Watch as our favorite bartenders go through the process together of making a cocktail. Be sure to watch until the very end for a special cheers!
Going out to a big dinner is great, but sometimes nothing beats just sitting at the bar. You might make a new friend, casually catch up with old ones, or simply just watch the world pass by you as you quietly enjoy a cocktail and a bite to eat.
Without a doubt, a pivotal part of the experience is the barkeep. And here in Boston, we have exceptional affection for our bartenders. Perhaps it is because Bostonians make you earn their love (which is then eternal). And so, when you’re finally in with the bartender, there is an absolute triumph. Perhaps, it is also because we take our bars so seriously. And why wouldn’t we? We lay claim to one of the world’s most famous bars led by the world’s best bartender. Yeah, so what if we’re talking about the TV show Cheers, and that the bartender, Sam Malone, is a fictional character. “Do you want to make something of it?”, said in our best Carla Tortelli voice.
Our Bartenders have welcoming smiles, sarcastic wit, and the ability to make us feel like we’re part of the gang; for this we love them. But, we also know the profession isn’t an easy job! Long hours standing and dashing back and forth, and then having to deal with the likes of all of us mutts after we’ve consumed an unmentionable number of drinks. So, these talented people, who serve as showmen and women, artists, therapists, and comedians all rolled into one job description deserve not only handsome tips but also some major props.
For this July’s Top Ten, we’re giving them those props by taking you around Boston to some of our favorite places, to meet some of Boston’s best bartenders and sip on their favorite summer cocktails. Because we love them all SO much, we couldn’t pick a favorite. So, listed alphabetically are the places and peeps we recommend you visit this summer. Tell them Kim & Jess sent you. 😉
(Click on the name of each Restaurant to visit their website.)
DEL FRISCO’S of BOSTON
If you’re Del Frisco’s of Boston, you’re pretty happy right now. Vibrant life has sprouted in Boston’s Seaport district from the warmth of the sun, despite what little rain has fallen. The ocean sparkles during the day and glows at night, beckoning all those who love steak, fun, and a great view. And then there’s that bourbon molasses-glazed bacon appetizer (excuse us while we wipe the drool from our chin). Try that with a rib-eye! If the view and slab of bacon didn’t seal the deal as one of our favorite spots, then it has to be the staff. There’s a camaraderie among the group that circles behind the bar and they remind us of that aforementioned fictional Beacon Hill bar.
If Del Frisco’s of Boston has a Cheers-like vibe, it’s because of this guy, hands down one of Boston’s best bartenders- Paul.
Nothing beats an Irish bartender in Boston. But, besides having that on his side, Paul has that Sam Malone swagger and quick tongue that makes sitting at the bar at Del Frisco’s on the waterfront so much fun! He’ll lovingly throw a few jests your way, but at the same moment, you know his priority is to ensure you are the happiest customer on the planet. In fact, the social aspect of the job is what keeps Paul behind the bar. Paul’s been an anchor at Del Frisco’s for five years, and in that time he’s developed quite a following. He’s also witnessed night after night the dedication DelFrisco’s has for its customers. In the front of the restaurant, things happen seamlessly. However, behind the scenes, Paul tells us meticulous effort is spent to ensure each customer receives personalized service.
The reason why we chose Paul as one of Boston’s Best Bartenders is not only his impeccable service, but the fact that when you’re sitting at his bar, you know he has your back. 🙂
COCKTAIL: Black Raspberry Martini (Hendrick’s Gin, Chambord, Fresh Lime Sour)
Paul served for us (two at once) a Black Raspberry Martini. He calls this martini and “adult lime-rickey.” With a sweet and tart taste, we can understand why he likened the flavor to the childhood treat. We’re just glad we’re both over 21 and can enjoy this adult version. 😉
We adore Doretta and everyone there! We can’t help but equate the experience to going to our Italian grandmother’s house for dinner; only in this case, she’s Greek. But, she still wants to feed us! Staff at the Back Bay restaurant, located in the historic Heritage Building, always have open arms, smiles, and the insistence to have you sit down, visit, and eat gorgeous, fresh, home-cooked food. It’s just like Nana’s; only there’s a much, much sexier kitchen and dining room. (Hello Adrienne Schlow art) Oh, and the patio is pretty stellar too. Sorry, Nana. 😉
Will, who joined the Doretta team at the beginning of this year, is the type of guy who easily engages his customers, making them feel relaxed and at home and earning him the title as one of Boston’s Best Bartenders. Will says what hooked him to work behind the bar was his love of conversation not only with patrons but with his colleagues as well.
