Archive for July, 2010

July 28th, 2010

Trina Sturm


Bartender profile
Trina Sturm is a cross between a sexy stew in a Mad Men episode, a kindhearted biker-gang chick, and a diner waitress who calls you “hon” and magically appears whenever your coffee needs a warm-up. It’s a formidable combination that has won loyal fans all over the city.

Trina is the namesake of Trina’s Starlite Lounge, the bar that she and her husband Beau dreamed of owning over the many years they spent working the stick in others’ establishments. At nightclubs like CityBar, Trina learned the all-important skills of speed and diplomacy. At the Beehive she was among an all-star cast of ‘tenders who graced the opening of that artsy jazz club, and at Silvertone she meshed with owner Josh Childs’ laid-back hospitality — meshed with it so well, in fact, that they are now business partners.

As Trina sees it, she has got it made. “I work with the biggest workaholics. I consider myself smart — I just come in and bartend.” And that’s a very good thing for anyone who occupies a stool at the Starlite, especially on the parlor side, where Trina particularly shines. With efficiency and perfect posture, she exerts a den mother’s control over the chaos, at the same time taking a moment to banter with guests. She’s not a mixologist, but rather a bartender who can mix a good drink — whether it’s an Old Overholt Manhattan with a twist or a candy cane-infused brandy. And as professional as she appears, you just know there’s going to be dancing on the bartop after hours.

East Boston/Winthrop.

Past bartending jobs
CityBar, Silvertone, Beehive.

Favorite bar in greater Boston other than your own
Eastern Standard.

Favorite bar in or near your neighborhood
Highland Kitchen.

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

The drink you’d like to serve more of
Pimm’s Cup.

The drink you’d like to serve less of
Ramos Gin Fizz.

A famous person you’ve served
Jason Varitek.

A famous person you’d love to see walk into your bar
Garrett Dutton III, better known as G. Love.

A bartender’s best friend is…
The barback.

The best thing about drinking in Boston is...
Being served by friends.

The worst thing about drinking in Boston is…
Beings over-served by friends.

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Posted in Bartenders | 1 Comment »

July 21st, 2010

When everyone else is at Tales


This year, I decided to skip the enlightening, invigorating and exhausting bit of debauchery known as Tales of the Cocktail, for which everyone in the drinks industry converges on New Orleans each July. I admit that it’s bittersweet to watch most of the city’s top bar workforce board planes heading south this week. And then there are all the Facebook and Twitter updates. “There were 40 of us on the flight — so fun!” “First round of Pimm’s Cups!” “I’m at a seminar on blending whiskey!” “About to board the Beefeater party bus!” “Dancing to Kermit Ruffins at Vaughan’s!” “Doing shots of Chartreuse at the Old Absinthe House!” “Running naked down Frenchmen Street!” “Woooooo!….Zzzzzz….”

No, really, I’m cool with my decision (sniff). Actually, I’m impressed that more Boston bar industry folk are attending Tales this year than ever before. This is not only good for New Orleans — Beantowners have an affinity for the place, and Tales tends to inspire return trips — but good for Boston as well. These men and women will be surrounded by a few thousand people who are truly passionate about their profession, and they will return charged up with ideas about how to make their good establishments even better.

In the meantime, if you, like me, are hanging around town this week wondering how to approximate the fun you’d be having if you were in New Orleans, here is a list of activities common during Tales, with their rough Boston equivalents.

  • A Sazerac served by prickly old pro Paul Gustings at Tujagues = A martini served by prickly old pro Reggie St. Paul at the Blue Room.
  • Well-crafted cocktails at a tasting room in the Hotel Monteleone = Well-crafted cocktails at Craigie on Main.
  • Kermit Ruffins’ jazz band at Vaughan’s = Jazz at Wally’s or a rock show in Central Square.
  • Beignets at Cafe du Monde = Pastry at Cafe Vittoria in the North End.
  • Fried chicken and Abita at Coop’s Place = Fried chicken and High Life at Trina’s Starlite Lounge.
  • Oyster po’ boy anywhere in NOLA = Oysters on the half shell anywhere in Boston.
  • The French 75 Bar at Arnaud’s = The bar at Locke-Ober.
  • A Vieux Carre at the Carousel Bar = A Vieux Carre in a flask on the Rose Kennedy Greenway Carousel.
  • A 4:00 a.m. party in a suite at the Monteleone = A 4:00 a.m. party on your friend’s porch in Somerville.

