The ladies of LUPEC said it best, but after I came back from Portland Cocktail Week I wondered the very same thing: why doesn’t Boston have its own cocktail week? Perhaps Portland has us beat when it comes to the number of bars offering house-made tonic syrup, but Boston is certainly home to some of the most skilled bartenders I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking with. Drinking from. You know what I mean.
So I was thrilled to hear that the Greater Boston Beverage Society is hard at work putting together not just a cocktail week, but a Cocktail Summit for next year. And it turned out there was a way I could help: by attending a giant party. In addition to unlimited cocktails featuring both small batch and big name spirit brands, Shakin’ It Up attendees were entertained by a comedian, live music and a Left Bank vs. Right Bank of the Charles bartender competition.
Familiar faces in the competition included Sabrina from Noir and Citizen’s, who holds the prestigious title of Miss Speed Rack Boston, and Naomi from Eastern Standard who helps to make Sunday Brunch at their bar as enjoyable as it is (she was working on a “peanut butter and jelly” drink last time we were there). Here she is making a Ramos Gin Fizz for the competition:
The drinks the bartenders made were the answers to trivia questions, and Sabrina’s spot-on answer quickly had her making a Sazerac:
Jess Li, also from Citizen’s (and Sam’s), was on Sabrina’s side to fortify the Left Bank. I can’t remember what drink she made, but she sure looked fabulous making it:
In the end the Right Bank bartenders took home the prize, but the louder message here was that Boston has both sides of the river covered in terms of passionate, fun-loving bartenders.
The House of Blues venue provided multiple levels for the sponsors’ booths, as well as formal barspace behind which the venerable likes of Todd Richman could be seen doling out Barenjager cocktails. I enjoyed their Honey Devil Punch (Barenjager, Rum, black tea, lemon, simple) quite a bit, and I loved the Barenjager lip balm lagniappe that they were handing out. I was super happy to see Berkshire Mountain Distillers in attendance, serving cocktails featuring their Greylock Gin and Ragged Mt. Rum partnered with Ripe agave-sweetened citrus cocktail mixers. My favorite BMD offering is their Ethereal Gin, and I learned that a new batch featuring a lavender-colored label (so far I’ve had their pink and chartreuse batches) will be ready soon.
Two other notable cocktail offerings spanned the temperature scale, giving me a chance to say goodbye to summer and hello to another fabulous Boston winter. Umami teamed up with Square 1 Basil Vodka to make a hugely refreshing drink with Merlet Creme de Poire, Meyer lemon juice, and Tabasco. I took the opportunity to sip some of the basil vodka neat, and found that of the blend of basil varieties it is made with, Thai basil was most prominent and imparted a spicy licorice nose. Perhaps this is how I will get my basil fix in January. But if I was at all bummed out about summer’s end, the hot Pisco Porton Punch that was being ladled out of a crock pot certainly provided an attitude adjustment. I can’t seem to find a recipe but it was rich and delicious, not to mention a clever way to keep such a “tropical” brandy relevant in the winter months.
So hats off to the Greater Boston Beverage Society for putting together such a fun evening for brands, bartenders and Bostonians. If this is any indication of what’s to come at next year’s Boston Cocktail Summit, we’re all in for a treat.