We Wineaux are an adventurous bunch – with our ears to the ground, always on the look out for the new and worthwhile, ready to go with a trend if we find it appealing. A phenomenon of the Ought Decade, cocktail culture has grown in prominence. Every restaurant and bar now offer a signature – or so they hope – cocktail menu. In our travels, we’ve come to look for either good renditions of cocktails from the past or new twists on these classics. We are fans of Drink, Barbara Lynch’s craft cocktail bar. We’ve attended classes given by Jackson Cannon, head mixologist at Eastern Standard. And we adore – yes, adore – the “Model Behavior” at The Woodward Tavern, a sublime blend of St. Germain, Hendricks gin, Chandon Brut, and cucumber foam. When the opportunity presented itself for Adam Lantheaume, proprietor of The Boston Shaker, to conduct a class for us, it became our SNSC event for April.
Since it is our tradition to start our Sunday night gatherings with a festive sparkling wine, we decided to do a champagne cocktail – a sparkler from the Loire, brown sugar cube, and a liberal splash of Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters. It set just the right tone for what was to come.
After our obligatory cocktail and toast,Adam began, interweaving his presentation with the history of the cocktail, techniques and equipment, ingredients, the importance of ice and bitters. Bitters, he explained were extracts usually based upon gentian that incorporated other bitter herbs, barks and roots. Originally formulated as patented medicine, particularly as a digestif, they became part of the bartender’s toolkit when it was realized that their flavor could mask the unsavory tastes of cheap spirits. Like a chef seasoning food, the mixologist uses bitters to round out the flavor of a cocktail. Hence, different bitters for different drinks.
Adam’s first drink was the Fancy Vermouth Cocktail. This delightful cocktail was served over ice in a down glass and demonstrated to the group that vermouth has a place as itself and not just as a blending tool. It turned out to be the favorite of several guests. Since the vermouth Adam used in this cocktail, Carpano, has such a bold flavor, he used Urban Moonshine Bitters to tame the somewhat wild flavor. These organic bitters are crafted by an herbalist in Burlington, VT.
Misty Kalkofen of our beloved Drink created the second drink, the Dunaway. Adam geared this drink to our group because of our interest in fortified wine. But it had the side benefit of introducing us to Cynar, an artichoke-based bitter liqueur. Angostura Orange Bitters were used to add a citrus note.
Then we moved on to the martini-style drinks with the Martinez, adapted by Jamie Boudreau, a star of the craft cocktail movement. The Martinez is the ancestor of the classic matini. Adam’s bitters of choice was the Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged. These bitters spend time in used whiskey barrels which notches up their flavor; additionally, they are redolent of cinnamon which gives a touch of spice to the drink.
Adam finished with a quintessential martini; in this case made in the original early 1900s style – 2 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth. Again, the bitters used was the Angostura Orange.
No party is complete without party tricks. By the fourth and final drink, Adam set the house on fire. Well, only metaphorically speaking, but he did shoot off some sparks when he lit the lemon oil on fire. The flame can be seen on close inspection.
Interspersed with cocktails were some delightful pizzetas created by our guest chef and very own Glenn Carr. Thankfully, he made enough for each end of the table or the evening, complemented by Adam’s delightful cocktails, might have come to blows or at least some arm wrestling. Glenn, could you describe your artwork, please? I did three – feta, shrimp, roasted garlic and dill; marinated artichoke hearts, goat cheese and walnuts; Fontina and farmstead cheese, sweet and hot sausages, caramelized onions and parmesan.
Adam repeatedly evoked an earlier era of cocktails and style of making them – who says we can’t learn from the past? F. Scott Fitzgerald once said: “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” Well, Adam, I think that happened to us all last night. Thank you for a delicious evening.