Through a discreetly marked orange door and down a somewhat unfinished hallway interspersed with steel-framed industrial doors – such is the passage to backbar, sister establishment of Journeyman. Visually, the bar is unlike any other in Boston. On one side, white washed brick walls; on the other, chalkboard walls; at one end of the room, a cozy bar and seating with modernist design touches; at the other end, high backed upolstered banquettes face each other across the room with low tables large chunks of unfinished wood; DIY industrial lighting; an intriguing graffitti-inspired piece of wall art highlights a portion of the white brick wall; the servers’ station a large piece with multiple drawers, compartments and shelves that appears to have been salvaged from an early twentieth century office. Was I in Portland OR? Brooklyn? I felt entirely at home. Yet we weren’t here for cutting edge design but for the drinks. backbar opened at the end of 2011 and is part of the current surge of craft cocktail watering holes that have recently opened in Boston. backbar traces its lineage, like so many, back to Drink, a fact which gave me pause before this, my first visit. Would there be rules and regulations? We were once scolded for attempting to save a seat for a late arriving friend. During another visit, we witnessed a woman being chastized for moving a bar stool to accomodate one of the members of her party. Fortunately, backbar isn’t like Drink in this respect. It does however take after its parent by creating superlative cocktails. The cocktail menu is merely a formality – the mixologist will create a drink according to the patron’s specification. Since it was “International Gin and Tonic Day”, I felt obliged to have gin but wasn’t really in the mood for a G&T. So I asked the server if I could have a gin-based martini that incorporated St. Germain. What I got was an “M.O.P.” (“Means of Preservation”) – gin, dry vermouth, St. Germain, celery bitters and a strip of grapefruit peel squeezed over the glass to express the grapefruit oils. It was outstanding – perfectly chilled, perfect dilution, perfect balance and a multilayered profile. My WDWU colleagues – Katrin and Rodney – were equally impressed with their selections; particularly toothsome was Katrin’s “Vesper” made with St. Germain. (And it was shaken, not stirred.)
For food, backbar offers small bites – such as fried cracklings (“Pigato Chips”), warm olives – but the emphasis is on cheese and housemade charcuterie. There is a rotating selection of each. We chose a large combo plate that featured a selection of three charcuterie items and three cheeses plus an assortment of interesting and delicious accompaniments. The prepared meats were all excellent but I was most taken with two of the cheeses: the Belgian washed rind “Chimay” – bold, assertive; and fresh goat’s milk curds from Hillman Farm in Colrain – a perfect taste of spring. To accompany our cheese and charcuterie, we switched to wine. At the bar, two whites and two reds are available; in addition, selections may be made from Journeyman’s wine list. From that list, I chose a Syrah based wine from the Languedoc, Mas d’Agalis “Yo no Puedo Mas”. It was delicious and was a good companion to the food.
This was an enjoyable evening – we weren’t scolded at all. Our servers were both friendly and professional – the winning combination for a bar. And the food and drinks were definitely top-notch.
backbar 9 Sanborn Court Somerville MA