We watched in awe as Will’s quick hands worked at shaking and crafting a light and refreshing cocktail. He certainly can mix up some magic behind the bar! While Will went to work on making us our cocktail, he simultaneously captivated us by giving us a fascinating history lesson on the Greek wine in the drink. That’s the kind of bartender Will is; the type who is in the middle of work, but you would never know it. We felt like we were hanging out with an old friend, and before we knew it, that old friend handed us a delightful cocktail. This is the type of bartender restaurant’s dream of hiring. The one who gets the job done, but also enhances the customer’s experience. Bravo Will!
COCKTAIL: Panda in The Grass (Bison Grass Vodka, green chartreuse, retsina wine, 1/2 lime, celery bitters, a splash of soda, celery strip garnish )
Will used the word “herbaceous,” to describe The Panda in the Grass cocktail, and while that word describes part of the flavor profile, the one word you need to know is refreshing. This drink is exactly what you want to be sipping on a hot summer day. Crisp on the tongue and cool on the palate, we absolutely loved it!
Going back to Will’s history lesson. Before wine was stored in barrels, pots were used. To seal these porous pots, winemakers would line the inside with tree resin. The Greeks would often use pine resin, which would impart (yes you guessed it) a flavor of pine needles to the wine. This taste became acquired and part of the tradition of Greek wines. So, today, Greek wineries infuse the pine flavor into retsina (resin) wine. We had a little sip, and while it had a strong flavor, Jess, in particular, could see how one could grow accustomed to the clean taste. The flavor of the Retsina wine married perfectly with the bison grass vodka and lime for that extremely refreshing taste we mentioned earlier. You MUST try this drink the next time you head into Doretta’s Taverna. Oh, and be sure to tell Will we said, “Hi!”
How many ways can we profess our love for Grill 23? Counting would be pointless because it is an endless love! Gorgeous steaks, the best burgers in Boston, and to-die-for deserts! Plus, top-notch service that makes you feel like a movie star or at least a really, really important executive. And apparently, Boston feels the same way. The veteran restaurant, located in the Back Bay, was just named Best Steakhouse 2016, by BOTH The Improper Bostonian AND Boston Magazine. Over 30 years old, and they’ve still got it. 😉 Sure, 30 might be the new 10 (ha ha), but in restaurant years, being around that long commands respect. Diners get bored easily; so, to maintain one of the strongest followings in our great little city is pretty impressive. But, considering that superstar treatment they deliver to all customers, it’s no surprise.
We aren’t kidding when we say Grill 23 has top-notch service. Adam, a veteran bartender of 18 years, with 12 of those years spent at Grill 23, is part of that team who understands what comprises excellent customer service. It’s no wonder he has such a dedicated following and is considered one of Boston’s Best Bartenders.
When we began to discuss Adam, we immediately thought he was the perfect bartender to serve us a cocktail called Death and Taxes. He seemed to be all business. And while he takes his job seriously, we learned that underneath the exterior, just like the drink, is a person who makes you feel warm inside. Adam tells us that no matter what kind of day he is having there is nothing like getting to work and having people happy to see him. He says it’s impossible to be in a bad mood when you get that kind of energy from people. It’s clear from the care and service Adam consistently delivers that he loves his job! Also, we know Adam couldn’t be all business, because he tells us his bulldog makes him laugh. To quote Adam, “He’s stinky, he snores, he’s my fur baby.”
Okay Adam, we now officially love you.
So, what does Adam recommend to customers on the menu? He says, “hands down,” his favorite dish is the 100 day aged rib-eye. In fact, Adam says if he can get you to try that steak, he’ll have you for life. Don’t worry Adam, you had us with your bull dog. 🙂
COCKTAIL: Death and Taxes (cigar infused Woodford reserve bourbon, peach syrup, Fernet Branca rinse)
It’s hard not to take a drink with such a name like Death and Taxes seriously. It’s even harder when you find out the serious work that goes into making this unique cocktail.
