Archive for September, 2009

September 30th, 2009

Lonely Planet discovers drinkboston

lonely-planet-bostonI’ve used Lonely Planet’s travel guides on various trips, but never have I actually appeared in/written for one — until now.

Mara Vorhees, a Somerville resident who wrote the 2009 edition of Lonely Planet’s Boston City Guide, cold-called drinkboston a little while ago to see if I wanted to write a sidebar for the guide’s Drinking section. Uh, does a cold martini taste good at 5:00 p.m? Called “The ‘Boston’ Cocktail Mystery,” the sidebar riffs off of a post I once wrote about the curious hodgepodge of vintage cocktails with “Boston” in their name. Mara was also nice enough to mention me in the section’s intro as an expert on the local drinking scene. Neat.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this guide, even if you’re a local. For $17.99, it’s worth keeping around the house for when out-of-towners come to visit. Especially if they happen to be fond of drink.

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Posted in Books & resources, drinkboston in the news | 9 Comments »

September 23rd, 2009

Kevin Martin


Bartender profile
There’s young Kevin Martin, looking urbane behind the bar at Eastern Standard, placing a white napkin down for your appetizer and effortlessly shaking you a gin flip. Such a gentleman. Then he hands you your drink and, while making some pleasant small talk, suddenly grins the grin of a 10-year-old who just got away with a world-class prank. That’s when you picture him wearing a grass skirt and slinging blender drinks at Cheeseburger in Paradise on Maui. Or at least now you will.

Yes, Martin spent his formative years in the business as a “blender ‘tender,” serving tourists (and a few celebs) frozen daiquiris on the beach in Hawaii, being a surf bum and generally having a blast after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America. Though trained as a cook, it didn’t take him long to realize he didn’t want to work in a “hot, muggy, windowless box.” So, he donned the grass skirt and quickly learned a thing or two about speedy drink service, which came in handy when he returned to New England and started working around the corner from Fenway Park.

Why did he leave paradise? It was time to put his education to use, he says, and to “learn the finer points of service and hospitality.” Not to mention the fact that, bless his Connecticut Yankee heart, he loves Boston. Martin has, in just a short time, put his stamp on the already talented staff at ES, and is now advancing that tradition as a manager. But what else would you expect from a guy who had the only frozen-lemonade stand in his neighborhood and who catered his first wedding at 16? Experience, confidence and genuine politeness, all wrapped in a boyish smile. It’s hard not to be in a good mood around this guy.

Glastonbury, CT.

First drink you ever had
My dad used to give me a sip of his Manhattan, followed by letting me fish out the maraschino cherry to eat.

Most touristy bar in Boston that you like
Does Fenway count? Nothing like a warm Miller Lite on a hot day.

The difference between bar-goers in Boston and bar-goers in Hawaii
When most people head to a bar, they are either looking for fun or to get something off their chest, no matter where you are. But the difference between Hawaiian drinkers and Boston drinkers is patience. This phenomenon of waving your hand or, worse, your credit card, in Boston must stop. It’s just rude. It’s the bartender’s job to know who needs a drink. Trust us, we know you’re there, we just told you we’d be right with you, and now you’re waving at another bartender. Stop it!!!

Your guiltiest-pleasure drink

Since the LUPEC girls outed me on this drink a few months back in a Boston publication, I’ll have to admit it’s a Miami Vice: half PiƱa Colada, half strawberry daiquiri. As a former blender ‘tender myself, I admit it’s a pain because it take two blenders to make it, but ooohhhh soooo gooood.

Best cocktail to introduce vodka drinkers to other spirits
If I don’t think that they’re going to be able to get away from the look of a “pink martini,” it would have to be a Jack Rose, but if I can get them into a Bees Knees with Miller’s Gin, I’d be stoked.

Describe the most insane Red Sox crowd you ever experienced
There’s nothing like opening day in Kenmore Square. You are five people deep from 9:00 a.m. to midnight, serving countless oysters and plates of calamari, with an occasional omelet, to people eating standing. The music is blaring, you’re slinging gallons and gallons of Bloody Marys and wishing that Bloody Mary mix could somehow come off the soda gun. Managing what seems like a million tabs. And then, of course, there’s dealing with people that wave, but for the most part Bostonians are in good spirits on this day and just want to feel the camaraderie of the city. It’s a great time!

A bartender’s best friend is…
Wine bottles with a screw top.

A bartender’s worst enemy is…
Mint fragments in a drink that weren’t meant to be there.

Best or worst pickup line you’ve ever witnessed
“Do you think if I flex hard enough I could rip my shirt?” Response: (laughter) “Nope.”

A famous person you’ve served
Since I worked in one of those bars that everyone knows about and wants to visit when you go to a tropical location, I’ve actually waited on numerous famous people: Pauly Shore, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake, Jesse James and Sandra Bullock, Pete Carroll, Ming Tsai, Jimmy Fallon, Sean Greenhalgh, Rick Lyle and, of course, Peter Wolf.

Most beloved bartending book
The Craft of the Cocktail [by Dale DeGroff], also the first cocktail booked I’ve ever owned.

