Thursday, November 15, 2012

Craft Cocktails

It used to be that when I found myself needing to order a cocktail, the only thing that I knew that I liked was a Gin & Tonic. So I ordered Gin & Tonics. Usually, I  avoided mixed drinks all together. However, over the past couple years, we've been branching out and learning more about craft cocktails, thanks to a trip to this place that we kept hearing about that was known for great drinks and a killer cheeseburger (Eastern Standard). We were hooked at the first sip.

As a birthday present for my husband, I bought tickets to a craft cocktail class at The Boston Shaker in Somerville's Davis Square. I got to tag along, because after all, what kind of wife would make her husband go all by himself? It was the selfless thing to do.

We started the evening with dinner and margaritas (research prior to the class, of course) at The Painted Burro. The margaritas were strong, the chips and salsa were plentiful, and the food was very good.
Over at The Boston Shaker, there were bar carts full of mixing equipment awaiting us. The owner of the shop teaches the class, and he's absolutely fantastic. He's very knowledgeable, friendly, and a good teacher. He walked us through the basics, such as which cocktails are shaken and which are stirred, and he demonstrated the basic techniques for measuring and mixing. 
Then it was time to get our hands dirty!  We began with ice and water to familiarize ourselves with the techniques. Then we moved on to the good stuff. First we used the shakers to make a Hemingway Daquiri with rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice, maraschino, and just a splash of cane sugar simple syrup. Next we made a traditional martini with gin, dry vermouth, and orange bitters to try a stirred drink (not shaken, much to James Bond's disappointment, I'm sure). The best part? Trying the drinks!
Afterwards, we received a 10% discount off anything in the shop, so we picked up some nice ice cube trays, some Peychaud's Bitters (for Sazeracs), and a stirring spoon. Included in the price of the class was a Boston Shaker, a julep strainer (for stirred drinks), and a hawthorne strainer (for shaken drinks) for each of us. I would highly recommend this class to anyone. We had the best time!
Now, if you don't really care to make your own cocktails but wouldn't mind drinking some, here are some of our favorite places (so far) to get a good cocktail:

1. Drink - By far the best spot for craft cocktails in Boston with ridiculously knowledgeable (and talented) staff. There's no drink menu, so just let them know what you like and your bartender will take it from there.

2. Eastern Standard - Nice setting (reminiscent of a French bistro) with good food and very good drinks. Some favorites to get here are off-menu cocktails, the Pegu Club, The Martinez or The Hanky Panky. Their Green Fly is also delicious.

3. The Hawthorne - Located in the Hotel Commonwealth, this spot is fantastic. It's like hanging out in a rich friend's stylish living room. A rich friend who is able to expertly mix craft cocktails. Their bar snacks are also delicious.

4. Trina's - Off the beaten path, great food (they serve everything from corn dogs to duck breast), and delicious, creative cocktails. My favorite is the Natale a Padua.
5. Spoke Wine Bar - This tiny spot may be first and foremost a wine bar, but their short list of cocktails is well curated and perfectly executed.  

6. Saloon - Cool speakeasy style bar in Davis Square. My favorite here is the Pimm's Up. 
Update 6/22/13: This place has an extensive bourbon/whiskey list, and the cocktails on their menu are very good. However, based on our experiences, I wouldn't venture too far off the menu, as their staff doesn't seem to have the depth of knowledge about classic cocktails that other establishments do (e.g. Drink, Eastern Standard).

7. Highland Kitchen - For brunch cocktails, I love this little place. Don't miss out on the Hemingway Daiquiri!

8. Craigie on Main - We've had some fantastic cocktails here, and I would love to try more. I enjoyed the Civilian on our last visit while my husband really loved the Improved Whiskey Cocktail.

9. Dutch Kills - Another speakeasy-style spot located in Queens rather than Boston. It's outstanding and definitely worth the train ride to New York.  

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