Posts Tagged ‘Drink’

August 12th, 2010

Nips – 8/12/10

A friendly reminder that this coming tax-free weekend doesn’t just apply to TVs, leather armchairs and solid-wood shellcases for your iPad. It also applies to booze. Have your eye on a bottle of green Chartreuse VEP ($130)? Strathisla 1967 Speyside scotch whisky ($175)? Remy Martin Cognac Louis XIII Grande ($1700)? Well, grab your shopping cart and boogie down the aisle of one of these fine establishments.

» Boston wins. Damned if Boston didn’t hit it out of the park during Tales of the Cocktail in July. First of all, more Boston bar industry folk represented our city at New Orleans’ annual drinks convention than ever before. Second of all, Drink won the Grand Marnier-sponsored Barroom Brawl, besting five other top-notch cocktail bars from around the U.S. and earning the title Best Bar in America. Third of all, Drink’s Misty Kalkofen won the Pisco Sour Pentathalon and will in the near future enjoy her prize: a trip to Peru to see how desert-grown grapes turn into white brandy. Congrats to all! Liza Weisstuch offers a vivid snapshot of the competition and, more generally, the Boston slant on Tales in today’s Phoenix. Good stuff.

» Remixology. Speaking of contests, there’s a new bar celeb in town: John Mayer of Cambridge’s Craigie on Main. A relatively new member of the staff there, he wowed everyone at the Appleton Estate Rum Remixology contest earlier this week with his mixing skills, sense of humor and ability to explain how a favorite song inspired a new cocktail. His presentation involved Frankie Valli’s “Sherry Baby,” a powder-blue brocade blazer, three mixing glasses spinning on a turntable, a small disco ball, a history lesson on Jamaica’s first prime minister — Alexander Bustamante — and the year 1962. He will compete in the national finals of the competition in NYC on August 30. Go, John! Here are recipes for the Bustamante and the other semi-finalists’ tasty drinks.

» Literature. Geoff “Psycho-Gourmet” Nicholson’s fantastic essay, Drink What You Know, appeared in the New York Times’ Book Review recently. He starts by comparing the advice writers dispense about drinking to the way they depict drinking in their literature, and arrives at his thesis:

“When you think about it, rules for drinking are not so different from rules for writing. Many of these are so familiar they’ve become truisms: Write what you know. Write every day. Never use a strange, fancy word when a simple one will do. Always finish the day’s writing when you could still do more. With a little adaptation these rules apply just as well for drinking. Drink what you know, drink regularly rather than in binges, avoid needlessly exotic booze, and leave the table while you can still stand.”

Read it. And then check out the response over at Jezebel: the Reader’s Drinking Game.

» History. I was putting off going to Plymouth to learn about Pilgrims until my retirement years, but now I have a reason to go earlier. Pilgrim Hall Museum (“America’s museum of Pilgrim possessions”) is running an exhibition called “Plymouth History in a Glass: The Artifacts and Culture of Beverages and Drinking” until December 31. Silver tankards. Ceramic punch bowls. Glass tumblers. Ooh, I’m getting hot flashes. Not only that, there are two related lectures: one on historic Plymouth-area taverns on August 25 and one on September 29 called “The Design of Drinking: from the Jazz Age to the Space Age.” Far out.

» Name that bar. What would you call a bar frequented by venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and hardworking graduate students from all over the world who converge on the high-tech cluster that is Kendall Square, Cambridge? The people behind the in-the-works “Venture Cafe” are seeking a more clever name than the working title for their “place-based social networking” project. They have partnered with restaurateur Gary Strack from Central Kitchen and the Enormous Room and are scouting Kendall Square locations for a 2011 opening. With any luck the place will liven up the woefully nightlife-less neighborhood. Got a suggestion for what to call the place? Chime in on their Facebook page.