The geniuses at Grill 23, namely headed by Master Sommelier Brahm Callahan, have crafted a cocktail of the utmost sophistication. Woodford reserved bourbon is placed in a smoker with Monte Cristo Cigars for about 20 minutes, imparting that sweet tobacco taste into the bourbon. That specially cared for bourbon is then mixed with peach syrup, a little lemon, and poured into a lowball cocktail glass, which has received a quick rinse with Fernet Branca. The result? A warm and cozy feeling that makes you forget all about death and taxes. 🙂
OUTLOOK AT ENVOY
The Envoy Hotel blasted onto the Boston scene like a kind-hearted and well-connected supermodel that everyone instantly loves. Inviting, great-looking, and happy to share with you her incomparable views from one of Boston’s rare roof deck bars. It’s no wonder a year after opening; the boutique hotel just sold for $71 mil. Yup that just happened on Friday.
And, just like that rarefied supermodel, there shouldn’t have been any question someone was going to scoop her up ASAP. Part of that supermodel’s appeal? She’s got a fantastic kitchen called the Outlook. Great food, great drinks, and stunning ambiance. Sigh, she wasn’t going to stay on the market for ever…
Brian is a blast! Always with a smile, and always ready to make you laugh. The Outlook is lucky to have a guy like Brian tending bar.
Behind the bar for 14 years, Brian loves the freedom of innovation and turning people onto things they wouldn’t usually order. Perhaps, that is why he got creative and made us his own concoction. We’re not complaining; it was pretty spectacular!
Brian says the next time you visit him, you have to try the Blue Bay mussels in Thai curry broth with cilantro and 100 tomatoes. We were pretty impressed with the tuna tartar.
In the comfort of his own home, however, Brian told us he is a sucker for an ice cold cheap beer; Tecate is normally found in his fridge. We asked him for what he is thankful, and this sweetheart of a guy answered, “I’m fortunate every day of my life for my stunning wife and the unrelenting love of our two dogs.” What we are thankful to see is another person who wants to create positive energy and experiences for patrons like us! That is why Brian has made our Top Ten Best Bartenders!
COCKTAIL: Brian Smash (Bourbon, Blackberry, mint, lime juice, bourbon, ginger beer )
If you love a good Moscow Mule, then you will love the Brian Smash! The blackberry and mint flavors elevated this copper mug classic to a new level.
Besides making a cocktail that tastes fantastic, Brian understands the importance of aesthetics. Just look at that mug and the gorgeous edible anisette flower and mint leaf that tops the drink. Great work Brian- you “get it.” 🙂
If you’ve never been to Post 390 in the Back Bay, grab your phone, pull up your Open Table app and book the next available reservation. This Back Bay restaurant has the feel of a secret gem you discovered in the countryside, tucked away in a lovely inn. Why such a gem? Because it features fresh food from the little farm just up the road.
Part of the reason why Post 390 is such a cozy little gem, is that they do feature a farm-to-table menu from local farms. If that didn’t make the country gem feel real enough, perhaps the fact that they will deliver picnic baskets to you and your guest within Boston solidifies their reputation as the purveyor of local, innovative, and simply delicious fresh food.
BARTENDER: Jason (Beverage Manager)
Jason, Beverage Director at Post 390, is an absolute doll! Jason started his career in the kitchen, eventually finding his way to the role of Beverage Director, a position he’s held now at Post 390 for four years.
As Beverage Director, Jason tells us he’s responsible for all things liquid. He writes the wine list, curates the beers, and where he seems to have the most fun, designs the cocktails.
Why so much fun? Jason points out that beer and wine are already in bottles. But, in making cocktails, he gets to step into a culinary position. According to Jason, “Like cooking, crafting a cocktail allows you to express your ideas of flavor development, and the more you play around, the more you find different combinations of flavor and other ways of balancing them.” After tasting one of his cocktails, we’re pretty impressed with his culinary cocktail skills!