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Posted in New Orleans | 12 Comments »

July 14th, 2010

Remixology – bartender challenge

remixology bartender challenge appleton rum

Boston bar professionals, think of a song that really grabs you — one that makes you want to jump up on a table and sing into an empty beer bottle, or slow-ride in a convertible down Mass Ave., or grab a dark-haired stranger in a Buenos Aires cafe and do the tango. Translate that song into a cocktail with Appleton Estate Reserve Jamaica Rum. Submit your recipe and the tale of its musical inspiration by July 26. Why? You could win a trip to Jamaica — and global renown.

There are cocktail contests that are about chops and style, and there are cocktail contests that are about mixology and heritage. Then there’s Remixology. The brainchild of former Boston bartender Willy Shine and his consulting company, Contemporary Cocktails, Remixology mashes both traditions together — to the tune of your favorite song and featuring a quality rum. Here’s how it goes:

  • Once all submissions are entered by July 26, 15 contestants will be chosen and featured on the Appleton Reserve Mixology Challenge and Contemporary Cocktails websites and in press materials.
  • Five of the 15 will be selected to compete in August at Drink. This will involve “performing” your cocktail to the tune that inspired it, as well as mixing a second cocktail that is locally inspired (“No Charles River ice,” warns Willy.) Yes, you can sing and dance — but you don’t have to. Get creative. We’re not talking Tom Cruise or Coyote Ugly — you’re cooler than that.
  • The top Boston finisher moves on to the finals in Manhattan August 30-31 to show bartenders from the other competing cities — NYC, Miami and San Francisco — who’s boss.
  • The winner of the finals wins a red-carpet, all-expenses-paid trip to Jamaica in October to participate in the Global Showcase with bartenders from nine other countries.

How cool is that? Get all the details here. Represent for Beantown!

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Posted in Bartenders, Cocktails, Rum | 3 Comments »

July 13th, 2010

App dance

cocktails-app-detailWhen it comes to iPhone apps, I’m a minimalist. Until a friend suggested recently that I write about cocktail apps, I only had one on my phone: Cocktails+. It was developed in part by Ted Haigh and Martin Doudoroff, the team behind the cocktail website I frequent most: the Internet Cocktail Database, or I like the Cocktails+ app. It’s heavy on historic drinks, it includes the source(s) for each recipe, and it’s attractive and easy to read. Honestly, though, I have only used it a handful of times. That’s because my actual favorite cocktail app is a talented bartender. I mean, who needs to consult a mobile device when you have a person in front of you who can help you choose a great drink and tell you the story behind it?

Oh right. We’re not always in bars with talented bartenders, and we’re not always in bars, period. And we don’t carry our cocktail-book libraries around with us. So I figured I’d do a little research for the team to see which cocktail apps are worthwhile for us discerning drinkers. It took me about five minutes to figure out that most of the stuff listed in the iTunes app store was unworthy (to put it kindly), unless drinkboston readers secretly yearn to possess 7,000 recipes for flavored-vodka shooters. It took me about another 30 minutes on the Google, the Facebook and the Twitter to tease out which apps the drinkerati have approved. Here are the fruits of my hard labor.

Cocktails+ $2.99. “The authoritative cocktail reference for the iPhone.” The 2,000+ recipes include mostly classics, but there are many contemporary recipes by Jamie Boudreau, Dale DeGroff and Goncalo Monteiro. Cool feature: share recipes not only via email (which most of these apps do) but also Facebook and Twitter.

Flip n’ Drink $3.99. Authors Gary and Mardee Regan, the folks behind Ardent Spirits, selected and tested the hundreds of recipes on this attractive app, and they are continually adding more from an impressive list of contributors. Cool features: cocktail recommendations based on your current selection, and “cocktail conversations” — fun facts related to each recipe. Beware: the app’s over 20MB, so I got a message saying I had to download it via a computer rather than wirelessly.

Cocktails Made Easy $2.99. Based on a solid concept: 500 recipes that you can make with just 14 different spirits (plus mixers). The recipes are from by British drinks industry guru Simon Difford. Cool feature: click on the bottles of liquor you currently have in your inventory, and get a list of the drinks you can make.

