Friday, August 14, 2015

:: boston cocktail allstars - john mayer ::

For the sixth installment in the series of bartenders, past and present, who have helped to shape the Boston cocktail scene, I chose a bartender who we followed to three establishments, namely John Mayer. We met John at Craigie on Main in the summer of 2010, and followed him to Loyal 149 and Citizen Public House before he recently retired from the stick (save for guest appearances) to work for a liquor company. John's combination of hospitality, cocktail creativity, and curious drink names always led to a great bar experience. As for the cocktail names, he did live up to his OnTheBar profile quote of "If the drink is named after Texas, firearms, or sex toys, there's a good chance I created it." He also surprised and impressed me with his movie, literature, and music references. Without further ado, here is a five drink retrospective (with a few bonus allusions thrown in) to reflect on his Boston bartending contributions.

1. Libretto
One of the things that John did at Craigie on Main is strengthen my interest in tequila and mezcal drinks, and it was hard to pick one of them to represent with the Wilhelm Scream and the Degüello both worthy of this spot. In terms of drink names, John apparently was not great at translating into Italian though for he picked the wrong word to name this libation for a librarian guest, yet he proudly kept his mistake. But flavorwise, it was no mistake; this combination of aged tequila, sweet vermouth, and chocolate bitters also had the interplays of the highs of elderflower liqueur balancing the lows of Cynar.
2. Throw the Gun #2
Besides agave spirits, John also showed off his mastery of gin while at Craigie. Getting the nod over the spiced and spicy (for being named after a sex toy issue) Magic Wand Malfunction (his wife is a sex-ed teacher) was a cinematic Flip called Throw the Gun #2 after the moment the bad guy runs out of bullets and discards his weapon and runs. Perhaps not a Flip since it contains a touch of citrus, and this citrus, creaminess, and gin did remind me of a Ramos until the nutty sherry and herbal amaro notes entered the swallow.

3. 2011 (Acquired Taste)
After Craigie on Main, John took a position closer to his home in South Boston, namely as the bar manager for Local 149. One of my favorites that he created was a commentary on popular trends in mixology that he called an Acquired Taste before he changed it in 2013 to a tribute to the year 2011. Hints of mezcal smoke accented the pinch of salt-dampened combination of Campari and Bonal that were supported by nutty sherry. Overall, disparate ingredients lacking a base spirits came together to play off of each other in a sort of a Negroni format.
4. Face for Radio
Sometimes delicious drinks look rather ugly, and John Mayer's submission to the Bacardi Competition in 2013 was definitely in that category. Therefore, he ran with it and gave this one an amusing name, a Face for Radio. Orgeat will often do that, and this is why opaque and colorful mugs are often used to serve Tiki drinks (see the notes from the Brains and Booze talk for an explanation). With Becherovka, lime, and cinnamon honey syrup rounding out this drink, it came across like a cinnamon and clove spiced Mai Tai variation.

5. 11 + 2 / 12 + 1
With a good few years of tenure at Local 149, John moved on to the Citizen Public House. The curiously named 11 + 2 / 12 + 1 was the last drink that he made for me back in early 2014; I later asked John to explain the riddle, and he noted that both sides have the same 13 letters in them in different orders. The drink got even more curious as it was equal parts Green Chartreuse and Zucca that were accented by grapefruit bitters and twist oils. Overall, there was a lot of elegance and complexity in this seeming simplicity.

One of the drinks that I wanted to feature was part of a duo that John served to me called the Love in an Elevator. This combination of dark rum, oloroso sherry, Benedictine, and Punt e Mes was rather delightful; however, it was created by his coworker at the time Matt Whitney. While I was sipping this cold libation towards the end of June, John took out a pair of Blue Blazer mugs and started to work on the drink across the bar. I commented to my wife that someone was silly enough to order a Blue Blazer on a hot, almost summer evening. After putting on the show pouring the flaming drink back and forth including igniting a pair of lemon oil puffs from twists, he then set the drink in front of me. At that moment, I realized that I was the silly fool getting a hot drink on a warm evening. John's companion piece the Death in a Doublewide was inspired by the Diamondback, but he could not get it to work chilled, so it was suggested that he go warm. I think that this moment captures the cinematic absurdity that made sitting at John's bar such a treat. John was recently guest bartending at the Hawthorne for their Swizzle Sundays albeit on a night I was also working, so chances are that I have not had the last drink from this Boston Cocktail Allstar.

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