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IMPROPER BOSTONIAN, MAY 2014 "Hot Shots" article by MC SlimJB

The IMPROPER BOSTONIAN MAY 2014 "Hot Shots" article by MC SlimJB
features a Q and A with bartender Freric Yarm of the Russell House Tavern. One of the questions is "Cocktail that must die?" to which Mr. Yarm answers, "Those '70s drinks." 'I refuse to remember the difference between a Bay Breeze and a Sea Breeze."

The Bay Breeze is made with gin and the Sea Breeze is made with vodka. Both drinks feature a 2:1 ratio of grapefruit juice to cranberry juice cocktail.

This quote symbolizes craft bartending. Oh holy drinkmeister please forgive me for ordering a drink that you say you aren't required to "remember".

I might not "remember" to tip.

P.S. I have been tending bar for a good part of 30 years.

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  1. I read that same question from an interview from the 1940s and the answer was the milk punch and rye whiskey. Go figure. :-b

    1. Isn't that from a older March edition ? With a bunch of bartenders?

      2 Replies
      1. re: C. Hamster

        online earlier, print is may version, i think... also... don't magazine issues typically come out the month before their label? I... honestly can't remember anymore. wow.

        1. re: valcfield

          I just remember reading it awhile ago ....

      2. there was a similar question posed over on serious eats recently and the answers were more like cosmos and long island iced teas. that seemed reasonable.

        1. Clearly the question ("Cocktail that must die") was intended to elicit a contentious response. And clearly Mr. Yarm played ball and gave an answer (tongue partially in cheek, I bet) that would provoke certain people. Mission accomplished.

          1. It's always just great to find someone willing to throw an industry colleague under the bus instead of affording them a quantum of understanding and benefit of the doubt.

            Surely, if someone said to a customer "I refuse to remember the difference between those two drinks" that would be worth taking offense, but when asked in an interview to say what drink you despise, that tone is completely appropriate.

            As for craft bartending, I appreciate any expert who is adept enough to push my comfort limits and succeeds in doing so (Devra First's review yesterday of 51 Lincoln is a great treatise on that idea... and when it can go wrong).

            Being aloof, if it ever were a part of the craft bar movement, went out of fashion a good 5+ years ago when people first started griping about the movement being aloof.

            Sure, some craft bartenders are aloof, but based on some present anecdotal evidence here, seems just as easy to find an anti-craft bartender that's condescending.

            1 Reply
            1. Which bar at Logan makes the best Bay Breeze?

              1 Reply
              1. re: davis_sq_pro

                lol. whichever one is using svedka pineapple vodka. :o

              2. I suspect Fred actually knows these things: he's being facetious to make the point that simple booze-and-juice cocktails, however beloved, maybe aren't the best reasons to visit a bar like RHT's.

                I also suspect that if you actually visited his bar, you might be impressed by his focus on hospitality. In my interview, he talks about how moving from just writing a cocktail blog (the highly recommended http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/ ) to actually working behind the stick has made him a more appreciative customer.

                I hope folks go and read that feature from the Improper's previous issue, in which I interview a dozen bartenders I think are underappreciated veterans or promising newcomers (like Fred). It's not in the issue on the street now, but is still available online under the title "Pouring Reign".


                2 Replies
                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  An entertaining read, especially love that you featured Ryan McGrale.

                  1. re: Niblet

                    McGrale is great, and so are all the people that work for him. This is one of the hallmarks of a real bar program, as opposed to the One Star Bartender approach I used to see all the time, where if you didn't get the big gun, your experience suffered. Training is huge part of the ethos at Tavern Road. It doesn't matter who's working, you're going to get a great drink at that bar.


                2. I'm guessing Fred wouldn't tell a guest he's not required to remember the difference between Breezes...

                  I once had a guest ask for a Sea Breeze and I had no idea what it was. I was honest about it to the guest and we figured it out together. She said it was delicious, ordered two more, and thanked me for going the extra mile to make it happen. Tips aplenty.

                  Improper asked Fred a question and he responded. Derp de derp de derp. The good part of all this is now I get to go to his bar and ask for, like, so many Breezes. I'm thinking a Cadiz Breeze to start.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Leeners

                    I hoping to get one with blood orange and pomegranate juice. That might be a Cadiz, or an Andaluz, or a Granada.

                    1. re: Madrid

                      I really hope that Yarm creates, based on this thread, a Flight of Breezes offering at RHT.

                  2. I'm pretty sure they are both vodka. A sea breeze is vodka, grapefruit, and cran and a bay breeze is vodka, pineapple, and cran.

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: CTrainInbound

                      Wikipedia says that Bay Breeze contains rum. Apparently this beverage is just as contentious as it is delicious! And with all of that fruit juice and a neutral spirit, how could it not be the absolute perfect choice for 15 year olds everywhere? Bottoms up!

                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                        i tended bar for years and never had anybody expect rum in a bay breeze.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          One of the bartenders I work with commented that Malibu and its popularity/advertising campaign a while ago re-invented or expanded the drink idea. No one expects rum in it, but people will call for it.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Rum and vodka are interchangeable. Otherwise known as a "Hawaiian Seabreeze."

