Drunk History: Menotomy’s cocktails come with cock-tales

credit: Erin Baldassari
credit: Erin Baldassari

A lot of bars and restaurants pay lip service to the roots of their neighborhood, but for the owner of the new Menotomy Grill in Arlington, Billy Lyons, it’s clear that history is a passion. The Arlington native has been planting the seeds for his concept since he wrote the business plan — and joined the local historical society — six years ago. “I said to myself, if my dream ever comes true, I don’t want to be accused of exploiting history to make a buck,” he jokes.

An appreciation for and sense of Arlington’s long history shows up in little touches throughout the restaurant, with old maps and photos adorning the walls. The name itself is a call back to the original settlement within the borders of Cambridge. This is by no means a period-harkening setup or a purely nostalgia-based affair, however — the restaurant and bar are both decidedly modern, with a spacious, distressed-industrial-chic design. It feels like Lyons has smuggled a small piece of the city out beyond its borders.

“I wanted to bring a Boston restaurant and bar to the suburbs,” he says. He’s the man to do it. Lyons has a few decades of experience in the business and has worked everywhere from Boston Beer Works to Stoddard’s Fine Food and Ale, which some of the design elements here bring to mind and whose chef (Mark Thompson) he brought along. “It’s not your typical suburban restaurant,” he says. “I basically brought the things most people in the suburbs haven’t seen yet.”

Among these revelations for suburbanites are cocktails like the Cooper’s Flip, which has one foot in the past, and one in the present. Made with the locally-made Privateer Rum, molasses, egg, pumpkin puree and cask ale (they’ll debut a cask ale from Southern Tier on the menu this week), it’s a cocktail Lyons has known he wanted to see on the menu since he first dreamed up the concept.

Its name is a reference to two men who were killed at a bar in the area by British soldiers during Revolutionary times, a story Lyons heard from a historian in town. Did he happen to know what they were drinking, Lyons asked the storyteller. He did. It was a similar recipe although likely, like most drinks at the time, it was much less palatable. The Cooper’s Flip is more of a fall or winter after-dinner sip, but the appeal of the yarn behind it is hard to pass up.

A second cocktail, the Bloody Russell — made with brandy, Cointreau and blood orange juice — takes its name from the nearby Jason Russell House, the site of the bloodiest battle on the first day of the Revolutionary War.

While there’s nothing particularly revolutionary about this new spot’s concept, there’s no doubt that its fine cocktails and pleasing comfort food, served up in a hip, vibrant space, instantly elevated Arlington’s bar scene the day that it opened. You can write that one down for the history books.


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