Archive for November, 2007

November 29th, 2007

The most fun I ever had at a library

Boston Athenaeum Speakeasy Party

Last night, the Boston Athenaeum, one of America’s oldest private libraries, threw a Roaring Twenties party for some of its members with the help of drinkboston. There was a password to get in (“Gatsby sent me”), a secret entrance to the Periodicals Room where the festivities were held, a jazz band, cucumber sandwiches and, naturally, vintage cocktails (see below). Also, every attendee was handed an antique playing card; the game was to find the other partygoer with the same card and write something down about that person in the guest book. In the end, a man in a smoking jacket tried to bribe the fuzz who raided the speakeasy, but nothing doing — they sent us off to where we belonged: the 21st Amendment.

The party was thrown for the Athenaeum’s “associate members” (aka members 41 and under), some of whom, like me, helped plan the shindig. Not surprisingly, I was in charge of making sure we had quality hooch. Enter some of Boston’s best bartenders — John Gertsen, Misty Kalkofen and Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli — and the signature cocktails they created just for the event. One of those drinks, the Red Rot Cocktail, was specially commissioned by the Athenaeum as an homage to book restoration. That’s right — many of the library’s old, red leather book covers suffer from “red rot,” a pinkish mildew whose remedy is a chemical solution known as “red rot cocktail.” The recipes below appear as I wrote them for the party’s program, in a style cribbed straight from Prohibition-era bon vivant Charles Baker, who wrote the Gentleman’s Companion.

The Athenaeum is trying to get the word out to potential younger members that you don’t have to be a Mayflower descendant to join. All you need is four references and $115 for a one-year associate membership. If you have even the faintest interest in history or are simply proud to say you live in Boston because of its intellectuals, join up and see how you like it. The recently restored building is gorgeous, there’s fine art all over the place, there are tons of events, and the items in the Special Collections are damned impressive. George Washington’s library? Yeah, it’s there. And they throw a smashing party, too.

Red Rot Cocktail, which Rather Resembles the Noxious Liquid Medicine for Moldy Red Leather-bound Books but Nonetheless Pleases the Palate

To one jigger of London dry gin add one half ounce each of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, Cherry Heering and fresh lemon juice, and two goodly dashes of Peychaud’s bitters. Shake vigorously with ice and turn into a champagne saucer. (Created by Misty Kalkofen of Green Street and Lauren Clark of drinkboston)

Foglia Noce (Walnut Leaves), being a Mixture Inspired by the Marconi Wireless and Evocative of Tuscan Autumns and Colonial Taverns

Into a bar glass turn two and one-half ounces of applejack, one ounce of Nocino and two judicious dashes of Fee’s Whisky Barrel Aged Bitters. Stir with lump ice, strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass and finish with orange oil. (Created by John Gertsen of No. 9 Park)

Flowers for Murphy, being a Bracing and Bubbly Homage to Prince and Princess of the Jazz Age Gerald and Sara Murphy, who Inspired us with a Mixture Called the Bailey

Lightly chill one jigger of London dry gin, three-quarters ounce of simple syrup, a split of lime and grapefruit juices to equal another three-quarters ounce, and one-quarter ounce of green Chartreuse. Turn the mixture into a champagne saucer and top it with bubbly and a small mint leaf. (Created by Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli of Eastern Standard)

Posted in Applejack, Bitters, Champagne, Cocktails, Events, Gin | 7 Comments »

November 27th, 2007

The Moto Guzzi

Moto Guzzi

The first time I tried a Moto Guzzi, I had no idea that all it was was equal parts Booker’s bourbon* and Punt e Mes. I thought there were at least some bitters in there, or two kinds of vermouth. Nope. Turns out the Moto Guzzi is the White Stripes of cocktails: like the guitarist and drummer that make up the entire band, the two ingredients in the cocktail create something raucous, deep and compelling. You can find the complete recipe here.

Moto Guzzi is an Italian motorcycle manufacturer established in 1921. It’s famous for its eagle logo, its racing achievements, and its cool bikes. Kevin Montuori, a motorcycle enthusiast and regular at No. 9 Park, invented this cocktail with 9 Park’s principal bartender, John Gertsen. This is their story.

John: “One fuzzy night at the bar at No. 9 … Kevin Montuori and I were discussing the possibility of using Booker’s in a cocktail. Given the alcohol content, we discussed manhattans and the various ratios. It seemed like Booker’s could support as much vermouth as we could give it. With all that vermouth the Angostura bitters sorta disappeared. Enter, stage right: Punt e Mes. It was perfect. I was thinking of some Manly Italian Name, and Kevin is a motorcycle/scooter aficionado. Somehow Moto Guzzi was brought up. It probably sounded more like ‘mrtigtzy’ after all of that Booker’s. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

Kevin: “That’s it exactly. I always remember the amount of restraint it takes to make one: no bitters, no lemon oil spritzed over the top. Just the Punt e Mes and Booker’s. And it really was ‘mrtigtzy’ after a couple. The name was, if I recall, also influenced by the texture, which is sort of like used engine oil. Certainly one of my favorite drinks. Damn, now I’m thirsty.”

