Ouch.

Instead, she lavishes high praise on elegantly sloshed icons like Nick and Nora Charles of the Thin Man movies and wistfully wonders what it might have been like to down a few tankards with Bill Shakespeare and his literary pals at the Mermaid Tavern. Holland even devotes an entire chapter to the hangover, reporting that for much of history, the morning after was nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, a bad hangover was once a sign of worldly sophistication and social cachet!

If you’ve ever felt guilty (even a little bit), about your drinking habits, then pick up The Joy of Drinking immediately. In a few short pages, you’ll realize, dear drinker, that you are part of an ancient and noble tradition, one that links you to the great leaders, the great artists, and the just-plain-folks who have made life worth living since the dawn of time. In fact, in a few short pages, your inhibitions will disappear, a warm glow will encase you, and all will be well.

Posted in Books & resources | No Comments »

May 21st, 2007

B-Side, Kalkofen, Cannon get recognized

The B-Side Lounge made Esquire’s list of Best Bars in America this year. Here’s what the magazine’s drinks scribe, David Wondrich, said about the place:

B-Side Lounge
Cambridge, Massachusetts
You’re having: A Last Word (Chartreuse, gin, and lemon juice)
Improbable. Dingy, cavernous surroundings, college-professor food (like baked Gouda), and a mighty cocktail list packed with obscure classics and rare ingredients, with bartenders who know how to use them.

Um… Improbable? Dingy? Cavernous? College-professor food? Maybe. A New Yorker’s passing take on a Cambridge bar? Definitely.

Green Street bar manager (and ex-B-Sider) Misty Kalkofen gets no such back-handed praise in Christine Liu’s latest article for the Weekly Dig, “The Incredible Imbibable Egg.” Christine was quite taken with Misty’s special Easter menu of vintage, egg-fortified cocktails. It’s nice to see both Misty (one of Boston’s best bartenders) and the misunderstood but delicious drinks she champions get some press.

Speaking of egg cocktails and press, I can’t leave out Jackson Cannon, who added several egg-laced classics to Eastern Standard’s drink menu recently. (I advise all of Boston’s burliest, toughest guys to go in an order a Pink Lady.) He was also featured recently in Stuff@Night’s “Players” issue and the Improper Bostonian’s annual “Boston’s Beloved Bartenders” issue. I can’t endorse either the ridiculous, showbiz concept of “players” or a list of bartenders who specialize in vodka drinks (not to mention cleavage), but I’m glad Jackson got the ink.

Posted in Bartenders, Booze in the news, Boston bars | 2 Comments »

May 17th, 2007

Cuchi Cuchi – Best Boston bars

Cuchi Cuchi - divaEstablished: 2001
Specialty: Cocktails, wine
Prices: Moderate to high
Atmosphere: Frilly, cheeky, 1920s-era glamour with a European sense of leisure. Picture Mae West’s dressing room crossed with a Belle Epoque nightclub, except that the debauched bon vivants are replaced by upwardly mobile Boston-area professionals.
See Best Boston bars for address and contact info.

Named after Spanish guitarist-siren Charo‘s favorite exclamation, Cuchi Cuchi is a frivolous bar in a serious town. That’s the key to its success. Partners Fernanda Da Silva and Tamara Bourso took their saucy, romantic concept and ran with it. Antique silk lampshades with fringes, “bottoms up” shots in provocative glassware, and servers dressed in vintage gowns make Cuchi Cuchi unlike any other Boston bar.

But this place isn’t just about looks; they’re serious about their drinks. The menu has two main sections: Cuchi Cocktails and Vintage Cocktails. Fresh fruit is used for juices and purees. The Cuchi Cocktails are on the festive, “feminine” side. Examples: the Mango Margarita and Salome’s Potion (muddled blackberries, basil, Hendricks gin). Purees and muddled fruit & herbs make for thick and/or chunky drinks that delight some people and befuddle others.

Among the Vintage Cocktails are the Pegu Club (gin, Curaçao, lime juice, orange bitters, Angostura bitters), the Jack Rose, the Delicious Sour (applejack, peach brandy, lime juice), and the marvelous Last Word (gin, maraschino liqueur, Chartreuse, lime). The bar staff, led by senior bartender Whitney Kimunya, regularly venture off the cocktail menu for customers, whether the request is for a Mojito or a Manhattan. (Serious cocktailians will be pleased to know that a recent staff meeting tackled the question of shaking vs. stirring Manhattans, and stirring won.) Drinks cost $9-$11.

The food here is a consistently well-executed smorgasbord of international “small plates,” from Beef Stroganoff to Scallop Ceviche. And don’t even get me started on the Garlic Shrimp, which is as succulent in its little sizzling clay bowl as it is at Cuchi Cuchi’s sister restaurant Dali in Somerville.

Cuchi Cuchi is not for everyone. I have friends who think it’s all just a bit too frou-frou. Oh, it’s frou-frou, alright. But if you can embrace that, this bar is a lot of fun.

Posted in Boston bars, Cocktails | 8 Comments »