101 Cocktails $1.99. “Do I really need 14,000 cocktail recipes?” asks L.A. blogger Jimmy Patrick (Jimmy’s Cocktail Hour), who developed this blessedly streamlined app. For those times when you just want the basics, this is perfect.

Tiki+ $3.99. More than 150 authentic tiki recipes culled from Beachbum Berry’s books. Illustrated with vintage drink photos and art, the app lets you share recipes via Facebook and Twitter. NOTE: Tiki+ is currently being upgraded for iPad compatibility, but it will be back on sale soon.

Please comment if there’s a great cocktail app out there that I missed — and also if you have a go-to beer or wine app. Meanwhile, I need an app with real-time info on the best bars and up-to-date schedules of my favorite bartenders.

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Posted in Books & resources, Cocktails | 11 Comments »

July 7th, 2010

Nips – 7/7/10


On a steamy summer Friday afternoon, who doesn’t dream of heading straight from the office to a magical oasis of exotica music and tropical drinks? Well, pinch yourself, ’cause this is no dream: Beginning July 9, Brother Cleve, Boston’s oracle of tiki, will host Freaky Tiki Fridays at the new Cambridge “bistro-theque” Think Tank (1 Kendall Sq., Bldg. 300) from 5:00-9:00 p.m.

At this week’s special kickoff event, says Cleve, “our old pal Mr. Ho will be bringing the condensed version of his Orchestrotica — we can’t really fit all 22 members of the full ensemble, so we’ll take the quartet — for a set of exotic sounds in the style of ’50s Hawaiiana like Martin Denny and Les Baxter.” [NOTE: Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica unfortunately won’t be appearing, but the tiki party’s still on!) Of course, when live music isn’t on the bill, Cleve will spin his own vast collection of tunes to sway your grass skirt to. Meanwhile, Think Tank owner Vincent Conte has sprinkled his cocktail menu with a few mixtures that hark back to his days as bar manager of the South End’s departed Pho Republique, and each Freaky Tiki Friday will feature a drink or two from Beachbum Berry’s terrific books, which put tiki drinks back on the map of legit drinking. Soak up the rum with Think Tank’s 5-for-$5 pan-Asian appetizers that will make you “feel like you’ve gone to the Kowloon, but without the indigestion,” says Cleve. See you there!

» Congrats to Todd Maul of Clio for being named best bartender in the Improper Bostonian’s annual Best of Boston list, out on newsstands now. Maul elevated the cocktail program to the level of the cuisine for which this restaurant is famed  — and he did it with a sense of humor, e.g. a list of tiki-inspired “drinks for two … 2 straws, 1 bowl.” While we’re on the subject of fine-dining bars, here’s a shout-out to Carrie Cole of Craigie on Main. She and her mixology crew have made the cocktail program established by Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli continue to kick ass. Check out this Public Radio Kitchen interview with her, and then go have a Bird Bath.

» If you’re fairly new to Massachusetts, you’ve probably had this rude awakening: you’re out for brunch at 11:03 a.m. on Sunday and order a Bloody Mary, only to be told you have to wait until noon. Thank god that foolishness is over. Last week, the state made it legal to buy a drink on Sunday morning. I mean, with Boston-area bars closing at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., you’re plenty well rested to start drinking bright and early the next morning.

» There’s nothing like finding your niche. Local cocktail enthusiast and California native Devin Hahn blogs about a single cocktail — the Periodista — at the Periodista Tales. So far, his posts constitute one man’s entertaining and well-researched quest for why this rum-based drink, which means “journalist,” is something of a fixture in Boston while being unknown in virtually every other city he has visited.

» A few good reasons to stay out late on a school night this month: the Franklin Southie continues its Thursday Industry Night series on July 15 at 9:00 p.m. with a $6 cocktail menu featuring quality Luxardo spirits (e.g. Amaretto, Maraschino, Espresso, Fernet, Amaro Abano, Sambuca, Bitter, Sangue Morlacco, Triplum and Limoncello). And Emily Stanley, who traded in her bar towel for a new career as a brand ambassador for the malty Dutch gin Bols Genever, will host two events: a Bols Genever dinner at Aquitaine ($65) on July 19 featuring four cocktails by the talented Matt Coughlin, and a punch party at Highland Kitchen on the 26th starting at 10:00 and featuring $4-$6 punches and cocktails. See you there!

» Here’s something you might like: drinkboston’s Facebook fan page.

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Posted in Events, Nips | 9 Comments »