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Dec 19, 2006 02:04 PM

Newish with good bartending Downtown?

I'm looking for a bar or restaurant in the quarter-mile or so radius around City Hall: Downtown Crossing, Beacon Hill, Chinatown, North Station, Waterfront, North End.

I need something relatively new, say, opened in the past year, that does serious shaker drinks -- I've no interest in a lineup of sugary training-wheel cocktails a la The Living Room. Worthy bar nibbles would be a bonus.

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      1. re: sailormouth

        I thought of suggesting Spire also but MCs standards for mixed drinks are so high I got nervous. The atmsphere was good, dark and pretty quiet - there was a soccer game on, I had a martini but no food.

        1. re: steinpilz

          Oof, I guess I'm now known as the Chilled-Cocktail-Glass Nazi of the Boston board. I suppose there are worse monomanias to have!

          I actually like the idea of Spire, as it has a new chef, and it's a handsome bar with big, comfortably spaced stools (if you can snag one -- it gets kind of frenzied in there some nights). But it's true: I have experienced inconsistent cocktail-making there.

          Maybe this is a function of staff turnover? The great cocktail places in Boston seem to retain the high-skills bartenders for years at a time. In that vast second tier, I often see a different bartender every time I visit.

          A few places that have driven me crazy with that inconsistency: Aquitaine, Nebo, Stella, Sister Sorrel, 33, Restaurant L, Radius, Bricco. Getting a great drink on one visit and a mediocre one the next is maddening, especially at >$10 prices. It's hard not to stick to the handful of old reliables that show high seriousness and quality control: the B-Side, Green St, No. 9, ESK, the Franklin, the Rendezvous.

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            You may be the Chilled-Cocktail-Glass Nazi, but you have a following!

            Antheum isn't too bad, but does depend on who is behind the bar and what event is going on at the Garden.

            Ironside in Charlestown used to be good, but I haven't been in a while.

            I pass by Red Sauce, but have never gone in (yet). Looks inviting though.

            My index for a great cocktail is now Eastern Standard. I even take the T from the financial district to Kenmore Square just for that great Friday night experience, but I know that isn't in your requested locations.

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              My favourite part of all Spire is the "heirloom chickpeas" that are/were on the menu. Is that marketing gone mad or is there a veritable difference between chickpeas the commodity and extra-special chickpeas? I have yet to see heirloom navy beans.

              1. re: sailormouth

                I actually ordered a dish with that as a side the last time I had dinner there (in the Frasca era, quite good), and made roughly the same crack to our server, who looked like she'd heard that one about a hundred times already.

                1. re: sailormouth

                  That's because you're not looking hard enough:


                  actually if you read pretty much all beans are heirloom beans.

                  I know, I know, offtopic.


                  1. re: Chris VR

                    I think if you've had enough cocktails, sugary or not, heirloom chickpeas are the center of any conversation.

                2. re: MC Slim JB

                  Your observations about well made shaker cocktails in chilled glasses are very much appreciated in these here parts. I have had great luck at the bar at Prezza and its sister/brother spot, Copia. I have also had good luck at the bar at Davio's where if you ask for a gimlet with fresh lime juice - it is not even an issue. I say, hold their feet to the fire and keep on inisting on retaining the art of the properly shaken cocktail - at $12.00 a drink - that is not asking all that much.

            2. I don't think there's anywhere you haven't been. What did the Vault become? I think it's more pub-like now from something I heard. Maybe the slightly revamped 75 Chestnut? Have you been to Copia? There's not that much new that I can think of.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Joanie

                A friend of mine went to Copia the other night. She absolutely loved it. Said it wasn't a whole lot different from Meze. She got the pan-seared scallops; not sure what she had for drinks, though. The drink menu looks decent, though (grappa, hennessy paradis, and jagermeister--oh, boy!).


                1. re: Joanie

                  I love the coziness of the bar at 75 Chestnut but have to say, I am not a big fan of their shaker drinks. I know that neither is new, but the bartenders at #9 and Radius would be my picks in that area.

                  1. re: Joanie

                    Neither the Vault nor 75 Chesnut would have what I consider "good bartending". The Dirty Dirty martini at 75 Chesnut is good, though.

                    The only place I can think of is the "new" bar at Beacon Hill Bistro. Not sure how consistent their bartending is, but they have at least one person who has a clue.

                    If you can wait a couple days for a report, I will be at District either Wednesday or Thursday.

                  2. Now that I think of it, the bar at Ruth's Chris has both an outstanding atmosphere and top notch drinks that I have found to be very consistent.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Gabatta

                      I know I was only there the one time, but giving drinks to the wrong person, waiting forever to be asked if you want another, and serving martinis in warm glasses was not a great experience at the Ruth's Chris bar.

                      1. re: Joanie

                        Did you sit at the bar, or at a table in the bar area?

                        I have found the bar tneders there to be excellent.

                        1. re: Gabatta

                          Yep, we were at the bar. It was the long President's Day weekend and pretty packed which maybe contributed to the bartender screwing up left and right. And it wasn't really his fault they ran out of glasses and came out hot. But he still give wrong drinks, didn't ask how things were, didn't properly chill the hot glasses, etc. My boss said it was like being at Doyle's cuz we got a kind of townie vibe from the RC bartender. Which is fine if you know what you're doing but he didn't seem to that nite. Maybe things have gotten better, was Alcachofa there a while ago too?

                        2. re: Joanie

                          I agree with Joanie. They barely knew how to make an ordinary martini at Ruth's. "Top notch"? They didn't even have Noilly Prat.

                          EDIT: This was on a relatively quiet night in, I think, September.

                      2. Does anyone know what has happened with the new bar that the Alstrom brothers (of Beer Advocate fame) were slated to open? It was going to be called "Sanctuary" or something along those lines and I remember seeing a bunch of ads in the local rags stating "coming soon." Did they lose their financial backing?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: a l i c e

                          Not sure if this is the place you are talking about, but there is a bar called Sanctuary on State Street that has been open for a few years now. I went once or twice when they first opened and found it to be a bit younger and clubbier than I prefer.

                          1. re: lissy

                            The Alströms' proposed place is the Purgatory Alehouse, and it's still under development. More here:

                            1. re: lissy

                              It was supposed to be Purgatory Alehouse and it looks like that project is on hold for now.

                              1. re: gini

                                Is it too early to hope that tourists get confused between the Purgatory Alehouse and Purgatory in Provincetown? Or continuing to hope they get the two Vaults confused?