A few weeks ago, we got to travel to Boston for their annual Cocktail Conference, Thirst! Neither of us had ever spent any real time in Boston. There had been quick drop-ins or family trips from our youth, but never any adult time so we were pumped to hit up the city. Boston is a great town in which to go out drinking. There are enough bars to satisfy even the most seasoned of drinkers. You might think of Boston as beer drinking town (with all the sports teams, you’re not wrong) but there is a wealth of cocktail, wine and specialized liquor spots here too. Here are a few of the spots we got to and loved while in Boston.
1/ Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar (1310 Boylston Street)
Citizen is in the neighbourhood near Fenway Park. You should probably go to Fenway at some point on your trip to Boston, even if you think that baseball is boring. But once you are done looking around the Green Monster, head over to Citizen. On first sight, it seems not unlike any other oyster bar/tap house. They have Pickle Backs on tap. However, you can just as easily order a Sidecar or Penicillin and have the cocktail arrive prepared perfectly, made by someone wearing a Red Sox hoodie with their hair tucked under a baseball hat. The high-low of this place is super endearing and I ‘m sad we only got to visit here once.
2/ Hawthorne Bar (500A Commonwealth Avenue)
This bar is in the basement of a hotel, again, very close to Fenway Park. It has the feel of an old-timey hotel bar. The kind where you would see mobsters making deals in some Steve McQueen movie, but better lit and way cleaner. Besides having a list comprised of house and classic/vintage cocktails here, the menu has tasting notes that guide you in the right way. There is nothing pretentious about these tasting notes, they kind of border on nonsense. Phrases like “Luck be a lady tonight” and “better than the book” to describe drinks made with rye whiskey and peaty scotch respectively.
3/ Yvonne’s (2 Winter Place)
We were escorted to Yvonne’s by Ezra Star who told us only that this is where the Ward 8 cocktail was invented…sort of. It’s physically the space where it was created, but the bar has changed names and themes. None of that really matters though because Yvonne’s is a gorgeous and huge underground space. You enter through a hair salon and then get lost. This is probably as good a time as any to let you know that other than the bars I saw in Nashville, Boston bars are the biggest. Like, in size and capacity. This has something to do with the cost of attaining a liquor license in the city. So as we were sitting at Yvonne’s marvelling at the decor, it dawned on me that running a bar program for rooms this size must be intense as hell. Getting a huge staff to make complicated drinks consistently is a serious undertaking. I know cities with smaller rooms and smaller staff have problems with it. No worries about that at Yvonne’s though. Every drink here is gorgeous and tasty. I had their take on a Ward 8, because, duh.
4/ JM Curley (21 Temple Place)
Around the corner from Yvonne’s is JM Curley. This spot is a little more rough and tumble than the others on the list so far, and that’s fine. By this point you are a few cocktails in, so hang out in this dark bar for a minute with a bottle of beer and take in the inspiring high art/punk portraits on the walls.
5/ Drink (348 Congress Street)
This bar has won a bunch of awards and from the second you walk in, you will know why. The bar is almost entirely corners. This series of sharp bends leaves you little choice but to engage in conversations with your neighbours. There is no back bar at Drink either, so you know that the bartenders have been trained well. The GM Ezra Star tells us it takes two years before you are a full time bartender here. In a city as crowded with bars as Boston, having a place where you know you can trust the staff is important. You can imagine the effort put into each and every drink that comes over the bar at Drink. Also, watch out for the shots of Cognac… it’s a thing.
Bonus: Go see Gaston…er, Oscar at Silvertone (69 Bromfield Street) and ask him what ‘Gastoning” is. Just do it.
Note: As with all Bar Hops, we are not encouraging getting inebriated. This is a list of great cocktail bars that we suggest visiting while in Boston. We want you to have fun and play safe. Check out How to Do a Good Bar Hop for some hot tips.