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Jul 21, 2012 06:14 PM

Cocktails before O Ya

My wife and I are celebrating our anniversary at O Ya next week and would like have cocktails somewhere nearby before our dinner at 8. We're visiting from NYC - the last time I had a drink in Boston was at the Ritz pre Taj takeover so I need guidance. Looking for a place that can make a perfect Negroni or Old Fashioned and is quiet enough so that we can hear each other talk. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

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  1. Very close by, the bar on the quiet side (there's live music on the other) of Les Zygomates, a French bistro and wine bar with surprisingly respectable cocktails, would do.

    Radius, a high-end New American / French restaurant, has a bar that would also suit, though it's not always whisper-quiet.

    A pleasant 12-minute walk away is the Rowes Wharf Bar in the Boston Harbor Hotel: quiet, old-school, hidden.

    1. Slim has some great calls. Another consideration is Drink ( 348 Congress Street). They will most certainly see to your cocktail needs. It's just a bit shorter walk than the Rowes Wharf Bar-> O-ya trek.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Food4Thought

        I suspect MC did not mention Drink because it can be deafeningly noisy/ packed in like sardines (unless you're there during off hours). If you're going to walk as far as Drink, a much quieter (and dare I say, more hospitable) option would be the bar at Pigalle.

        1. re: barleywino

          Exactly, barleywino: it is rarely quiet at Drink after about 5pm. Also, I'd suggest that while Drink can indeed make you a great Old-Fashioned or Negroni if that's your fancy, that's not really what they're about.

      2. Les Zyg is VERY close to O Ya (I think O Ya may even share Les Zyg's valet), but bear in mind if you go on a weekday that even the "quiet" side of Zygomates can get fairly jammed with an "after work drinks crowd", a la Radius. Within a similar distance of Pigalle and BHH/Rowes Wharf (both lovely suggestions for an anniversary beverage IMHO, and not too far of a walk on a summer evening - although the walk from BHH to O Ya would be "nicer" to me; I'm not a huge Stuart/Kneeland St. fan) are also the "new" Ritz, Intercontinental and W (yes, Stuart St. again) hotels; not sure of the worthiness of any of their cocktail programs, but they might (MIGHT - some hotels, like the Ames seem to attract quite the after-work crowd, so check, but...) offer you some breathing room from the downtown business crowd. Happy Anniversary!

        11 Replies
        1. re: BrettLove

          self-modded & relocated digression about Les Zygomates here:

          1. re: enhF94

            I would still go to Drink and just deal with the din. I've done the Drink ---> O Ya evening on several occasions, and the fact that they're equally superlative at their game makes it the perfect pairing for a grand night out.

            Also: Not sure, but I'd suspect "Negroni or Old Fashioned" is simply stand-in code for classic craft cocktails, not necessarily those particular drinks. Either way, Drink will work well.

            1. re: Jolyon Helterman

              Jolyon, your intuition is spot on - classic craft cocktails are what I'm looking for. Thanks to all for your suggestions. I think we'll try Drink, in part because of its proximity to my favorite egg sandwich in the world at Flour; call it culinary feng shui...

              Since I'm on the topic - any specific tips for O Ya would be also be greatly appreciated; we're eating at the bar and, yes, I have perused the many posts here and Bruni's NYT rave.

              1. re: fress

                As an alternative to Drink (which I think has one of the very best cocktail programs in the city, but does not meet your original parameter of quiet), I'd also suggest the bar at No. 9 Park: same owner, same commitment to cocktail craft, but generally a much quieter, lower-key experience, with seats at a small bar, a few lounge-y seats, and a cluster of cafe tables, where Drink is either sit at the bar, stand, or wait in line outdoors. It's the same walking distance from O Ya as Drink.


          2. re: BrettLove

            +1 on the boston harbor hotel. even busy, there never seems to be a din there, what with the soft, men's club type of decor.

            the remodeled "new" ritz bar is all hard surfaces and uncomfortable bar stools. i really dislike the reno. bartendersremain the same, so service is generally quite good and nicely amiable.

            i have had nothing but crap service and terrible cocktails at rumba at the intercontinental.

            drink will be a mob scene and waiting 15 + minutes for even a perfect cocktail is enough to drive me over the edge if it is the start of my night.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              I find that the Avery Bar at the new Ritz is a much more comfortable alternative to the Artisan Bistro (main restaurant) bar.

