April 30th, 2011

Event – Cócteles Latinos!

On May 8, drinkboston and Trina’s Starlite Lounge are throwing a party, Cócteles Latinos!, featuring cocktails (see below) made with Latin American spirits: rum, tequila, mezcal, cachaca, pisco and perhaps the odd Mayan liqueur. Salud!

Besides Mother’s Day and the beginning of World Cocktail Week, we’re celebrating drinkboston’s 5th birthday. Boston’s First Couple of bartending, Beau and Trina Sturm, will be our hosts, and special guests Ben Sandrof and Misty Kalkofen will get behind the stick. Deep Ellum’s Dave Cagle will spin party tunes, and Starlite chef Suzi Maitland and her crew will put out the Latin American treats.

Cocktail menu will feature both old-school and new-school libations, TBD. Thanks a million to our sponsors: Brugal rum, Chinaco tequila, Del Maguey Vida mezcal and Macchu Pisco.

  • Cócteles Latinos! Hosted by drinkboston and Trina’s Starlite Lounge (3 Beacon St., Somerville)
  • Sunday, May 8 (yes, Mother’s Day — bring mom!)
  • 7:00 p.m. until last call
  • Tickets are $40 and include three cocktails and Latin American snax.
  • Call the Starlite at 617-576-0006 to purchase your ticket in advance, as there’s a good chance we’ll sell out quickly.

Put on your best Old Havana nightclub threads and come on by. See you there!

(Exact recipes will be published after the event.)

Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
Dry vermouth
Canela simple syrup
Angostura bitters
Lemon oil

Chinaco Punch
Chinaco Plata Tequila
Yellow Chartreuse
Luxardo Maraschino
Lemon juice
Watermelon juice
Vino verde

Magic Word
Chinaco Plata Tequila
St Germain
Lemon juice
Hard cider

Corn & Oil
Brugal Anejo Rum
Velvet Falernum
Lime juice
Angostura bitters

Strawberry Rhubarb Pisco Sour
Macchu Pisco
Egg white
Lime juice
Fresh strawberry syrup
Rhubarb bitters

Mountain Dew Fizz
Mountain Dew
Lime juice
Agave syrup
Egg white

PLUS: Classic Mojitos & Green Grape Caipirinhas

Permalink | No Comments | Filed under Cocktails, Events, Pisco, Rum, Tequila |

April 27th, 2011

Props from the Improper

I’m tickled to be included in the annual “beloved bartenders” issue of the Improper Bostonian, which celebrates its 20th birthday this year. The profile refers to me as the “thinker’s drinker” and a “curator for Boston’s spirited zeitgeist.” Finally, someone who loves me for my brains, not just my liver.

Managing Editor Nick Altschuller, who conducted the interview, was doing double duty that day — he suggested we meet for midday drinks as he was in the midst of research for his column about embarking on a one-man revival of the martini lunch. (Nice reference to the notebook, Nick.)

Among the bartenders profiled are two of my personal faves: Emma Hollander of Trina’s Starlite Lounge and Evan Harrison of Deep Ellum. Congrats to them and all the other slingers who made this year’s cut!

Let me also heap praise upon the photographer who took this pic, Adam DeTour.

Permalink | 9 Comments | Filed under Bartenders, drinkboston in the news | Tags:

April 16th, 2011

I drank L.A. – again

Little did I know that, as I was ordering the last drinks of my L.A. trip at The Varnish last month, Liz Taylor rolled a seven. Had I been aware of her passing at Cedars-Sinai just a few miles away, I might’ve gulped down my expertly crafted cocktail and rushed over to the West Hollywood gay bar Taylor frequented in her final years. Alas, I was oblivious until I caught Headline News at the airport the next day.

I’m not one to worship celebrities, but I loved Elizabeth Taylor. She was captivatingly gorgeous, elegant, slutty and vulgar (that last word being one she used to describe herself). No movie star has ever been bigger, and she basically said, “I’m having fun with this, bitches. Pour me another drink.”

An admirer of that attitude, I knocked L.A. back with gusto, not unlike the first time around. Oh my, but has the bar scene changed in five years — cocktail joints are everywhere now, and they’re the place to be. So I went…

La Descarga, East Hollywood. This was recommended to me as THE hot cocktail bar in L.A. We managed to slide in early on a Saturday night after chatting with one of the valets outside who informed us that Katherine Heigl had been there the week before. Up a flight of stairs … into an antechamber where a hostess with a mini-dress and a Slavic accent opened the doors of a wardrobe (complete with empty hangers) … onto a wrought-iron catwalk with a spiral staircase … and behold: a two-story back bar full of rum. The place is a Bacardi-backed venture (with other rums and spirits invited into the mix) launched by the same team responsible for the brand-spanking-new Harvard & Stone (below). Bartenders in white shirts and black ties serve classic rum drinks (and the occasional Red Bull and vodka) to a fashionable crowd entertained by live Latin jazz and burlesque performers. Think: Old Havana nightclub meets warehouse party. This being L.A., the look of the place is all expert set design, from the cracked plaster to the random-seeming burnt-out light bulbs. Yep, the name of this bar means “the discharge.” I have no idea.

