Monday, January 1, 2018

:: fred's picks for the top cocktails of 2017 (out) ::

At the end of 2010, I was challenged to declare my favorite drink of the year, and I was overwhelmed for there were so many good options to chose from. As I sat down to figure out my year, I divided my list by whether I had them out at a bar or in at home, and I subdivided each of those by month. My choices were influenced by two factors -- tastiness and uniqueness; it had to be both memorable and worth repeating. Each month was selected for when the drink post appeared and not when they were had. Without further ado, here is the eighth annual installment for drinks I had out on the town for 2017 with a runner up or two listed. I included my favorite drinks while traveling as a separate section.

January: For my top pick of January, I quite enjoyed Backbar's Peat's Kiss as an elegant smoky sipper influenced by Phil Ward's Shruff's End. For runners up, Little Donkey's riff on the 1919 called the Plymouth Street Harvest and the Automatic's sherry-mezcal Cobbler of sorts, the Silent X.

February: My adventure to A4cade yielded the video game-inspired TIki number, the Kongo Jungle, as my month's top honor. Also delightful that month was Estragon's Wagnerian-inspired tropical Lohengrin.
March: I tied for my top pick with two seasonally appropriate drinks: The Hawthorne for Mardi Gras did a Blended Banana Ramos and Backbar merged the Trinidad Sour with the Penicillin for the Trinidad Medicine. Noteworthy for March was GrandTen's Bar's Jack Ward which removed the rye whiskey from its awkward interaction with orange juice in the Ward Eight and replaced it with the apple brandy of the Jack Rose.

April: My choice for the month was the bitter and slightly tropical tequila sparkler at Estragon called Death in the Garden. Worthy of mention were Russell House Tavern's Chancellor-like Skyfall and Saloon's Holy Mountain.

May: The month of May was a tough one to call but Eastern Standard's Thistle & Vine revolving around the ingredient Cardamaro was rather tasty. Secondary nods go to Backbar with their flowery and herbal egg white drink, the Flopsy & Mopsy, and their rum Cocktail a La Louisiane riff Born on the Bayou.
June: I have to divide the top honor between two drinks: the Cachaça egg white Sour, Esmeralda's Elixir at the short-lived speakeasy The Shelter, and the pineapple rum-manzanilla sherry Mojito, the Four Tons of Glitter, at Brick & Mortar.

July: With my Tales of the Cocktail choice moved to the travel section, I rather enjoyed Backbar's mashup of a Paper Plane and a Naked & Famous with their Jet Setter. For a runner up was Estragon's quirky Cynar-tropical egg drink, Strangers with Candy.

August: A tequila-beer cocktail, the Route 287 at Stoddard's was the month's pick, with the Pimmsy Whimsy ginger beer delight at Backbar getting a nod.
September: My pick for the month was split between the last drink that I had at Firebrand Saints before it closed, the nutty Rob Roy called the Witch from the West and the Cognac Negroni riff at Ward 8 called A Healthy Scratch.

October: The combination of mezcal, cucumber, and Yellow Chartreuse in the Disco Nap at Brick & Mortar won the month for me. The tropical yet complex Wai Wai at Estragon was also rather enjoyable.
November: My top pick for the month was the eponymous drink of Les Sablons (when made with gin instead of vodka) for it reminded me of a Barbara West with Benedictine. The Sally Can't Surf from Kirkland Tap & Trotter gets the silver medal nod for reminding me of a split spirits Japanese Cocktail.

December: For the gold in December, Russell House Tavern's Deadbolt with its smoky herbal funk and spice notes was a delight. And notable were Deep Ellum's Bitter Pineapple Daiquiri akin to a more straight spirits Jungle Bird and Estragon's Double Bubble Trouble as a riff on a Paper Plane.

While Traveling: My top choice for my trip to Louisville was Rye's Schnitzelberg as a delightful whiskey bitter, brown, and stirred, and for my adventure to New Orleans, it would have to be Cane & Table's minty Royal Hawaiian dubbed Tiki Enough.

So there are my 29 best drinks in Boston for 2017 with a pick from New Orleans and Louisville thrown in. From the local talent, those drinks stem from 18 different establishments across town.  For trends, I saw the return of egg and egg white drinks (none made last year's list), a steady tinkering with Tiki and tropical flavors, and frequently tributes to simple stirred drink ideals. Smoke by way of mezcal and whisky seemed to come up a lot, and herbal liqueurs and amari were certainly not neglected this year. Sherry still reigned supreme as the fortified wine of choice with some port appearing here and there (I know that I used a lot of Madeira at Loyal Nine this past year, but others are not doing to much with it other than one other place in town doing flights). Still a decent amount of vermouth with great successes coming from Punt e Mes to span the vermouth-amaro interface. So cheers, and I look forward to what 2018's list will bring!

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