thoughts on drinking, life and mixing the two.
So I had a chance to spend a night out in Boston with my uncle Billy after some tough family business. My first inclination was to go to the Boston Shaker and go shopping for fun bar tools, alas I could not get there before they closed. Not to be disheartened I consulted Google and was pointed to Drink a craft cocktail bar in Boston. I was cautiously optimistic. Billy does not drink alcohol and I really did not want to drag him to a bar unless there was food and the drinks were good enough so as not to waste our time. I probably went in with a bit of an attitude, but I promised my uncle that we would hit the Brazilian steakhouse in Cambridge afterwards if the food and overall experience at the bar was not enthralling.
First impression from the website was pretty shaky. While being admittedly nice looking there was nothing in the way of useful information. The website gave no inclination as to whether or not they served food or much else for that mater. If there intention is to live solely on reputation and word of mouth I guess I can understand and despite the crap website, we went anyway. To their credit, on a Tuesday night in March every bar stool was full and the layout was designed with the intention of maximum face time with the bartender. The bar zigzagged through the space offering more seats at the bare than at any traditional linear bar. This setup also gives each bartender their own command center like station surrounded by patrons on three sides. I liked the layout and I like that it gave the impression that what the bartenders were doing behind the bar was important. On a busy Tuesday any sense of intimacy was lost but I was impressed that mid-week they were doing such great business. The music volume level was weird, it was not loud enough to be heard and not quiet enough to get out-of-the-way. Instead the people talking over the music and each other mixed with the volume to create a kind of white noise that made it hard to hear anything. I believe you have to decide between loud music and quiet enough to chat.
They reputedly make their own ginger beer, this stuff was awesome and had the taste of fresh ginger. Bravo!
The cagey bartender refused when asked to offer a suggestion or a drink menu. Not knowing his specialty I decided to give him the “old-fashioned” test. I asked him to show me an interesting twist on an old-fashioned. He made it by placing a sugar cube in a glass and carefully dousing it with Angostura and orange bitters. They make their own bitters… reputedly… I don’t know that I had any of those. He then gave the cube a quick muddle and set the glass aside while he made two other drinks. Next came the Old Overholt Rye Whiskey and a large very clear ice-cube. He may have twisted a lemon peel over the glass, I could not quite see. The drink was served clean and ungarnished. I wont fault the guy for that, as a matter of point of view, I can respect it. The only problem with the cocktail was the undissolved sugar. If you want to use a sugar cube, or a granulated variety you really need to make sure that the sugar is fully dissolved before you add the ice. this is a crucial detail. With the sugar laying on the bottom of the glass there is nothing to balance the double dose of bitters.
The bartender may have noticed my chagrin, I think he might have noticed me holding the drink up to the light to show my uncle the sugar granules in the bottom. After a while he came by and made some paltry small talk and then I closed my tab after only one drink. I just wasnt feeling it and I didn’t really love my drink. With Uncle Billy driving and after the week we had, I normally would have had several drinks. My thoughts turned instead to the Brazilian steakhouse and getting there before it got too late. To the great credit of the bartender in either reading me well or just being nice (I am sexy, but I don’t think that was it) he bought me that drink and said “Welcome to Boston.”
I appreciate the free drink, and the sentiment but I didn’t want an old-fashioned. I wanted a new experience and I would have been happy to pay for it. I wanted to get a peek at the cocktail culture in Bean Town, however because mr. bartender didn’t feel like offering any sort of input or menu all I got was poorly made free drink.
The Brazilian food was just what we needed and my dear uncle was very happy.