                            1. re: SOBoston

                              Some rums, especially the unaged Spanish styles, are interchangeable, such as light Puerto Rican rums. The English, such as Jamaican, and the French, such as Rhum Agricole, are not. Not to mention rum/"rum" from Brazil better known as cachaça.

                              1. re: yarm

                                Trivial cases, as they are not much seen here, but certain aguardientes (Ecuadorian punta, Haitiian kleren, Mexican charanda, Costa Rican guaro) are essentially unaged rums, many of them on the rough side, more often taken neat than used in cocktails.


                              2. re: SOBoston

                                flavor-wise they are NOT interchangeable. are there people who really can't tell the difference?

                                a hawaiian seabreeze is vodka, cran and pineapple. not rum.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  If you can't tell the flavor difference between vodka and unaged rum, please don't make me a cocktail.

                                  Of course, cocktail recipes have variants and evolve over time. The modern "Breeze" family apparently sprang into existence (as many cocktails do) as a marketing vehicle to promote a particular ingredient, in this case Ocean Spray cranberry juice in the 1950s; the original version called for gin.

                                  But I'd say that >90% of bartenders in 2014 would reach first for vodka to make the most popular Breezes, the Sea and the Bay. White rum makes perfect sense as a substitute in these simple juice/booze cocktails, but they're not the default; rum or flavored rum makes them something different, like a Malibu Breeze.


                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                    if you can't tell the difference, you shouldn't be drinking. :)

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      If you can't tell the difference, you shouldn't be drinking so much. :)

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        There are plenty of over-distilled rums that in drinks do not stand out as rums. More like if you can't tell your vodka from your "premium rum," maybe you should shop for a more flavorful rum or just be happy that the vodka-ization of rum occurred.

                                        DonQ white rum is a different beast than J. Wray & Nephew Jamaican rum...

                                        1. re: yarm

                                          so if i totter in with my cane and comfort dog and order a seabreeze are you gonna give me rum as the base? c'mon.

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                            No, my bar doesn't carry any over distilled rums, but I have had plenty of hard to determine if it is truly rum rums.

                                            If you make a call for a Smith & Cross Seabreeze, I might not even upcharge you for it out of respect.

                                              1. re: yarm

                                                i can't remember the last time i had a cocktail like a seabreeze, lol, but visiting this thread makes me want a salty dog with brunch. :)

                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  When made with fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, that is an awesome eye-opener.


                                2. re: davis_sq_pro

                                  Yes, When I started tending bar the Hawaiian Breeze was ordered by 19 year old girls. (This was when the drinking age was being "stepped" up to 21.

                              3. Cheers Mr. Emotional!

                                There are two things I like to do when serving drinks. The most important is to serve it with a sincere, non-ironic smile. And the second is to get the drink right the first time by either memory, asking questions, or looking it up. Not sure where your recipes for the Seabreeze and Baybreeze come from, but feel free to make a copy of my cheatsheet:


                                Feel free to spend your hours reading into my comments, but my drinks from Long Islands to strange shooter requests get complements from how they are made to how I enthusiastically make them. The part I don't get about Seabreeze etc. drinks are that they are various mixtures of juices without structure using a flavorless spirit and I can't figure out a mnemonic to master them; therefore, I carry the recipes in my book that I have on me every time I bartend. Along with countless other recipes.

                                As for Hotoynoodle's comment about Cosmos and Long Islands, those drinks make sense for they are Daisies -- spirit, tart citrus, sweetener, +/- soda water -- just like Margaritas and Sidecars. It's a drink of balance.

                                As for Baybreezes/Seabreezes with non-vodka spirits, I have definitely gotten tickets for rum variations. Never have seen a gin one yet (although I get requests for gin Bloody Maries all the time).

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: yarm

                                  Fred Yarm is a gracious host at Russel House Tavern. I'm quite sure he can serve 70's (or current) craptails with sincerity. Of course, it's best to not make him.

                                  1. re: yarm

                                    "As for Baybreezes/Seabreezes with non-vodka spirits, I have definitely gotten tickets for rum variations. Never have seen a gin one yet (although I get requests for gin Bloody Maries all the time)."

                                    Thanks Fred for mentioning the gin Bloody (AKA Red Snapper? I've read conflicting reports about this rendition at NYC's King Cole Bar). Making a Bloody with gin, akvavit, tequila...well, anything but neutral vodka is an improvement and a taste treat.

                                    Looking forward to dropping into the Russell House boîte when you're there one of these days!

                                    1. re: yarm

                                      I would honored if you could invent a drink call 'The Postemotional One!"

                                      1. re: yarm

                                        Oh yeah, for that true solid 70's thing pour into a 7oz. glass pouring the vodka by the shot. The juices should be poured from a liquor bottle, preferably Vodka City!

                                        1. re: yarm

                                          I haven't worked brunch since 2001 but when I did we would occasionally get a request for a Bloody Maria, a Bloody with tequila. Do you ever get a call for this? Oh yeah, does anyone know what a Puerto Rican is?

                                          1. re: postemotional1

                                            Legal seafood's Red Tide is a bloody with tequila.

                                            I prefer tequila in a Bloody Mary.

