Tales of the Cocktail — the nation's premier cocktail conference, judged by a panel of some of the world's most esteemed spirits professionals, writers and bar owners — wrapped up this past weekend in New Orleans, with a strong showing from some of our city's best bars. Among the nominees were The Hawthorne (for Best American Cocktail Bar), Island Creek Oyster Bar and No. 9 Park (for Best Restaurant Bar), and Eastern Standard for (World's Best Hotel Bar).
Taking home top honors at the Spirited Awards (kind of like the Oscars of the cocktail world), however, was Drink. The Fort Point mixology mainstay was named Best Cocktail Bar in the World.
“I am so proud of Boston as a city,” John Gertsen, general manager of Drink, said about the awards and their win. “This would not be possible if it weren't for everybody who has a cocktail bar and everybody who goes out to cocktail bars in Boston. It allows our city to be on par with London, New York, Chicago, Paris... places in the past that always got global attention for cocktail bars, and here we are now with Boston."
Drink took home Best American Cocktail Bar in 2011. What, we wondered, did they do to improve to the world level in the past couple of years?
“Honestly, I don't think we've changed very much. I think we've tried to hold on to our idea of holding a cocktail party every night," says Gertsen. True to form, he mixed me up a couple of mezcal cocktails later that night, including a riff on the 1794 — made with mezcal, Cinzano Rosso, Campari and mole bitters — and an original called the Caesar Cardini — made with mezcal, Barolo Chinato, Creme de Cacao and grated coffee bean — both of which were as good as advertised. The latter's coffee bean and mezcal, in particular, made for a perfect pairing.
That style of simple, streamlined, three- or four-ingredient cocktails represents what Gertsen sees as the ideal in American cocktails. “Super involved drinks are starting to go away; people are no longer doing five or six ingredients." he says.
More important even than that, he stresses, is atmosphere. “I think we've always held true to fact that what we do here has little to do with what's in the glass; it's what's outside the glass," he says. "We focus on the person and what they're there for.”
The people have spoken
Also representing Boston were the people behind Citizen Public House, who took home the People's Choice Award at the Bare Knuckle Bar Fight. The competition invites seven bars a year to recreate the feel of their bar in one venue.
“The premise is to basically bring your bar to the space: the feeling, the quality of cocktails, level of hospitality, everything that embodies what your bar is,” manager Joy Richard said. They were serving riffs on daiquiris and negronis and an original, the Cape Cobbler, made with Eighty Six Co. vodka, Del Maguey Vida mezcal, cranberry shrub, orange juice and Amontillado sherry. The bars were then evaluated by a panel of judges and voted on by guests in attendance, who chose Citizen as their favorite.
“It's a huge deal for us,” Richard said. “This is a party I've wanted to compete in for the last couple years. When we got invited this year we were thrilled, and we put everything we had into this. It's a huge honor.”
Drink: 348 Congress St., Boston | 617-695-1806 | drinkfortpoint.com
Citizen Public House: 1310 Boylston St., Boston | 617-450-9000 | citizenpub.com