They're calling the concept behind Loyal Nine, the just-opened East Cambridge restaurant, “east coast revival.” A few minutes in the room – sort of a seaside colonial warehouse picnic – and a glance at the menu, where chef and owner Marc Sheehan is pulling from the region's deep past for rustic, rich, but refined fare, like a layered casserole of potato, poached egg, salt pork, cheese, and confit onions served in a ceramic pot, certainly evokes the idea of a bygone era (the name itself is a reference to a group of 1765 Boston tradesmen who opposed the Stamp Act). But, this being 2015, it's cut through with a modern flair; I don't think many of us would particularly enjoy dining or drinking in a too-period-appropriate restaurant all that much, to be honest.
On the seven seat bar, which is itself built with a type of woodsman-chic décor in mind, the focus to start is on rum and brandy, themselves emblematic of a heartier New England drinking era. But, for all the muscular touches, there's a balancing delicacy at work here. Cocktails come served in unique glassware, delicate little coupe glasses and served on fabric cut coasters that add a sense of preciousness to the proceedings.
Bryn Tattan, recently of Merrill & Co. and Backbar, is heading up the program, and says rum and madeira, the style of fortified Portuguese wine, will make up the backbone of what they're serving. Beyond that, she hopes to facilitate a crossover between the bar, the kitchen, and the cafe – which the space will operate as during the day. “That's definitely on the forefront with us, to work as a whole entity, a cohesive unit.”
That could mean a series of interesting coffee-based cocktail in the works, or pulling byproduct ingredients off the line. The Flying Nun, a sort of take on a White Mary, bartender Frederic Yarm explained on a recent visit, takes bourbon, citrus, a dash of hot sauce, a touch of scotch, and black walnut brine used in one of the dishes from the kitchen. It's savory, with a faint, bright citrus heat to it.
Another area they'll be focusing on as things settle in is the carbonation program, Tattan says. In the meantime, the Grafoni takes gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, grapefruit and orange shrub for a crisp, sparkling version of a Negroni. Sheets Ain't Made, a riff on the Between the Sheets classic, is emblematic of the spiritous focus, using Calvados apple brandy, Barbecourt rum, Clement Créole Shrubb, Dolin Blanc dry vermouth and Angostura bitters. “The Sheets Ain't made is a perfect example of being inspired by something that once was a staple and standard call and tweaking it to make use of both product we stand behind and a cocktail that we hope stands up as having a backbone,” Tattan says.
A Cosmopolitan variation called the Fine Girl is made with brandy, a dry Madeira, strawberry syrup, lemon, and a drizzle of Maraschino liqueur. While that's not to be found on the list yet, those that are aren't actually broken down by their ingredients as such, but rather by characteristic impressions for the guests.
“It's not unlike going to Drink,” Tattan, who used to work there as well, says. “There's a little ambiguity in the way the cocktails are listed, but it's meant to be more of a conversation piece. It's not like a secret we're keeping from people, it's more like we have this thing that we want to share with you. Someone mentioned they like a Cosmo, and we had all the potential for products we could use to cultivate, not a Cosmo in the traditional sense, but something that might bridge the gap between a Cosmo lover while making a slight twist.”
It's also a good way to get someone to appreciate a Madeira, she says. “It's letting them be exposed to that in a non-threatening way, in a welcoming way, is sort what we're trying to do. It's about trying to expose people to things that have been around, or maybe haven't been used in the form that we're utilizing them in, but someone is going to leave and be like, 'Hey, I had something I never had before.'”
If you go
660 East Cambridge St., Cambridge