August 28th, 2009

Nips – 8/28/09


Liquors launched. Bols Genever and Absolut Boston launched in Beantown recently. You will see the former at the city’s best cocktail bars. You will see the latter everywhere else.

Genever is an old Dutch spirit that, while it gave birth to modern-day, London dry gin, is in its own category. You could call it the whiskey drinker’s white spirit. It’s made with malted grain, same as whiskey, so it has a depth of flavor even before botanicals are added. If you want to time travel back to the days when Jerry Thomas was mixing up Improved Holland Gin Cocktails, this is your vehicle. Cocktail Virgin Slut and C. Fernsebner of the Bostonist both did fine writeups of the Bols Genever launch party at Drink.

As for Absolut Boston, what can I say? It’s from the benchmark vodka brand whose brilliant marketing made it an icon and launched the category of premium vodka into the stratosphere. It’s part of a series of special-edition flavors inspired by cities, in our case black tea (historically apt) and elderflower (currently trendy). It’ll sell like gangbusters.

bartender-raceBartenders on the move. Wow, where to begin? With the ladies — the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails, that is. Joy Richard (aka Bourbon Belle) left her longtime gig managing Tremont 647 to manage and work the bars at both Franklin Cafes (South End and Southie). She is kicking cocktails up to a new level at these beloved neighborhood spots. Emma Hollander (aka Hot Toddy) also left Tremont 647 and will christen the shakers at Trina’s Starlite Lounge in Cambridge (where the Abbey used to be), whose soft opening should begin next week.

Now for the men. Andy “Hunter S. Thompson” McNees is moving from Green Street in Central Square to Toro in the South End. His esteemed colleague Nathan Bice (aka “just Bice”) is heading slightly northwest to Highland Kitchen in Somerville. Speaking of Highland Kitchen, I should also mention that Claudia Mastrobuono is leaving the bar there to go back to school. I’ll miss her skills and no-nonsense attitude. Meanwhile, joining Dylan Black and Emily Stanley behind the bar at Green Street are Colin Kiley, lately of Central Kitchen, and Joel Mack, lately of Deep Ellum in Allston (and Redbones before that). And to complete the circle, Patrick Sandlin just stepped behind the bar at Deep Ellum after managing Bukowski in Boston. Finally, Ben Sandrof will no longer be working behind the bar at Drink — or any bar at all for that matter (sniff). But he’ll remain a key figure in Boston’s booze world with his new career in wholesale at M.S. Walker. Whew! That was dizzying. If I’m missing anyone, let me know.

Manhattan & Montreal. If you missed Tales of the Cocktail and have a hankerin’ to schmooze and booze with fellow cocktailians from around the globe, you should get tickets to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Fall Preview on October 3 and 4. This is a mini-conference to prep for a larger event in May, and, given the buzz I’ve heard, it could be a quick sellout. The details are still vague, but all you really need to know is that these are the organizers. Oh, I hear there are a few good cocktail bars in Manhattan, too. Tickets go on sale Labor Day weekend. Book your hotel now. Speaking of Tales and Manhattan, read On the Rocks, It’s a New Landscape in the New York Times if you haven’t already.

As for Montreal, I’m seeking news rather than reporting it. Specifically, does anyone know of any connections between the bar/restaurant scene in Montreal and the bar/restaurant scene in Boston? Like, Boston bar owners who are from Montreal, Boston bars that are using ice wine from Quebec, or dedicated barflies who divide their lives between the two cities… Anyone?

Permalink | Filed under Bartenders, Books & resources, Booze in the news, Cocktails, Gin, Nips, Vodka, Whiskey | Tags: , ,

15 Responses to “Nips – 8/28/09”

  1. fionadaisy

    We miss Claudia already 🙁

  2. Lis Riba

    Don’t know of any Montreal pro connections, but if you’re heading up that way, (a) be sure to try some of the local ice ciders (yum!), and (b) download a copy of this restaurant guide prepared for Worldcon (earlier this month). Every meal we had while we were there was excellent, and I credit Jo’s restaurant guide for steering us right.

  3. Holliday

    Lauren – I’ll give you my year-old and admittedly jaundiced opinion of Montreal cocktail scene off-line but am happy to publicly promote the exceptional brew pub Dieu du Ciel. It alone is reason for a visit.