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Posted in Bartenders | 9 Comments »

September 18th, 2009

Drinks for the lovesick


Ever have one of those times in your life when it seems half the people you know are falling in love, getting married and having babies, and the other half are breaking up? Yeah, I thought so. This is for all imbibers facing the latter predicament. Among the many questions you’re grappling with — What went wrong? What will I do now? What is the point of existence? — is one that deserves special consideration: What am I drinking?

OK, here’s what you’re not drinking: Champagne. Cognac. Port. Anything pink. Anything juicy. And if you’re trying to drown your sorrows in something like Pinot Grigio or Michelob Ultra, you’ve got bigger issues than heartbreak.

So what’s left? Gin. Whiskey. Tequila. Maybe even vodka. These should be consumed in something close to their pure form, with nothing more than one or two other ingredients, preferably bitters and vermouth. After all, it’s time to strip away that psychic baggage, to get elemental. You’re dealing with an adult situation — have an adult beverage. What says “I am training for the emotional equivalent of the Iron Man Triathalon” more than a Pink Gin, an Old Fashioned, a Mexican Eagle or a vodka on the rocks? A case can be made for beer, as long as it’s not fancy and accompanies a shot, and, for those with a keen sense of sarcasm, a Zombie. It’s a tiki drink, sure, but it’s got four ounces of rum.

Order one of these at a barely lit bar, stare into your glass with your trenchcoat still on like Frank here, and let the lyrics of another master of heartbreak songs, George Jones, run through your head: “With the blood from my body / I could start my own still / And if drinking don’t kill me / Her memory will.”

And for god’s sake read the Modern Drunkard’s Boozing Through a Breakup.

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Posted in Beer, Bitters, Gin, Rum, Tequila, Vermouth, Vodka, Whiskey | 11 Comments »

September 17th, 2009

Legal’s gets serious about cocktails

It’s a bit of poetic justice that Patrick Sullivan, who started the cocktail revival in Boston when he opened the B-Side Lounge in 1998, is now bringing his storied training skills to the bar staff at the biggest high-end chain of seafood restaurants in the country, Legal Sea Foods. Imagine: a properly made, balanced cocktail with fresh-squeezed juice alongside your plate of oysters or grilled bluefish. This is huge.

Sullivan was recently interviewed by Grub Street Boston (what gives, Patrick?) about his new gig as Legal’s cocktail program manager. (Like that Bostonian nickname for this local institution? Check out MC Slim JB’s commentary about making restaurant names possessive.) This excerpt from one of Sullivan’s comments is especially encouraging: “…in the past, there’s been some sweetness to the Legal Sea Foods cocktail menu. What I’m trying to do is make everyone aware of the fact that our cocktails need to be well-balanced and on the dryer side. You’ll see a lot of fresh lemon juice and bitters, which dry things out.” Wow. Adult cocktails for the masses. I’ll drink to that.

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Posted in Bartenders, Booze in the news, Cocktails | 7 Comments »

September 12th, 2009

Beefeater 24


When I mention to the uninitiated imbiber that I like Beefeater gin, I get strange looks. In the world of sexy, new-style gins like Hendricks and Tanqueray 10, whose flavors are designed to appeal to the juniper-shy, Beefeater is viewed as an old-man drink. But to people who actually put vermouth in their Martinis and enjoy an honest-to-goodness Tom Collins, Beefeater is a classic. The fact that Audrey Saunders endorses it doesn’t hurt, either.

The brand recently launched a new gin, Beefeater 24, in Boston. “Distilled in the heart of England’s capital, Beefeater 24 takes its name from the unique 24-hour steeping process and the city’s 24-hour stylish and sophisticated lifestyle,” says the press release. I know, that “lifestyle” line is a doozy, but “stylish and sophisticated” perfectly describe the gin’s packaging. It’s more “swinging London,” less “British Empire.” Blessedly, though, the spirit’s flavor evokes the latter.

While Beefeater 24 adds three new botanicals (Japanese Sencha tea, Chinese green tea and Spanish grapefruit peel) to the original nine (juniper, Seville orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root, angelica seed, orris root, licorice, coriander seed and almond), it tastes quite a bit like regular Beefeater. The tea flavors are really, really understated and create a slight tannic finish; Beefeater’s traditional citrusy character gets a little more complexity from the grapefruit peel; and the 24 is softer in the mouth than the original. Otherwise, it’s as London-dry and cocktail-friendly as its parent. It’s also more expensive, of course, at $29/750 ml compared to $22 or so for the original. (The 24 cuts out more of the heads and tails, or beginning and end products of distillation, resulting in a smoother spirit.)

Beefeater master distiller and all-around nice guy Desmond Payne, who was in town for the launch, seemed pleased as punch by his new creation — the first recipe he has been called upon to devise in his 40+ years making gin, first for Plymouth, then for Beefeater. He mentioned that one of his favorite gin drinks is a Negroni, and he was excited about 24’s debut aligning with the resurgence in classic cocktails. The growth in demand for the flavors of old means that Payne could unabashedly create a new gin for the gin drinker.

Gin Old-Fashioned
Created for the Beefeater 24 launch party at Drink

2 oz Beefeater 24
1/4 oz gomme syrup (2 parts sugar, 1 part water)
1 dash bergamot bitters (house-made)
1 dash Angostura orange bitters

Build in a heavy-bottomed rocks glass and stir well over a large lump of ice.

Posted in Booze in the news, Gin | 6 Comments »