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.

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8 Responses to “Cuchi Cuchi – Best Boston bars”

  1. Sandeep

    By how much of a margin did stirring win?

  2. MC Slim JB

    Well of course you stir Manhattans! But it’s only necessary if you’re including the Angostura bitters (not optional, in my book): most non-potables bitters will turn a shaken drink cloudy. Pretty basic stuff.

    I like Cuchi Cuchi’s ambience and bartending a lot: they were early adopters of muddled fresh fruit in many original cocktails. My only issue is that it’s “so popular no one goes there any more”; it’s virtually impossible to get a seat at the bar, and too cramped a space to stand around in comfortably.

    Just don’t call their food “tapas”. That really gets the owners wound up.

  3. ljclark

    Sandeep: Gosh, I don’t have the details on that one.

    MC Slim JB: Cuchi does include the Angostura bitters in its Manhattans. And yes, like a lot of bars on our Best list, it can be tough to secure a barstool there. That’s why I’ve embraced early weeknight barhopping.

  4. Drinkman112

    Whitney is by far the best bartender to have ever worked in the city of Boston…bar none. She is a hard worker and without her the bar at Cuchi Cuchi would not be as good as it is. I highly recommend her secret Cafe Creole Cocktail, its just what one needs to warm up on a cold Boston night.

  5. ljclark

    Thanks for the tip and the kind words about Miss Whitney, Drinkman112.

  6. SupaG32

    I second the nod to Whitney, she is by far the best bartender in the city of Boston. When I was new to the city, she made my girlfriend and I feel like regulars the first time we stepped up to her bar – and we have been going back ever since. She is a great technical bartender, but her personality puts her over the top. She alone makes Cuchi Cuchi worth a visit!

  7. jacqueline

    LJ – just rediscovered, and linked to, this list. I think this would make a great “to do” list. Or, a Resolution list – I hereby resolve to try one of these “best” bars each month…

    had to comment here: had pisco sour with real egg white here. delicious and I really love that they respect the cocktail rather than bow to mass mania. haven’t been there in ages, due for a visit.

  8. ljclark

    It is in fact the only to-do list in my life that I regularly consult! Yes, the Cuch’ does indeed make a serious cocktail without taking itself too seriously. A good combo.

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