  4. MC Slim JB

    Sorry to have missed a chance for one last drink at Ben’s bar, but am glad he’ll get some evenings of his life back. He treated me really well in his days behind the stick.

  5. Rob

    Someone please complete this sentence: “If I’m ordering genever at a bar in Boston, I should pronounce it [BLANK].”

  6. Chuck

    ““If I’m ordering genever at a bar in Boston, I should pronounce it …”


    But if you’re in Amsterdam I think it’s something more like “ye-NAY-v’r.”

  7. MC Slim JB

    Like many words I read and never hear pronounced, I guessed wrong, in this case rhyming Genever with “Jennifer”. The Dutch, I’ll guess, would pronounce it yay-NAY-ver, because they’re Dutch and all. So until corrected, I’m pronouncing it like I imagine a Netherlander would.

  8. ljclark

    Actually, Slim, at the Bols Genever launch party, I heard that the distiller pronounced it JENever (like Jennifer with a “v.”) However, thanks to Chuck (hello, friend!) for giving me the green light to go on pronouncing it the English way.

    Thanks to Lis and Holliday for the Montreal food/drink recommendations! I’m due for a visit.

  9. Rob

    I was just in Montreal, and found it to be much more of a beer city than a cocktail city.

    Dieu du Ciel is indeed amazing, and I also loved a bar in the Plateau called Bily Kun and another brewpub called Reservoir.

    They seem to like their spirits bitter and Italian – at Bily Kun, lots of people were drinking fernet and tonic.

  10. ljclark

    I love Bily Kun! Ostrich heads mounted on the wall, beer from Cheval Blanc (another great bar). Reservoir is cool, too. Good food, as I remember.

  11. Chuck

    The first pronunciation I got from Philip Duff, who’s lived in Amsterdam for 15 years. The second I got from my friend Daniel, who was born and raised in the Netherlands.

    Now that I’m thoroughly confused by the two of them, I’m happy as long as I say something that gets the right hooch into my glass. 🙂

  12. Rip

    As for “how do you pronounce it,” Chuck and Lauren both have it right. Over here, stress the first syllable and every bar worthy of repeat visits will know what you’re talking about.

    If’n you’re hoity toity, or you’re actually over in the low lands, the Dutch spell it with a J and stress the second syllable (which sounds like, well, “née” (not quite “nay” or “knee”) and the last syllable has a slight huffy sound (well, like “heffer”…muddle the v and f and you’ll be near it).

    I’ve been to Amsterdam a fair bit, maybe half a dozen times (…on business…shutup you,,,). There, if you order genever, you usually get a knowing nod, sort of a “oh, so you’re ready to *drink*, well, let’s get you started.” On at least one trip got schooled pretty fierce on Genever’s history etc.

    If in Amsterdam, you could do worse that hit up theDe Drie Fleschjes, a pretty nice proeflokaal, not far from the New Church and the central train station. Too bad it closes so dang early.

    Bols isn’t the only brand out there, though, and I don’t always favor it when I have choices…nor is there only one kind of genever in the Dutch market: they have Jonge, Oude, and something essentially similar called Corenwijn (basically pronounced “corn wine”). I liken it to Mezcal, if genever is tequila; that’s a stretch, but the analogy works for me and maybe that helps somebody else calibrate as well.

    Ketel makes a nice Jonge genever. Henkes was another favorite. Bols’s Oude is pretty good, though, and I actually prefer Bols Corenwijn to most of the others.

  13. Fievel

    Don’t forget to mention that Russ Greene, charming Vermonter and former B-Side bartender is also joining the staff over at Highland. He and Bice are two of the hardest working, and beardiest bartenders I’ve ever worked with.

  14. Steven

    Just saw this old post, but if you’re looking at the Montreal bar scene, you should know that Boston-style cocktail culture is very new there. Most places serve cruise ship-style sugar water. Bily Kun is cool, but it’s mostly a beer and music bar.

    However, there’s a new place called Lab right next to Parc La Fontaine, and one of the partners has visited Drink (and loved it). Their cocktails can be very good and inventive, though they need to expand the dry side and lose the Tom Cruise flair (I know, I know). Staff is very nice and dedicated, and it’s definitely worth a visit.

    If you get sufficiently hammered, you can stumble down the street at 3 a.m. and have the best poutine in the city at La Banquise.

  15. ljclark

    This is encouraging news, Steven. Thanks! Bily Kun is a great bar, cocktails or no.

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