Jason takes being the director of all things liquid to heart. When he is creating his paring menus, he likes to incorporate wine, beer, AND cocktails. Now, isn’t that fun?! Jason rightfully points out that each has its place and should be allowed to shine together, which he hopes goes to debunk the notion that one beverage might be superior to the others or is better suited to pairing.
We certainly can appreciate Jason’s creative flare as his Riki Tiki Tavi was a tropical vacation with each sip. Sorry to overly simplify, but OMG!
COCKTAIL: Riki Tiki Tavi (Bacardi 8 year rum, coconut molasses caramel, star anise-scented roasted pineapple, lime)
Heaven, I’m in heaven. And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak…
Seriously, Jason’s delightful concoction made us feel like we were in heaven. Or at least, on a really fun vacation, complete with a tiny umbrella. C’mon?! Who doesn’t love little umbrellas in their drinks?
We’re pretty sure the house-made coconut molasses caramel sealed this flavor combination as one of our favorite summer cocktails. What we wouldn’t give to have Jason make this drink for us on the beach all day long! What do you say Jason to a pop-up Ricki Tiki Tavi, Tiki bar? 😉
So, just in case we didn’t drive home the point, we strongly recommend you head into Post 390 to try this drink. And when you’re there to enjoy your heavenly drink, with its adorable little umbrella, be sure to try what newly designated Executive Chef, Nick Deutmeyer has on the menu. We’ve sampled some of the food, and it is as good as the drink. 😉
Kim is Italian, and Jess has been reared by Italians. So, food (and lots of it) means love to us. And, Italian food? Fahgeddaboudit! So, when we were choosing our favorite places in Boston, Scampo quickly floated to the top like a good little gnocchi.
There really isn’t anything we don’t love at Scampo, which is located in the historic Liberty Hotel. As Kim says, the mozzarella is so fresh it might need a spanking! From the breadsticks and fava bean dip to the lobster pizza, we’re fully committed for a big mangia fest anytime we take a seat at the stunning restaurant.
The only thing that improves the food at Scampo is the service from this lovely lady, Lisa. Lisa is one of those bartenders who has eyes that make you spill your soul and a heart that makes you feel forgiven. She’s truly a special person, and apparently a wise woman named Jessamyn holds responsibility for this.
Lisa, who has been at Scampo for over 5 years, tells us that Jessamyn once told her, “Treat your people like you treat a guest in your home.” Lisa, who started tending bar in California, has taken that advice to heart. She greets everyone she meets with excitement, no matter if on the street, in her home, or at the bar. Lisa is grateful to share in people’s dining experiences at Scampo. (We’re just grateful she’s been on the other side of the bar so many times.) 🙂
We asked Lisa what makes Scampo special. Her answer? Simple; it’s magic. Lisa tells us, “Lydia Shire has created something that encompasses all that enter. There is passion in the kitchen, kindness in the service, excitement at the bar. The ambiance is like no other… Scampo is a place of beauty and partnership that blends the Boston scene with energy, vitality, sexiness and keeps our guests enchanted.” Right on Lisa, we couldn’t agree more!
At home, you can find Lisa drinking one of her teas. (By the way, in her spare time, she’s the purveyor of Jenway Teas.) When she’s feeling festive, she likes to mix bubbles or a lively spirit into her hand-crafted and lovingly made teas.
COCKTAIL: Hibiscus Sangria (Jenwey Tea Hibiscus Berry Herbal Tea Blend (organic), red wine, cognac, orange juice; topped with prosecco or grapefruit vodka)
Lisa delighted us with two versions of this summery drink. The first, a more traditional tasting sangria, topped with grapefruit vodka. And the second, a more lady-like version served in one of Lydia’s special traditional champagne glasses and topped with bubbles. Both versions were fantastic! But, what made them even better was that they were made using the lovely Lisa’s tea! Something that comes from Lisa’s heart? There’s nothing better than that. Although, once you sit at her bar, you’ll find that everything Lisa does comes from her heart, which is why she is one of Boston’s most beloved bartenders!
STRIP BY STREGA
So, you’re itching to go to Vegas, but don’t feel like having your legs stiff from a six-hour flight? No worries! Just go grab dinner at Strip By Strega in the Back Bay’s Park Plaza for a little bit of Vegas vibe and some high energy!