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Posted in Bartenders, Booze in the news, Cocktails, New Orleans, Nips, Pisco, Rum | 1 Comment »

June 26th, 2009

Ben Sandrof


Bartender profile
By the time I first encountered Ben Sandrof, a few years ago when he was working at the Charles Hotel’s chichi lounge, Noir, he had already done time at a few other high-end restaurants around Harvard Square, most notably Upstairs on the Square. His first bartending job, however, was in a Monterey, California, pub called the Britannia Arms. That is where, he says, “I learned to be fast.” In a not-uncommon trajectory, Sandrof started out in the restaurant industry with thoughts of becoming a talent in the kitchen, only to morph into a talent behind the bar.

Learning the fundamentals of speed is crucial for any bartender, but it has particular importance at Sandrof’s current place of employment, Drink. “Banging out” craft cocktails — with custom ice, muddled fresh herbs, house-made bitters and flawless technique, and with only the customer’s whim as a guide — is kind of a contradictory phrase, but it describes what Sandrof does at this marquee watering hole. I favor the nights when the place is bustling but not insane, and he has a few minutes to pour me a sample of milk punch he made, or tell me that he happens to be the grandson of Benjamin Ferris, the late Harvard doctor who pioneered air-pollution research.

My first impression of Sandrof was that “he’s a suave guy, which I mean in the good sense, i.e. ‘effortlessly gracious.'” That assessment holds. He is confident — some might say cocky — in his skills, which has yielded only good results for this customer. I give him the vaguest outlines of what I feel like drinking, and somehow he manages to set something exquisite down on my bar napkin every time.

Lincoln, MA.

Past bartending jobs
Upstairs on the Square, Middlesex Lounge, Noir, No. 9 Park, Drink.

Favorite bar in Boston other than your own
Eastern Standard.

The drink you most like to make
Mint Julep.

The drink you least like to make
Dirty __________.

Most beloved bartending book
Jerry Thomas’ Bar-Tenders Guide.

If you weren’t a bartender, you’d be…
Out in the woods somewhere trying to distill whiskey.

People drink too much…
Flavored vodka.

People don’t drink enough…

Drink for a rainy day
Rum Old Fashioned.

Least appreciated alcoholic beverage in Boston
Anything with tiki inspiration.

Most overrated alcoholic beverage in Boston
Anything that ends with -tini that is not a proper Martini.

The best thing about drinking in Boston
The cocktail culture is expanding rapidly. We have lots of creative bartenders.

The worst thing about drinking in Boston
Public transportation stops before the bars close.

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Posted in Bartenders | 6 Comments »

May 3rd, 2009

Mine that bird

A Mint Julep at DrinkThe odds of my drinking like a lady at yesterday’s “Run for the Roses” party at Drink were about as long as those of Mine That Bird winning the Kentucky Derby. The name of the first-place horse could have been the party’s slogan, the bird in question being Eagle Rare bourbon. The whiskey flowed so lavishly that John Gertsen mixed a giant Mint Julep in a silver punch bowl just because he could.

For me, a good party was made even better by the fact that I got to enjoy my bourbon alongside one Mr. Paul Harrington, who happened to be in town for the weekend from the West Coast. In the ’90s, as a San Francisco bartender and the authority behind on the now-defunct web magazine HotWired, Paul was among a small handful of people who planted the seeds of the classic-mixology revival. He co-authored Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century (unfortunately out of print), a seminal book for many of today’s bartender-mixologists in Boston and elsewhere. Those influencees include Patrick Sullivan, who consulted Paul’s book when he opened the B-Side Lounge in 1998 and who, as it turned out, met the author last night for the first time. I’m getting verklemmpt.

Paul is a sharp, charming guy with an easygoing manner, and he is plainly impressed by the level that the bartending profession has reached in places like Drink. What he, Dale DeGroff, Robert Hess, Ted Haigh, Audrey Saunders and others helped start took a while to catch on, but now it’s fully in bloom. The good thing is, Paul’s no cocktail geek extolling mixological prowess above all. His advice to today’s barkeep is to remember that a bar should be fun and welcoming; combine that kind of vibe with expertly made drinks, and you’re golden.