Caña, Downtown. Yes, another hot rum bar. Intriguingly located in the back of a parking garage, Caña occupies the space formerly known as The Doheny, a private cocktail club with a $2200 membership fee. Caña is also a private club, but membership only costs $20, and all you have to do is check into the place on Foursquare to waive that. I was lucky enough to visit Caña with L.A. Drinking Ambassadors Chuck Taggart and Wes Moore, who know every good bartender and tippling joint in the city. We had a couple rounds of finely crafted drinks from this menu. The Royal Oil, Misti Dawn Swizzle and Good Word were particularly outstanding.

The Varnish, Downtown. We really, really wanted to have a French Dip at Cole’s (est. 1908) before heading to the back of the restaurant and opening an unmarked door into the speakeasy that put L.A. on the craft-cocktail map. But the kitchen closed at 10:00 — jeez, Downtown L.A. rolls up the sidewalks early on a Tuesday! So we headed to The Gorbels (a cool restaurant by Top Chef winner Ilan Hall) for some bacon-wrapped matzo balls before closing out the evening at The Varnish with Chuck, Wes and Ron “LushAngeles” Dollet. Vintage tile floor, wood-paneled walls, a saloon piano player and a compact bar make this a place that you’d want to be your second living room. Oh, and the drinks ain’t bad either. This is where I got my whiskey fix with a shimmering Emerald (Red Breast Irish whiskey, Carpano Antica vermouth and orange bitters) and a tasty Talent Scout (bourbon, curacao, Angostura bitters) from Chris Bostick. Unfortunately, I missed seeing Woburn native Devon Tarby, one of the top broads of L.A.’s cocktail scene, behind the bar. Next time.

R&D bar at Harvard & Stone. Photo: Caroline on Crack

Harvard & Stone, East Hollywood. Another craft cocktail bar amid an Oscar-worthy interior designed to look like, as the L.A. Times put it, “a mix of industrial steampunk warehouse and a 1940s boiler room.” Also responsible for the rum-focused La Descarga (above), the team behind Harvard & Stone decided to skew domestic for its booze selection and minimalist for its cocktail menu. The night we were there, the smaller back bar, aka the R & D bar, was featuring Aviation gin from Portland, OR, and offering a list of about five not-too-complicated drinks. I appreciated that kind of limitation, as well as the casually hip staff and clientele.

Notable cocktails were also had at:

  • Comme Ça, West Hollywood. A Penicillin and a Doe-Eyed Doll (cognac, Aperol, lemon, straight-up).
  • Library Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The buzz about this place generally focuses on head bartender Matthew Biancaniello, but we got perfectly delicious libations from his colleague Chris Hewes, most notably a Mexican Rocket (tequila, agave syrup, lime and arugula shaken and served over a big rock). I was delighted to find out that Chris is the son of Jim Hewes, who has tended bar at Washington D.C.’s famous Round Robin bar (which I visited last spring) for many years.
  • Hungry Cat, Hollywood. I loved the Coney Island High: Applejack, rosemary caramel syrup, lemon, a few drops of absinthe, on the rocks.

In between cocktails, quality beer drinking occurred at the wonderfully retro Red Lion Tavern in Silver Lake — a German beer joint with an outdoor garden and a neighborhood vibe — Father’s Office in Santa Monica and the Venice Ale House on the beach. Finally, an early afternoon and an early morning were spent at the louche Kibitz Room in the famed Canter’s Deli.

Thanks, L.A. It was fun.

Permalink | 3 Comments | Filed under Cocktails, L.A. | Tags: , , , , , ,

March 30th, 2011

Nips – 3/30/11

“The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month,” said Henry Van Dyke. That’s why we have cocktails and dancing.

» Opus Affair Presents: the WAITIKI Festival of Music & Cocktail, Russell House Tavern, April 10, 6:00-10:00 p.m. Opus Affair, Graham Wright’s non-profit social networking group for young professionals interested in the fine arts, and the exotica orchestra WAITIKI are planning “a night of all-out tiki to launch us into spring,” says WAITIKI bandleader Randy Wong. Imagine classical musicians, tiki geeks and cocktailians getting loose on rum-tastic drinks and grooving to sultry soundscapes by — and inspired by — the legendary Martin Denny. The godfather of exotica music, Denny would have turned 100 on April 10. Inbetween sets of live exotica, Brother Cleve and his friends Jack Fetterman and Gina of the Jungle will assume DJ and MC duties. All the while, barman Aaron Butler will lead his Russell House staff in mixing classic and original tiki cocktails featuring rums by Montanya, El Dorado, Folly Cove and Chairman’s Reserve. No cover charge for this shindig, but a donation of $20 is suggested for the musicians. More details here. Anyone remember Boston’s first WAITIKI Fest back in ’07? I do. Barely. See you on April 10!