We love Strip because we can dress up and not feel out of place, a DJ keeps the action moving with a FANTASTIC mix of tunes, and well, they also have a spectacular bolognese. Yes, we know it’s a steakhouse, but we’re sorry, we are a sucker for that meat sauce. 🙂
Let’s just review, high heels, spinning turntables, AND great pasta? We were sold on those three, but then there’s also the fantastically attentive staff at the front bar.
Stefanie is one of those bartenders who at first glance might intimidate the hell out of a girl (or guy). Confidence, amazing hair, and a gorgeous smile; but. sit at her bar for a few minutes and have a chat while she shakes you a drink and you’ll quickly find out she’s a sweetheart!
We may love the bolognese, but Stefanie says you have to try a fairly new item, the grilled tenderloin pizza. And, although she’s more of a wine drinker at home, making cocktails from scratch based on what a customer likes is her preference behind the bar. Jess was just there the other night, and Stefanie made her a tequila-based drink that was out of this world! Stefanie loves meeting people, which is in part, what makes her such a great bartender. She enjoys the mix of seeing the regulars, as well as new patrons every night. And it seems Boston does have a bit of Vegas in it. Stef tells us, “Boston is certainly filled with some characters for sure!”
COCKTAIL: Bella Luna ( Herradura Reposa. Aperol. Passion Fruit. Lime )
Stefanie mixed the Bella Luna cocktail for us to try. A perfect summer martini! Gorgeous color and a light fruity flavor, we couldn’t get it out of Kim’s hands. 🙂 But, don’t forget, when you do head into Strip for some of that great energy, be sure to tell Stefanie what you like, and let her concoct something special just for you!
We love watching all of the changes that have metamorphosed Boston over the past 15 years. New neighborhoods, like Fort Point, need new restaurants. This expansion of our city limits is in part what has contributed to Boston’s growing reputation as a city for foodies. Tavern Road is one of the eateries taking hold in the new foundation and providing the Boston “burrows” with great food and drink.
BARTENDER: Tenzin (Beverage Manager)
We knew by stalking Tenzin’s, Tavern Road’s Beverage Manager’s, Instagram account @bostonmixdrink that we would be in for some fun cocktail making! We dub Tenzin the artist mixologist of the group, creating cocktails that arrive before you as presentations to be discussed at length as you sip in awe. His passion for mixing a cocktail Willy Wonka-style had us feeling like kids in Candy Land! These works of art easily earn him our vote as one of Boston’s Best Bartenders.
Tenzin started as a bar back at Legal Seafood years ago, but quickly found his way to the mixing well. And now, for 16 years, he’s been tending bar with passion. We loved hearing him talk about the word cocktail. He aptly said, “Anyone can make a drink, but to serve someone a cocktail needs to be done with flair and creativity.” It’s no wonder his creativity secured him a job at Tavern Road creating their cocktail menu.
What Tenzin enjoys at Tavern Road, besides meeting the local farmers and fishermen when they drop off their food to the restaurant, is the opportunity to mix and create new drinks continually, which keeps his mind occupied. What he loves about Tavern Road is the sense of family among the staff.
COCKTAIL: Little Bit on Mitchell Road (Privateer rum silver, coconut milk, OJ, rani Fennel, orgeat Peychaud bitter, lune d’abricot)
Just look at those drinks! You barely want to drink them, they are so gosh-darn pretty. But, then you do, and you can’t stop! Tenzin dropped a small colored LED light into the bottom of the glass, which the coconut milk beautifully diffuses throughout the glass. And that gorgeous garnish? Well, that garnish exemplifies the type of love Tenzin puts into his drinks. First, he hollows out a lime to create a little bowl. He then fills that mini bowl with rani fennel (an Indian candy), gorgeous little dried roses, heavenly maraschino cherries (and not the overly syrupy red kind), and then a little sprig of green. Seriously? Yes. We’re serious. Go. There. Now. 😉
TIP TAP ROOM
Spectacular meat tips, and one of the most expansive list of beers on tap in the city of Boston. That’s what makes Beacon Hill’s Tip Tap Room so special. But, besides two things that are beloved by most people. What really makes the Tip Tap Room special is it is a true neighborhood bar, only with a renowned chef designing the menu. Chef Brian Poe has another classic on his hands! With other well-known establishments, like Bukowski Tavern and the Rattlesnake in the same family, it’s no wonder the Tip Tap Room is solidifying its place with those classics!