                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                That's a waste in my book. Most of the flava would get lost.

                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                  Possibly, but the smoke surely doesn't get lost, and that is mainly what makes it unusual and good compared to a Bloody Maria.


                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                    generally- this is something I see such disparate opinions on; if and when it's worthwhile to use a good/pricy spirit in a cocktail. I think it was Jim Meehan i saw quoted recently who said that a cocktail is 'only as good as it's weakest link', and thus always seemingly worthwhile... but i'd love to see a roundup of different professional's opinions (a la serious eats' occasional features.. don't think they've covered this one yet) on when/which high end spirits they use for cocktails vs. when it's a waste...

                                                    1. re: valcfield

                                                      My favorite cocktail spirits tend to fall into the low-middle part of the spectrum -- not dear, not quite cheap. I wouldn't make a Manhattan with Pappy, but I've been known to occasionally have a celebratory one with Hudson Manhattan Rye. My standbys are cheaper, currently Saz 6, Riverboat, Redemption, Four Roses Yellow Label, and Bully Boy American.

                                                      I never spend more than for Smirnoff for vodka cocktails (though I keep Karlsson's around to drink straight). My floor for tequila cocktails is pure-agave, but it's easy to find some nice bottlings that meet that standard and are great in cocktails that run in the low 20s.

                                                      Lately I've been exploring more bottom-shelf offerings with some surprising results. I bought Old Fitzgerald Bourbon recently out of curiosity -- a shot of it neat is the classic Boston tavern's "ball" in the "beer and a ball" combination -- but I found it to be very sippable at $13/750ml, far superior on its own compared to the similarly priced Old Overholt rye.

                                                      I'm also looking at the slightly fancier versions of old bottom-shelf brands, like the Reserve version of Old Crow. Haven't found it locally at retail yet.


                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                        Well here's a new thread on:

                                                        Mid-Tier Spirits for Every-Day Cocktail Making


                                                        Please chime in.

                                        2. How m folks remember Girl Scout Cookies? Virgin Girl Scouts? Girl Scouts in Uniform? Just got F$*&(%# Girl Scouts? Yellowbirds? Zima with a shot of Chambord?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: postemotional1

                                            Changing the subject is probably a better approach here than commenting to my reply. Cheers!

                                          2. A 70+ woman just sat down next to me and ordered a ------(couldn't understand) BREEZE and it's freaking psychedelic with blue curaçao . A yikes cocktail. Bartender asked her if she wore a shirt to match. She did.

                                            1. Great posts! I have served the Hawaiian Seabreeze from 85-95. Yes, Fred the rise of Malibu has created a market for a "Malibu Madras".. furthermore during my time at the Harvard Hong Kong the printed recipe for the Blue Hawaii featured white rum, Castillo which was the speed rack pour, and blue Curaco. Inn 1988 Blue anythings weren't seen outside of Chinese restaurants and the Eliot Lounge. Now the Blue Hawaii is made with Malibu.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: postemotional1

                                                Wow, you sounded like quite the craft bartender of the 80s, a holy drinkmeister.

                                                1. re: yarm

                                                  Please go to blog and check out my recipe and back story for the "Funkmaster Flex". I call what I do remixology. Please create a "Postemotional". Fred, you seem to be one of the few who gets me! Cheers!

                                                  1. re: postemotional1

                                                    You have trolled me into responding to you which is different from "getting" you. I am a bartender that works for what is best for my restaurant, fellow bartenders, and guests. I also write to promote the good I see in the Boson cocktail world -- from recipes to drink programs to bartenders. While I have my opinions, I try not to call people or programs out, but to focus on what is positive out there if I can. We are a community trying to get Boston to drink well (or at least better). That is all.

                                                2. re: postemotional1

                                                  Wow, the Eliot's Blue Whale. Haven't heard that drink mentioned since I was very young. Famous as Bill Rogers's traditional post-Marathon victory drink.

                                                  Blue Margaritas (often of the frozen variety, with blue curaçao for the orange liqueur) were certainly being made at a bunch of places in the mid-80s, too.

                                                  I assume you mean the Hong Kong's Blue Hawaii is made with Malibu. The traditional 1950s version (invented to promote the Bols brand of blue curaçao) is 3 pineapple juice, 1 sour, 1/2 blue curaçao, 3/4 Puerto Rican white rum, 3/4 vodka, shaken and served over ice.


                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                    Blue Whales at Lucy's on the Upper West Side. Came with a free whale. Good times.

                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                      Tommy Leonard's signature drink was the Blue Whale. it was very girly with more Blue Curaco than vodka. It was served with a flag of an orange slice and cherry impaled on a swizzle stick.

                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                        Thank you for your reply.

                                                        The blue margaritas I recall where dispensed from Taylor Soft Serves at the old Bahama Beach Club which occupied the the downstairs slot at McCormick and Schmick's.

                                                        I worked at the Harvard Hong Kong in 1988 when the blue Hawaii was made with white rum. By 1993 it was made with Malibu as it is made at my current bartending employer. Yes slim, Malibu is definitely one of the big success stories of my bartending times.

                                                        Do you remember Cocoribe?