              I likewise loathe the Intercontinental's bars: dreadful all around.

              I haven't been in so don't know the noise level, but I wonder if the Smith & Wollensky on the Waterfront might also suit. Luxury steakhouses in Boston are usually quite loud.

              Also, the bar at the Taj (the old Ritz's successor) is pretty much exactly what it used to be, except it has relaxed its dress code quite a bit, though there isn't a single restaurant in Boston that requires men to don a jacket anymore. (I think some of the private clubs still strongly encourage one.)


              1. re: MC Slim JB

                i like the avery bar too, but am more often there mid-afternoon when it's not yet open. when i have had drinks there kids running through and around have been a major distraction and loud aggravation. i realize they are guests of the hotel, but bars are for adults, not children playing tag.

              2. re: hotoynoodle

                the last time I was at Drink, I was shoehorned into a seat at the bar with people shouting on both sides of me and then waited about 20 minutes for a drink order which never came (the bartenders were slammed), I finally left and went elsewhere. The Smith & Wollensky bar has sports on the TVs above the bar so might not be the ideal atmosphere for an anniversary occasion (unless you both like sports bars)

                1. re: barleywino

                  Barleywino raises an important point, which is that as good as it can be, Drink is much less of a special experience when it is very busy, which happens a lot these days. What day of the week and time window is your dinner, fress?


                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    Wednesday at 8 so drinks around 7, I guess.

                    1. re: fress

                      Based on recent experience, I'd say you're likely to encounter a crowd, but probably not a line to get into Drink then. Two is always easier to seat than a larger party. But it is difficult to predict. I can't remember the last time it wasn't at least close to full at 7pm on a weeknight.


            2. While I think most of the suggestions in the thread are quite good, do NOT, go to the W for craft cocktails. I had one of the worst two Sazeracs of my life there.

              11 Replies
              1. re: kimfair1

                I'd say the bartending at the W varies wildly by venue and bartender. I've had seriously well-made drinks at Descent (which unfortunately has the ambiance of a rather tacky nightclub), but the bartender had trained at Drink or ESK. I've had pretty good cocktails at the bar at the back of Market's dining room. And I've had consistently mediocre cocktails at the W's lobby bar, which also usually seems dirty.

                I think the W has the same problem as many hotels that market themselves as belonging in the craft cocktail category: they've got a talented, skilled individual or two, but no consistency across the program. If you don't see a spot in front of the good bartender, you might as well head somewhere else.


                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  Yeah, I should have added the caveat that I've had good cocktails when dining at Market, but the awful Sazerac was at the lobby bar. Still not as bad as the Sazerac I was served at La Morra, though. Bourbon on the rocks with a bit of Peychaud's and a lemon wedge. Yep, that's what they called a Sazerac.

                  1. re: kimfair1

                    I think I had a worse Sazerac from the "craft cocktail" program at Post 390: bourbon, a big dose of absinthe, Peychaud's all shaken over a lot of ice and then strained into a snifter full of ice cubes, topped off with a big lemon wedge. How many ways can you get that drink wrong? I think they hit all of them.


                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      i hope it came with a salted rim? or olives?

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          i think it's cheaper there if you get a pitcher

                          1. re: barleywino

                            I frequently order a pitcher of Margaritas, extra OJ, then a pitcher of Sazeracs, extra absinthe. ;-)

                            EDIT: I just threw up a little in my mouth.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Are you sure this wasn't at Noir in Harvard Square? Had the exact same drink a couple of years ago minus any absinthe. The cherry on top was when I ordered the drink the waitress said, "wow, those have been really popular recently!"

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          the cocktail execution at post is beyond abominable. ugh.

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Wow, thankfully I never ordered a Sazerac on the one and only time I ate there.

                          2. re: kimfair1

                            maybe next time you can order a Latin Quarter ( )-- i think it's more forgiving than a Sazerac if they get it wrong

                      2. Woodward at the Ames will also whip up some great cocktails pre-dinner! The other suggestions on here are great as well..just trying to add some more options. Also, Storyville has a great craft cocktail room, Minibar above it has excellent staff---if you call and ask if Ryan is working, I wouldn't miss this stop.