Monday, October 17, 2011

Dueling Bartenders: The Manliest Sweet Drink

It's the weekend, which means we're back at the bar with AskMen's resident bartenders, Josh and Luke. They're both skilled at their trade, but between them runs the age-old schism of bartending: Should you drink the "original" version or a recent innovation? We won't pick sides, but it's worth doing lots of experimenting to figure out who's right.  

Luke, the traditionalist: The old-school Sidecar

While the Sidecar is a cocktail with a rich tradition and a predecessor from the very early stages of cocktail history, for our purposes here, it's helpful to think of it this way: It's the best, most foolproof way to get people to drink brandy.  

Bush sounds nostalgic and new

BUSH With Chevelle and Filter
At: the House of Blues, Saturday

When the iconic, hard-charging guitar riff of “Machinehead’’ from Bush’s 1994 massive hit debut bit through the thick air of the sold-out House of Blues on Saturday night, it seemed an indication the British band would make good on the implied premise of this nostalgia-mining tour. (Or that a New England Patriots game was about to kick off.) After all, the three acts on the package, including industrial-rock screamers Filter and sludgy metal trio Chevelle were all formed in the early ’90s.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bitter truths


We spend much of our time talking about alcohol in consideration of its form (its tastes, colors, and textures), but less frequently do we turn to its functions. The primary one is obvious: it makes you feel really, really good - or really, really bad. (One often follows the other, you may have found.) Throughout much of history, drinking served another function: alcohol was believed to have medicinal properties. During Prohibition, one of the only legal ways to purchase whiskey or brandy was by getting a prescription from your doctor (!), and people throughout the world have long sworn by certain boozy home remedies. Some still laud the digestive-aid qualities of certain bitter spirits like Italian amari, including fernets, which are typically made with dozens of botanicals, like rhubarb, myrrh, gentian root, chamomile, red cinchona bark, and galangal, to name a few. The most popular variety is Fernet-Branca, which has been produced in Italy since 1845 (though as you'll see, "popular" is a relative term). 

EITS: Songs make message clear, even without words

Explosions in the Sky at the Orpheum 

Genre-tagging is a necessary shorthand evil. You’d typically refer to the Texas band Explosions in the Sky, who performed at The Orpheum Theatre last night, as post-rock and call it a day. More interesting is how the “emo’’ qualifier has followed the band around for its 12-plus years. Granted, no one knows what that means anymore, but in this case it’s oddly apt.

After dubstep controversy, Blake steps lightly

James Blake at the Paradise Rock Club, Monday

You might not expect a precious London electronic music composer to be at the center of a music beef, but that’s where James Blake found himself last week, when an interview he gave to the Boston Phoenix decrying the “macho’’ “frat-boy’’ posturing of the American dubstep audience kicked up a controversy. At his sold-out performance at the Paradise Rock Club on Monday, he arrived as the British ambassador politicking for the gentler, more thoughtful potential of the genre.

Home Entertainment Going Out thursty Storyville: Live happily ever after

Night clubs are known for lots of things. Dancing is one of those things. So is prowling for sketchy hookups. And perhaps most renowned is blowing hundreds of dollars on bottle service so everyone knows how important you are. Conspicuously absent from that list is enjoying quality cocktails and bar service. Storyville, the re-imagining of the longtime Saint space in the Back Bay, could change that perception.

The bar program in its intimate, speakeasy-like Bordello Room is off to a good start in that regard, with Bill Codman (recently of Island Creek Oyster and Woodward) at the helm, as well as inventive food from Louis DiBiccari of Sel de la Terre.

The focus here is on seminal New Orleans-style cocktails and a full range of tiki drinks and fizzes, as well as Codman’s own neo-classic recipes. One standout, the Lady Day, is a perfect (if unpredictable) pairing of bitter with bitter, with Campari and passion fruit taking a gin base. The sweetening touch of honey and a softening egg white play back and forth on the citrusy edge. Another must-try — the Pineapple Fizz, made with pineapple and sage-infused tequila shaken with citrus and an egg white to a fluffy consistency — is supremely quaffable.

A Day At The Races represents from the tiki realm, but interestingly eschews the de facto rum base. Made with Beefeater 24, falernum, lemon and pomegranate, it’s like a more sophisticated version of a Mind Eraser, with a palate-cleaning champagne float toward the end.

Next door in the club room, the cocktail list is more streamlined, but still interesting, considering that yes, they do have bottle service. Here the focus is again on fresh ingredients, but the menu is broken into four types of cordials that guests can mix with their spirit of choice. One highlight is the Cafe Mole, a base made with fresh-ground coffee bean, cocoa, vanilla, orange peel and chipotle. Whether you take it with tequila, vodka, rum or whiskey is up to you.

Club membership

“What I wanted to do with crafted cocktails itself isn’t revolutionary,” Codman says. “Putting it inside a club is.”
It’s an approach that will hopefully rub off on the clubbing crowd.

“I think the club people will come and embrace it, because there’s certainly nothing like this available anywhere else.”
90 Exeter St., Boston

Boston Metro