Boston has a handful of great cocktail bars, and more than its share of solid music venues. One thing every one of those venues has in common is that they are downright awful places to drink anything besides a hastily made two-part cocktail or a cheap can of beer. Actually, more like an expensive can of cheap beer. What we haven't had — until the opening of the Sinclair, anyway — is a one-stop spot for music and cocktail connoisseurs alike. The Harvard Square concert venue, and its attached restaurant and bar, mean you no longer have to schlep all the way down the street for a pre-show cocktail; now you can just pop over into the next room. No surprise, then, that it's this cocktail and music writer's new favorite place to go in the city.
While the music-venue side of the equation isn't up to speed on the more complicated recipes they're working with in the restaurant — it's admittedly pretty hard to do high-volume craft cocktails — they're slowing rolling out a more in-depth list, bar manager David Werthman explains. "It's definitely something that's never been done," he says of the marriage. That's all I want out of life, I told him: a place to see a good band while also being able to enjoy a cocktail. Him too, he says. "When I started, that's exactly what I said. I wanted to stock the bar with good stuff. Myself, and my friends, we'd be super psyched to have a bottle of mezcal on the bar at a place where we can go see a rock band or a DJ." It's not completely there yet, but you can get a stamp and go back and forth between the music venue and the bar to have a drink during the show, or you can bring a drink over with you, albeit in a plastic cup.
I asked Werthman to explain three of his favorite recipes from his broad cocktail list. Start with these when you go — and you should definitely go. Consider this my strongest endorsement of the year. The list, he says, was "created to be approachable, but adventurous."
QUALITY OF LIFE
Wire Works gin, Bittermens Amère Nouvelle, Dubonnet Rouge, grapefruit, Regans' orange bitters
"The gentian and spice from the Amère (classic Alsatian style) work well with the subtle botanicals of the local Wire Works gin," Werthman says of this cocktail, whose name references how fortunate we are to now have such great ingredients to choose from. "The Dubonnet gives some roundness, and the grapefruit adds perfect acidity."
WORD OF MOUTH
Old Monk seven-year rum, Osborne Amontillado sherry, Dolin Rouge vermouth, Turkish sumac bitter molasses
"The butterscotch notes from the Old Monk, along with the hazelnut from the sherry and the bittersweet floral notes of the Dolin Rouge, are rounded out from a drop of the bitter sumac, produced in small vials from a single family in Turkey."
NORTH X SOUTH
Del Maguey Mezcal Vida, Carpano Antica, Hellfire honey sassafras syrup, lime
"One of my favorites on the list, this one incorporates two of the finest spirits from Mexico and Italy," Werthman says. He just wanted to see if they'd work together. They do. "The sassafras plays off the smokiness of the mezcal while adding a spice kick in the mouth. The bitter vanilla from the Carpano adds depth while the citrus brings it all together."
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