*From the Small Batch website: Booker’s is 6-8 year-old bourbon, 121-127 proof (uncut, straight from the barrel). “Big oak, vanilla, smoky charcoal” aroma. “Intense, fruit, tannin, tobacco” taste.

Posted in Cocktails, Vermouth, Whiskey | 1 Comment »

November 21st, 2007

Suffering bastards

Waitiki at Pho

I’m guessing that the poor individual who inspired the name of a famous tiki drink is what the bar staff of Pho Republique felt like the morning after Sunday night’s wildly popular Beantown Sippin’ Safari with tiki guru Jeff “Beach Bum” Berry. The Bum came up from Asheville, NC, to re-introduce Bostonians to a genre of cocktail considered to be extinct except as a lingering artifact in those mausoleums of a lost era known as Polynesian restaurants.

And so it was that I had my first authentic Navy Grog (light and dark rum, fresh lime and grapefruit, allspice syrup), sipped through a straw stuck into a tall cone of crushed ice. The Bum gave an enlightening slide presentation of old menus, matchbooks and postcard photos from long-defunct tiki restaurants in eastern Massachusetts — I had no idea how many of these establishments there were — and Waitiki played trippy, sexy live exotica, which I had previously only heard on records at hipster cocktail parties.

Me and the BumThe supply of crushed ice cones seemed endless, which was a good thing, because the place was packed. This might have had something to do with the fact that the admission price for the event, which started out at $75, was smartly dropped to zero. Someone calculated correctly that brisk sales of $9 tiki drinks would cover the costs of the Sippin’ Safari. The event revealed a surprising thirst for tiki, not only among Bostonians but among visitors representing a resurgence in this culture that has been going on for several years now. I met a tikiphile who flew in from San Francisco just for the event.

OK, so there might have been a few glitches. Maybe the bar neglected to order enough Bacardi 151, so maybe there weren’t enough Zombies to go around. And maybe the dim sum was passed around a little too late, given the strength of the libations. But there was plenty of Navy Grog. And I got to meet not only the Bum, but my fellow drinks blogger Scott Steeves of Scottes Rum Pages. All on a cold Sunday night in the middle of November. If the opportunity presented itself, I’d go on Safari again.

Posted in Cocktails, Events, Rum | 1 Comment »

November 17th, 2007

The TV segment, the Marconi Wireless recipe

For those of you who saw the segment on NECN’s Chet Curtis Report, here’s the recipe for the Marconi Wireless, the cocktail I demo’d on the show:

1 1/2 oz applejack
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters

Stir all ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a cocktail glass.

The reason I chose this cocktail is that, since it uses America’s oldest native distilled beverage — applejack — it is the perfect thing to celebrate one of our oldest holidays, Thanksgiving. Appearing as a founding member of LUPEC Boston and the publisher of, I mixed this drink on the air. And there were no major spills. Here’s my original post about this interesting drink. Cheers!

Posted in Applejack, drinkboston in the news | 8 Comments »

November 16th, 2007

Boston cocktails, old and new

Shiver cocktail - Chez Henri

A while ago, in a post called Forgotten Boston cocktails, I promised to compile a list of cocktails that either originated in Boston or had ‘Boston’ in their name. I’m making good on that promise and adding two more pages to ‘Boston cocktails – old‘ and ‘Boston cocktails – new.’ I have been inspired to take on this task lately because of the recent proliferation of new Boston cocktails. Bartenders all over the city are flexing their mixology muscles and coming up with new recipes inspired by classics. So, even though the Ward Eight is still Boston’s most famous cocktail, who knows if that’ll be the case 20 years from now, when recipes for the Jaguar and the Shiver take the country by storm?

The Shiver is a brand new drink invented by Rob Kraemer, bartender at Chez Henri. Here’s how he describes the origins of his mixture of Campari, Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir and fresh grapefruit juice garnished with an orange twist:

“Called it that ’cause there was a few-week spell this summer where I would make it, or some variation of it, for the chef [Paul O’Connell] and me at the end of a night. Real hot few weeks. He’d been standing next to the fire of the grill all night, and the AC was barely winning the war in the bar, and we both wanted something super cold and clean to finish the night. Did them over crushed ice — which I think I should start asking people if they want it that way — hence the name Shiver.”

Posted in Cocktails | No Comments »