Dave and Will Willis (right) // Photos by Derek Kouyoumjian
If you’re on the search for well-made cocktails and craft spirits, the back side of Fenway isn’t necessarily your best option. It’s mostly home to more generic, oversized sports bars.
One such spot, Sweet Caroline’s, has been trying to shake that stigma in recent months. Their first effort came this summer, when they brought on deservedly well-regarded Noon Inthasuwan to design their bar menu. The results were fun, area-appropriate, albeit ambitious cocktails, like a Cracker Jack-infused rye Manhattan and a Bee’s Knees riff made with the local Wire Works gin, honey syrup, lemon and Prosecco. Those proved a hard sell, however, particularly during Red Sox season, where bartenders are dealing with bigger crowds — and crowds unaccustomed to waiting for cocktails like these to be made. Their latest effort, however, has Inthasuwan designing a whole new menu, this time as a partnership with Bully Boy Distillers, who have set up a pop-up bar inside the sprawling sports pub.
It’s a fun idea. But why here? I asked Bully Boy’s Will Willis to fill me in.
“We've got a good relationship with the ownership group," he says. "They really want to put out a quality product with their food."
You don’t see many pop-up bars in Boston. “I’m not aware of any,” Willis says. “Pop-up restaurants, yes, which I think are a neat way to basically get food in a non-traditional setting. ... We thought it would be a cool idea to do that with a bar.”
It’s also a good marketing opportunity for everyone involved. “We thought we could kind of leverage one another in a way. For us it’s an opportunity to reach out to a more mainstream audience. For them, with our audience, they can try to attract a more foodie crowd.”
It worked on me (being of the latter crowd) anyway, having not been there in some time. The results — while rough around the edges in terms of staff-training when I visited (it was early) — are promising.
One, a barrel-aged Martinez is made with Bully Boy’s vodka, Cocchi Americano and herb bitters. “This cocktail took a while in the making,” Inthasuwan says. “It involves fractional blending and aging in the custom oak barrels from Bully Boy.” For the bitters he’s using a melange of herbs from their farm. A beer cocktail takes Bully Boy’s aged whiskey, maple spiced syrup and Sam Adams Winter lager. Elsewhere, there’s a rum runner and a milk punch riff with rum, pineapple, cinnamon and clove.
“We wanted to present something for everybody, have some vodka drinks on there, and on the other end of spectrum, more challenging things,” he says. “To try to appeal to a range of audiences.”
With this operation popping up right in the center of the bar, it would be hard for the two sides not to at least meet in the middle.