Paul, here’s to getting your book back in print and opening up a joint of your own someday.

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Posted in Books & resources, Whiskey | 3 Comments »

February 21st, 2009

Josey Packard

Josey Packard at Drink

Bartender Profile
Josey Packard is among that distinct class of bartenders who have had musical careers, and who channel their passion and creativity into the kind of performing that goes on behind a great bar. Those who remember Packard from another era, as the riot grrrl fronting the acclaimed band Chelsea on Fire, may find it jarring to see her now, sporting her natural brown curls, wearing a gentleman’s waistcoat, mixing Old Fashioneds. The contrast is part of her appeal.

When she decided to be a bartender, she skipped spring training and went right to the playoffs. While living in New York, she took the rigorous BAR (Beverage Alcohol Resource) course, then moved to San Francisco and landed a plum assignment at the Alembic Bar. That’s where I first encountered her, cracking ice cubes with a bar spoon, surrounded by homemade bitters and syrups, and offering detailed recommendations of bourbon and rye.

Naturally, when she moved back to Boston last fall, she promptly nabbed a spot at the newly opened Drink. With her love for (and knowledge about) classic cocktails, Packard’s most at home working the tri-sectioned bar’s “1800s station,” where she happily hacks away at a mammoth ice block in the process of making you a perfectly thought-out cocktail. Rest assured, there’s nothing didactic about her. Rather, she is that perfectly Bostonian combination of seriousness and sharp humor, intensity and affability.


Topeka, Kansas. My parents went to high school here in Boston, but due to an Air Force assignment I was born and raised in the Midwest. Its cachet is both useful and boring to me; today I’m gratified to call Boston my home.

Past bartending jobs

The Alembic, San Francisco.

Favorite bar in greater Boston other than your own

Before 2006, it was Anchovies. Now, I’d have to say Eastern Standard.

First drink you ever had

Irish Mist out of my parents’ cabinet. I think I was nine. First drink I ever ordered at a bar? Amaretto Sour. I had no idea what it was, but somehow the name came out of my mouth.

____ is to the Boston bar scene as ____ is to the Boston music scene

St. Germain is to the Boston bar scene as canned drums are to the Boston music scene. Not traditional, potentially transcendental, and ripe for abuse.

The drink you most like to make

Old Fashioned. Made the same way since the turn of the (19th) century: who doesn’t love a drink that was born right alongside our country?

A bartender’s best friend is…

The 6-ounce cheater tin.

A bartender’s worst enemy is…

A lack of humility.

What you drink at the end of your shift

Reading Lager. I hate lager (not enough flavor) but I love cold Reading Lager: go figure.

If you weren’t a bartender, you’d be…

I am so f***ing proud to be a bartender. I am also a musician and an editor.

Dumbest thing you’ve heard in a bar

“I can’t break the code” — meaning a guy can’t order a drink that anyone else has stated is a woman’s drink.

Most profound thing you’ve heard in a bar

Lady says: “While my friend’s in the bathroom, I want a non-alcoholic drink that looks alcoholic because I just found out I’m pregnant.” Then she goes to the bathroom, her friend waits until she’s out of earshot, and then says exactly the same thing.

What you say at last call

This is one of those areas where the genius of John Gertsen is sublimely obvious. There is no last call, there’s just a time after which drink-making stops but the party rolls on. I usually stand on the bartop with a bullhorn and a bottle of Captain, unbutton my shirt and pour a line of sloppy shots, set them on fire, then flash my tits: it’s like a visual cue. John is such a great manager to let me do this.

The best thing about drinking in Boston

Being here. Smart people, self-deprecating humor, welcoming community, weather extremes, and the Ward 8 with its three full-on ounces of rye.

The worst thing about drinking in Boston

I gotta say it’s the T stopping service at freaking 12:15 a.m. It’s simply irresponsible of them.

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Posted in Bartenders | 15 Comments »