There have been a slew of new openings focused on craft beer and cocktails in the city this year, but too many is never enough. We’re in a struggle against bro-fisted sports bar-homogeneity here, and the more Fernet-and-a-tall-boy bars we have, the better. The latest is jm Curley.
“It’s a bar room in the truest sense of the word,” explains bar manager Kevin Mabry, “where the bar itself is the focal point of the establishment.”
Like nearby 49 Social and Stoddard’s, the bar has an old Boston feel. The narrow room is all exposed brick and candlelight. There’s a sense of humor too, with a chalkboard specials vibe. A bubble hockey table and a beer list broken down by “varietal” (yeasty delights, hop heads, etc.) erases any sense of pretension, as does a tongue-in-cheek list of “rules” for guests to follow. (Most important: “Just don’t be a douchebag.”)
In behavior, as well as drink choice, Mabry isn’t afraid to lead guests: “I wanted to do something a little different in this part of town and really ‘challenge’ the guest to try something new. Artisanal spirits are crafted with purpose and we embrace that. Without coming off pretentious, we simply suggest the guest try something new if we don’t have something they called for.”
That means no Bushmills, no Patron. Instead, he’ll say, for example, they carry Tequila Siete Leguas, from the site where Patron was first produced, “which sparks conversation and sparks the bar room atmosphere. It’s another way to engage the customer.”
Their name is legion
If jm Curley sounds a little bit out of the norm, chalk it up to the bar’s namesake, longtime Boston mayor James Michael Curley. “As shady as he was, he got the job done,” Mabry says. “He was a mayor for the people, the neighborhood guy down the road.”
That’s what they aim to be here. The neighborhood just happens to have slightly better taste than it used to.
And the drinks...
The attempt to differentiate themselves that Mabry mentions shows up in the cocktail recipes as well.
A gin and tonic is made with cinchona bark powder, the basis of quinine, in a tonic syrup. It’s recognizably a G+T, but it has more texture and takes a citrusy and herbal hint from a touch of yellow chartreuse. Their version of a Hemmingway Daiquiri heats up the rum, Marschino, grapefruit and lime with a healthy dose of jalapeno that will put some hair in your nose.