Recommendations for well-made cocktails?
Sorry if this has been covered--using 'cocktails' to search the board wasn't working for me.
I plan to visit Boston in September, and I'm looking to visit some places that care about their cocktails, either in the classic sense or innovative-but-not-offensively-experimental sense. I'm not picky about whether it's a restaurant or bar, but I am picky about bartenders who know what they're doing.
To give some references (in case anyone is familiar with NYC, where I'm coming from), I'm partial to places like Pegu, Little Branch, and Death & Co.
Green Street in Cambridge! A huge selection of classics, plus lots of interesting new ones - try one of the egg white drinks. They know their stuff there. Plus, the drinks are very reasonable for boston - $6 - $8 for most drinks (I think). It's pretty casual, and they have good (but not great) food. Try the spicy nuts - of course, they will promote further drinking...
I agree w/ the other posters. The bartenders at #9 Park and ESK are big fans of the craftsmanship at Pegu, etc. #9 has a few lights of cocktails so you can sample more and make it back to your hotel ok. I tried the champagne flight a few months ago, and enjoyed my first Seelbach. Green Street is also good, and the B-Side Lounge in Cambridge has a fabulous list of well-made vintage cocktails.
Also in Cambridge, I like Chez Henri, and their bar menu is great. Their Cubano is legendary on this board. West Side Lounge also does some very nice things with muddled fruit, etc. In Central Sq, the Enormous Room has a few good offerings too.
MC Slim will weigh in on this topic soon, I'm guessing, and he's will have other terrific suggestions, I'm sure!
Hands down it has to be Eastern Standard. No place else I have been even comes close. Their bartenders are very dedicated to their craft and if you have any questions about something that contains alcohol, comes in a bottle and you can drink it I am sure they would be able to answer. I love their Old Fashions made with a high quality rye whiskey which is what a traditional Old Fashion should be made with.
Eastern Standard, B Side, Franklin, Cuchi Cuchi, 28 Degrees and The Alchemist all have great bartenders and excellent cocktails.
My top 3, in no particular order are Green St., No. 9 and Eastern Standard. No. 9 and Green St are my go to places for convenience and atmosphere, ES is nice if there isn't a game. The B-Side lately, IMHO, has gone slightly down hill, either that or Misty, John and Jackson at Green St. No. 9 and ES have become better.
Green St. is probably the cheapest and is definitely the least crowded on a Friday/Saturday so the bartenders will be able to take some time with you and your cocktails, No. 9 gets a cool crowd on weeknights (and weekends too but it's difficult to get a seat at the bar). BSide is just cool. ESK is probably best later in the evening on a week night.
There's a lot of bars I love for individual reasons (like Cuchi Cuchi for getting out in front of the muddled fresh fruit and herbs wave some years back, or Chez Henri for pioneering Cuban cocktails). I always start by giving props to the B-Side as Boston's Ground Zero for the serious cocktail revival; it has been the training ground for many of our local greats, and is still mixing at a very high level of craft. Guys like Dave and Rob there are about as sturdy and skilled and unshowily learned as they come.
I put Green Street very much in the B-Side's camp, making Golden Age classics, inventing serious cocktails of its own, stocking interesting rums, ryes, and other spirits, using high-quality ingredients, employing mixoligists with great hospitality as well as technical chops. There are followers in this wake, I think, folks at the Alchemist and Deep Ellum and other places.
I'd also cite another tier of very sound bartenders who perhaps aren't quite as scholarly as this group, but who ply their trade with admirable service skills and technical finesse (e.g., Lee at Union Bar & Grill, Casey at Lucca/Sasso, AJ and Jay at Audubon, Reggie at the Blue Room, Joe and Frank and Josh at the Beehive, Mike and Ferdinando at Brasserie Jo, Kevin at Grill 23, Emma at Tremont 647, et. al.).
But I think No. 9 and Eastern Standard have taken us closer to the rarefied level of Pegu Club and its Manhattan ilk, getting harder core about artisanal and fresh ingredients, rare spirits, fortified wines, homemade bitters, and so on. They take that B-Side/Green Street formula of reviving the Golden Age classics, learning/appreciating the history, creating their own originals, and hiring people who get the importance of the service component as well as the technical mixology skills. Then they slather another layer of cocktail cheffery and service flair onto it. They're trying to elevate the art of making, serving, and enjoying cocktails to the realm of refined cookery and the appreciation of fine wines. Boston is just scratching the surface of this field, but I see these folks as leading the way.