BARTENDER: Nick (Bar Manager)
Nick’s love of interacting with the regulars is what has kept him behind the bar since college. A Connecticut native, the welcoming Nick, has been at the Tip Tap Room for four years. He loves the fast-paced life behind the bar; there’s never a dull moment!
While the Tip Tap Room is a beer bar, and while Nick loves whiskey, as bar manager, he took great joy in helping to write the cocktail menu. It’s a part of his job that allows him to be creative and try new things! He says if you come into the restaurant, you can’t go wrong with any of the tips, but that you should also give the baby kale salad a try. Nick loves that everything at the restaurant is fresh, from the food to the house-made grenadine.
What we loved about Nick was his relaxed attitude. It’s no wonder the regulars keep coming back. Nick gives this neighborhood bar a feeling of that place where everyone knows your name. 🙂 And, if he can make his customers feel that way, then he is easily one of Boston’s Best Bartenders.
COCKTAIL: Mean Eyed Cat Margarita (Chile infused tequila, pomegranate, cucumber, triple sec, lime )
Nick decided to make for us what he said was the most popular drinks on the menu, and despite its pink color, there isn’t any gender-bias in the choice. The Mean Eyed Cat Margarita got its name because of the chili-infused tequila.
Jess loves a spicy drink, and Kim loves a margarita. So, this was up both our alleys. What made the drink so perfect was just the right blend of spice, sweet, and tartness. Great job Nick! We’ll be sure to stop in and see you again soon. 🙂
First called the most “Instagramable Restaurant” in Boston, and now awarded “Best New Restaurant” by BOTH The Improper Bostonian and Boston Magazine, it’s no wonder Yvonne’s ambiance has helped it reach cult status in just under a year.
Kim equates stepping into the restaurant like falling down the rabbit hole. Once you open that door, you are instantly in Wonderland, and it is a fun place to get lost.
There are three main rooms: a “library” suited for the intellectual drinker; a “lounge” for those who want to relax, dine, and enjoy a bit of a club feel; and then that simply stunning dining room. Now, that room stops our hearts and hearkens back to Lock-Ober, the mythical men’s only supper club that used to occupy the space Yvonne’s now fills. Oh, and then there’s that secret room accessible from somewhere in the library. Yup, cult status indeed.
P.S. The food is just as good as the ambiance.
But, if you’re intimidated by the mystery of Yvonne’s, don’t be. Because there is a hero among the staff who will make you feel just as special as one of the guests of Lock-ober, even if you are a woman.
Bruno is a first-class bartender and has been for eight years. Sit at his bar, and he will be attentive, kind, and funny. And, somehow he manages to give you personalized attention even while attending to the massive crowd that forms behind the bar every night.
What Bruno loves about Yvonne’s is the history of the space, as well as the fantastic food. What we love about Bruno is, simply put, he’s a joy! We’ve spent many nights dining and imbibing at that bar and Bruno has always made us feel as though we were the most special customers. But, we’re pretty sure he’s able to do that with all of his patrons, and that’s why he’s one of Boston’s Best Bartenders!
COCKTAIL: Rose Thorn (Hendricks gin, rose liquor, lemon juice, house-made grenadine, garnished with edible flowers)
All of the drinks at Yvonne’s are just as pretty as the restaurant. The Rose Thorn is no exception. We love the mini-cubed ice, which the rose-colored drink envelopes in the most lovingly way. Topping the stunner of a cocktail were gorgeous flower garnishes. Instagramable without a doubt. 🙂
Now, as for the taste? Just like Yvonne’s the cocktail imparted a unique, yet familiar flavor profile. We could taste the rose liquor, but not in a perfume sort of way. Imagine if you could drink in all of the divine scents of a rose garden. That is what the rose thorn is; being able to taste one of the most wonderful smells in the world. Only, be careful, just like in Wonderland, it definitely has a surprise up its sleeve or stem. 😉