Friday, January 1, 2016

:: fred's picks for the top cocktails of 2015 (out) ::

In December 2010, someone asked me the difficult question of what was my favorite cocktail of the year, and I was a little lost for words for there were so many. In working out a post for this, I decided to sort it out by dividing the list down by month and also by whether I had them out at a bar or in at home. My choices were influenced by two factors -- tastiness and uniqueness; it had to be both memorable and worth repeating. The drinks were organized by when the drink post appeared and not when they were had. Here is the sixth yearly installment with my monthly breakdown for drinks I had out on the town for 2015 with a runner up or two listed. When looking for interesting trends, banana whether in liqueur (more common) or syrup (seen twice this year) was done well without the candy-fake liqueurs of yesteryear. Gentian liqueurs were utilized in varying amounts to give a certain earthiness to drinks, and sherry especially in Tiki drinks continued on with Madeira taking a growing role in the fortified usage in cocktails. In addition, room temperature drinks still hold a place in Boston's heart as well as do amaro of all sorts albeit used less abrasively than in the past.

January: For best drink out, I selected Ames St. Deli's Zig Zag Wanderer that they named in honor of the anniversary of Captain Beefheart's passing; the combination of mezcal, herbal liqueurs, and chocolate was rather elegant. For runners up, Sichuan Garden II's addition to the sherry Tiki theme, the Sherry Colada, was so good that we ordered it again a few months later. Also notable was Backbar's reworking of the Trinidad Sour into the Trinidad & Toboggan.

February: A close call here with this trio, but I will give the nod to West Bridge and their tribute to Seattle's coffee capital Lake Union. Of note were Russell House Tavern's Eye of the Storm that reminded me of a Suffering Bastard with a hint of Mr. Bali Hai and Citizen Public House with its delightful mezcal and sherry sipper Smoke and Mirrors.
March: Another tough choice to pick a top spot, but Estragon's Payaso de Roseo (Rodeo Clown) had an aperitif classiness to another mezcal and sherry combination. Townsman's rum and spice Kingston Cup and Brick & Mortar's pineapple juice-less Jungle Bird, the Jets to Brazil, were also rather delightful.

April: Sichuan Garden II made a point early that banana liqueur could be used in a classy way, and their Father's Advice partnered it with bitter elements and sherry. For runners up, Backbar's room temperature Derby Scaffa and Audubon's rum riff on the Lawhill, the Law Harbor, deserve recognition.

May: Another strong month for Sichuan Garden II where the Absinthe Buck tamed the anise-driven cordial with almond and spice. Also intriguing was the Independent's Kapuna Kane that worked a large amount of gentian liqueur into a drink did not feel overwhelmed by it.
June: A Piña Colada-Negroni hybrid for Negroni Week? Count No. 9 Park in for the top seat in June with their Amaro di Cocco (they ignored my suggestion for the name Piña Negrada though). For honorable mention, Townshend's Chartreuse-y Peacefield and Lincoln's mezcal and spice Battle of Puebla.

July: For July and August, I will segregate out the New Orleans and Tales of the Cocktail drinks and deal with the local talent here. Just north of the city, I was intrigued by Barrel House's Jersey Isle Julep, and for a silver showing, Spoke with their A Bird Named Rufus.

New Orleans & Tales of the Cocktail: With 16 recipes written up from the event and around the city, I felt that it needed its own category. I was definitely impressed with Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29 and found myself there quite often (the only bar that matched it was the 24 hour craft beer bar near my hotel, the Avenue Pub); I was advised to start with their take on the classic Pearl Diver called the Pontchartrain Pearl Diver and that recommendation was strong. Pouring Ribbons' Sing for Your Supper was probably the best drink at the Bartenders Breakfast, and for over the top elegance, the Meyer's Cobbler at Compère Lapin stood out.
August: August was indeed a challenge. Top honor will go to Frogmore's tribute to Charleston's role in Madeira trade with the Sun City. The Golden-eyed Treefrog at a rum event at Felipe's and the New Orlean's tribute, the Easy E, at Backbar get the tip of the hat.

September: Things did not get any easier in September to make a choice, and it was hard enough to narrow it down to three. So here they are without any designation. Hawthorne's Boulevardier in the Heather as the beginning of the banana Negroni phase for me. Estragon's Tropicalia with cachaça, spices, and tropical flavors. And Hojoko's Budokon as an overproof rum-madeira Sazerac of sorts.

October: It was tough to pick a best drink at No. 9 Park this month with a strong showing on their new menu; perhaps their Declaration with Madeira edged out the Sherry Painkiller and the I'wi Bird. A duo of gentian liqueur cocktails deserve the nod: Monument Park at State Park and the Barnyard Punch at Highball Lounge.
November: I couldn't narrow down which four equal part drink was the top dog, so why not split the difference with the Franklin's Almost Famous and Brick & Mortar's One One Thousand. Off of Audubon's cartoon-themed section of the menu, the Friar Tuck deserves some notice.

December: Just opened this month, Tiger Mama impressed me with their rum Manhattan of sorts, the Long Eclipse. A downtown duo of the amusingly named High Five, So Am I with its tequila, Cynar, and honey action at JM Curley and the Bela Vista with rye, banana, and Ramazzotti and No. 9 Park round out the month.

So there are my 34 best drinks in Boston for 2015 a trio from Tales of the Cocktail and New Orleans thrown in. From the local talent, those drinks stem from 25 different establishments across town (and some just outside of town). I also left out any drinks that I had a hand in at Russell House Tavern and Loyal Nine. And as I said last year, there were certainly ones that got edged out that I wish I could mention, but the scope of this post was kept tight (although not as tight as a top 12 would have been). I am looking forward to what 2016's list will bring. Cheers!

No comments: