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Bitters in Boston

Boston_Otter Aug 26, 2011 09:48 AM

With the craft cocktail craze in high gear, I'm seeing a dizzying spectrum of bitters appearing in local specialty stores. Aztec Chocolate Bitters, Lime Bitters, Plum Bitters, Falernum Bitters...

Is there a craft cocktail bar in town that's using bitters well? I'd like to taste what different sorts of bitters can do in a well made drink without dropping $20+ per dropper bottle.

  1. Matt H Aug 27, 2011 10:08 AM

    Abigail's in Kendall Square is very new, but has the potential to turn into a great place to get a cocktail. I've been there on three occasions for drinks and all have been spot on. It also doesn't matter if you order on or off menu. Off the top of my head the drink menu features at least 5 different types of bitters.

    1. r
      robwat36 Aug 27, 2011 07:42 AM

      If you really want to explore the flavor, some bartenders can make you a drink in which bitters are actually the primary ingredient, like a Trinidad sour. I've had these at Drink and Upstairs on the Square.

      1. lipoff Aug 26, 2011 09:40 PM

        I've been to the Boston Shaker at times when they've had bitters tastings --- I would give them a call to find out if/when they are doing that again. Although, tasting bitters by themselves is no substitute for seeing their inclusion in an interesting drink. As an aside, I've been very impressed with Scrappy's Bitters, especially the cardamom flavor.

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        The Boston Shaker
        69 Holland Street, Somerville, MA

        1 Reply
        1. re: lipoff
          k
          katzzz Aug 27, 2011 10:42 AM

          Boston Shaker also has many "tester" bottles of bitters available for sniffing whenever they're open. I think they'd be happy to give you a taste, too....though of course they can't whip up a cocktail with them for you to sample!

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          The Boston Shaker
          69 Holland Street, Somerville, MA

        2. k
          kitsune Aug 26, 2011 10:08 AM

          Occasionally when I've been in this situation, I've gone to Drink and asked them to whip me up something with whichever type of bitters (or other obscure/expensive ingredients of which I'm unsure about shelling out for a large quantity) I'm interested in so that I can get a sense of what it's like. I've yet to be disappointed and I often end up buying said ingredient. I once asked them what they could do with the Bitterman's Mexican chocolate bitters and they made a fantastic Oaxacan Old Fashioned which has since become a staple at home.

          11 Replies
          1. re: kitsune
            Boston_Otter Aug 26, 2011 03:56 PM

            Thanks, I've heard really good things about Drink. It's a bit of a T ride from Davis Square area, but might be worth it; I wish that Cambridge/Somerville had a bar akin to Drink or Eastern Standard.

            1. re: Boston_Otter
              a
              ac106 Aug 26, 2011 04:05 PM

              Green Street
              Craigie
              Think Tank

              all have great cocktail programs in the area. Maybe not Drink level but certainly close if not on par with Eastern Standard

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              Eastern Standard
              528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

              Think Tank
              1 Kendall Square, lower level, Cambridge, MA 02139

              1. re: ac106
                justbeingpolite Aug 26, 2011 04:32 PM

                Where does Trina's Starlight Lounge rank?

                1. re: justbeingpolite
                  MC Slim JB Aug 26, 2011 05:14 PM

                  Trina's deserves a mention: plenty of bitters behind the bar, perhaps a slightly more playful approach to craft cocktails than some, certainly quality drinks from skilled bartenders.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                2. re: ac106
                  l
                  LeoLioness Aug 26, 2011 04:51 PM

                  Think Tank, really? I've never been when Brother Cleve is behind the bar and the drink menu doesn't wow me...how are the bartenders with non-menu requests?

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                  Think Tank
                  1 Kendall Square, lower level, Cambridge, MA 02139

                  1. re: LeoLioness
                    cannedmilkandfruitypebbles Aug 27, 2011 03:05 AM

                    The other bartenders need to work on their skills a bit. I asked one bartender what he likes to do with gin and, in allseriousness, he said he liked to mix it with vermouth.

                    1. re: cannedmilkandfruitypebbles
                      MC Slim JB Aug 27, 2011 09:59 AM

                      There's at least one bartender at Think Tank besides Cleve who is a serious craft type. I guess you might call the gin and vermouth guy a classicist, at least, but I agree that they're not all aces.

                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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                      Think Tank
                      1 Kendall Square, lower level, Cambridge, MA 02139

                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                        l
                        LeoLioness Aug 29, 2011 11:32 AM

                        I see that Joe McGuirk is going to be doing a guest stint at Think Tank this Wednesday, so at least I know I can get a good drink then!

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                        Think Tank
                        1 Kendall Square, lower level, Cambridge, MA 02139

                        1. re: LeoLioness
                          ponyboy Aug 29, 2011 11:56 AM

                          They are getting a different bartender in on Wednesday nights, bartender with the best sales gets a trip to the Caribbean. Emma from Trina's did it last week.

                          1. re: LeoLioness
                            a
                            ac106 Aug 29, 2011 02:10 PM

                            Joe is great which reminds me that i forgot Highland Kitchen.

                            -----
                            Highland Kitchen
                            150 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

                  2. re: Boston_Otter
                    d
                    dfan Aug 28, 2011 07:22 PM

                    Speaking as a fellow Davisian, it might be less far than you think; the stations between Kendall and South Station go by in a jiffy and then it's just a few-block walk.

                3. MC Slim JB Aug 26, 2011 10:07 AM

                  The usual craft cocktail suspects are well supplied with an array of commercial bitters, as well as a few of their own devising: Drink, Eastern Standard, Green Street, Deep Ellum, No. 9, Clio, Craigie on Main, Rendezvous, and now Island Creek Oyster Bar.

                  I've been surprised at the retailers that are now carrying a good selection. The Boston Shaker, naturally, but Liquor Land in Roxbury? They now have a big shelf up front, with not just the bigger or producers (Ango, Fee's, Regan's), but little guys like Bitterman's and The Bitter Truth, too.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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                  Eastern Standard
                  528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

                  Deep Ellum Bar
                  477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

                  Craigie on Main
                  853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                  The Boston Shaker
                  69 Holland Street, Somerville, MA

                  Island Creek Oyster Bar
                  500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

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