» Bulleit Rye. I was recently mailed a small sample of rye by the makers of the well-regarded “frontier whiskey” Bulleit Bourbon. Bulleit Rye’s grain content is a whopping 95% rye (by U.S. law, rye whiskey must be at least 51% rye), which makes for an estery nose and a spicy, dry character. A Bourbon Blog review compared the finish to “cinnamon red hot candy.” In an Old Fashioned, that trait, along with the heat of a 90-proof spirit, evoked the velvety raspiness of a kitten’s tongue. I really liked the stuff and am looking forward to trying it in cocktails around town. Bulleit Rye should be available very soon and, like Bulleit Bourbon, is fairly priced ($28 or so).

» Cocktail Wars. Woodward at the Ames Hotel is doing another round of Cocktail Wars starting this Sunday, April 3. The Ames PR folks call it “an Iron Chef-style bartending competition taking place every Sunday where two of Boston’s best mixologists go head-to-head to create the best cocktail using a series of secret ingredients (typically a spirit, a fruit, an herb, or a vegetable) in the allotted time. The creations are then judged by some of Boston’s biggest industry experts.” Posing as one of those industry experts, I’ll be judging the April 24 contest. These contests are quite lively — last year I judged the finals — so swing by for a look.

» New Boston-area bars. Crikey, I’ve been so busy visiting new bars around town that I forgot to write about them. Here are some very short reviews:

  • Bergamot: This well-reviewed restaurant in Somerville where EVOO used to reside has a small bar and real cocktails executed nicely by ex-Craigie on Main bartender Paul Manzelli and crew.
  • Citizen Public House: Another success story in the Franklin Cafe/Franklin Southie/Tasty Burger constellation. Bar manager and all-around whiz Joy Richard of LUPEC Boston assembled a crack team of bartenders and instituted Boston’s first comprehensive American whiskey menu.
  • Erbaluce: Chef Charles Draghi now has a bar program commensurate with his revered cuisine, thanks to Nick Korn (formerly of Eastern Standard) and Robert Hoover (formerly of Upstairs on the Square). The two are working magic with a cordial license and will soon be offering homemade vermouth.
  • The Gallows: Well-made, approachable cocktails at a jumpin’ South End bar with killer food. Helmed by some of my fave barwomen, including April Wachtel and Danielle Marshall.
  • Local 149: Stumbling upon this new Southie outpost where the Farragut House once stood is like stumbling upon a beehive in a quiet meadow. Lots of room at the bar, good-looking eats and a solid cocktail list written in part by ex-Craigie on Main wunderkind John Mayer.
  • Temple Bar: OK, it’s not new. But after helping put Russell House Tavern on the map, Alex Homans is breathing new life into this warm Cambridge bar whose cocktails have historically been pretty ho-hum. Woo hoo!

Permalink | 7 Comments | Filed under Boston bars, Events, Nips, Whiskey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

March 7th, 2011

Drink This! With Brother Cleve at Think Tank

Hey, cats and kittens, something very cool launches TONIGHT at Think Tank in Kendall Square: Drink This! With Brother Cleve, the godfather of the Boston cocktail world. Join drinkboston, Classic Mixology and the Boston Shaker at 8:00 p.m. for Lundi Gras cocktails as we kick off “a new event series that will put me back behind the bar for the first time since 2001,” says Cleve. Here’s his write-up about the series:

“I’ll be featuring a different set of classic cocktails and new libations of my own creation every Monday, plus selecting the musical soundtrack to pair it with. We’ll be featuring appetizer specials and drink/food pairings from the kitchen, and I’ll hold a little seminar to explain the history of the drinks and assorted cocktail lore. As many of you know, I’ve been studying this stuff for a long time, and we now live in amazing times for spirits drinkers, with so many formerly “lost” liquors, bitters, syrups etc available again for the first time in decades. When Combustible Edison first hit the road in ’94, in search of the “Cocktail Nation,” you were lucky if you could get a decent Martini anywhere. Now, great cocktails are ubiquitous around the globe!

“Our launch date, March 7, coincides with Carnival — Lundi Gras is the Monday before Mardi Gras in New Orleans, so in honor of the occasion we’ll hold a pre-Lenten bash with Cleve’s Ninth Ward cocktail (a “best of show” libation at Tales Of the Cocktail in 2008, now served in select bars around the country), the Ward Eight, Boston’s best known drink and the inspiration for the Ninth Ward, as well as the Sazerac, the venerable favorite that has been designated the Official Cocktail of the City of New Orleans. There will be a soundtrack of classic New Orleans R&B, funk and jazz for your imbibing pleasure.

Cleve brings his knowledge and passion for mixology to these weekly seminars, in which he’ll share classic as well as “lost” recipes from his vast bartending library (collected over the past 25 years) along with new concoctions of his own creation. Each week will showcase a different theme or spirit, and will also feature music and videos culled from Cleve’s personal collection. Special menu items from the kitchen will also be available, and certain evenings will highlight food/cocktail pairings.”

No cover, no reservations, just show up. See you there!

Permalink | 7 Comments | Filed under Cocktails, Events, New Orleans | Tags: , , , ,