Thursty: Tasting the tradition
As we’re fond of pointing out in this space, drinking is history. Probably the only thing more inextricably tied to our cultural traditions is eating, because (allegedly) you don’t actually need to consume alcohol to survive. They’re mindful of both factors at Kitchen, the new South End restaurant and bar time machine from chef/owner Scott Herritt, who knows a thing or two about history from operating the 1885 landmark Marliave.
The sense of the past is illustrated by Herritt’s collection of first-edition cookbooks that line the walls behind the neighborly bar and open kitchen, spanning from the 1700s through present day. “He sees them as a snapshot in time,” explains bartender Daren Swisher. “I think you can talk about drinks in the same vein.” OK, let’s do that.
The drinks menu, like the food, calls out classics from throughout the history of the cocktail, with a particular interest in two of the classic tomes of the field: Jerry Thomas’ “Bartenders Guide” (1862) and “The Savoy Cocktail Book” (1930).
“Much like the food, we’re trying to stay close to the classic recipes — that’s why you see the circa dates next to the drinks on our cocktail list,” says manager/bartender Billy Pola. It’s a taste of tradition, swizzles, juleps, sours and so on that enhances the guests’ experience, he says. “I think there was a time at bars where it was a public house, a place to exchange information and talk about things. We’ve kind of lost that with the sports bar, but people have been kind of bringing it back to knowledge about the history of drinks.”
Both Pola and Swisher point to the Martinez as a formative cocktail, which many consider the grandfather cocktail of the martini. “It’s a pretty well-known drink within circles of bartenders, but outside, for our guests, it’s a lesser-known one,” says Pola. They make it with Ransom Old Tom gin, sweet vermouth, Maraschino and Angostura bitters. “It’s one of the best-stirred all-spirits drinks going,” says Swisher. “Great balance, texture and nuance. Yes, these have all been done. We aren’t reinventing the wheel with our list, but we are doing it right. Some of these drinks have been around for a century — in some cases two centuries. I like the idea of a drink that people have been putting back for five or 10 generations.”
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