Newton’s Sycamore is a better version of your neighborhood bar

syc

A neighborhood spot can be a lot of different things, to a lot of different people — from a dive, to a casual sports bar, to an intimate dining room. If it were up to me, the Sycamore model would be the template for them all.

The Newton Center bistro has been lauded for its seasonal French-inspired, locally sourced and reasonably priced menu, but the bar program here uses the same concept of presenting high-end ingredients in an approachable manner. It’s a vast step up from the typical idea of a neighborhood spot in the suburbs — or anywhere in the city for that matter.

“I get a lot of ideas from the guys in the kitchen; there’s so much talent in there, a solid pedigree,” bar manager Scott Shoer says. “Sometimes thoughts and ideas can get stale, so when I see them doing peaches and different kinds of herbs together on a plate I think, ‘That could be really delicious in a cocktail.’”

That spirit of inventiveness also means that Shoer rotates his cocktail menu as different fruits come in and out of season. He jumped at the chance to use strawberries from Wards Berry Farm in Sharon for a recent tequila infusion, for example. They ended up in a simple but evocative cocktail finished off with strawberry syrup and fresh lime juice. The strawberry tequila is sippable on its own but it retains heat — mixed with the decadent, dessert-like syrup (which you sort of want to drizzle on ice cream), it balances out perfectly.

There’s a symbiotic relationship there that he relishes, he says. Likewise, he adds, between the space and his guests, for whom he thinks the feel of the bar is customizable to their given moods.

“I like to say I host a party every night,” he says. “That party can be loud and boisterous or just out for dinner as a couple and going home early.” It’s about making people comfortable, he explains. Putting his guests at ease also mean talking them through some of the spirits and ingredients on his menu, but it’s a process he enjoys, as do his guests.

“We’re in the suburbs, if there are things people don’t understand, or they want to try something new, I feel like the gatekeeper to that,” he says. “I like to able to introduce them to things they might be nervous about. I’m certainly not trying to push it on them.”

So, if someone wants a tequila sunrise, then that’s exactly what they’re getting. Even better, though, he says, is when a guest says they like a tequila sunrise, but would like to try something new. That’s information he can work with.

Let’s say you’re a big fan of down, brown and bitter, as is the case with this particular cocktail columnist. In that case, Shoer might mix you the single most bartenderly cocktail you’ve ever had, made with Whistle Pig rye, Antica Formula (an extraordinary sweet red vermouth), Maraschino, Fernet-Vallet (an even more assertive, aromatic Mexican amaro than the better known Fernet Branca) and Amargo-Vallet, which is essentially a potable version of Angosturra bitters.

This thing will blow your socks off. You won’t find most of those ingredients put together so expertly at most bars anywhere, never mind the ‘burbs.

But you needn’t be in search of the bitter truth, as it were, to find something you’ll like at this bar. The Grey Lady is made with Berkshire Mountain gin, tarragon-infused Cocchi Americano and rhubarb syrup, for a breezily botanical, lightly sweet sip. And if you’re not sure if what an ingredient is, don’t be afraid to ask.

“I like it when people say, ‘How do you feel about this?’; ‘What do you think is similar?’; ‘I don’t really care for this’; ‘I’m not sure what this means,’” says Shoer. “It opens up a dialogue, so people are not afraid to ask questions, which is refreshing. You can break down a lot of walls that way.”

Now if only there were a place like this in my neighborhood. Or better yet, in everyone’s.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

10 green ideas for New York City this…

This Earth Day, pundits share their ideas to better green New York City.

Local

Carriage horse activists picket Liam Neeson's UWS home

Several dozen picketers lined the sidewalk outside of Liam Neeson's Upper West Side apartment building on Saturday to protest the actor's support of the New…

Local

Former cop shoots wife in front of children…

Former cop Kevin Canty, 43, was arrested over the weekend after police say he shot and killed his wife in their Ozone Park home.

Local

Two young children killed in deadly Queens fire

Two 4-year-old children died after a blaze at their Far Rockaway home on Saturday night. The Queens fire injured three others, including a third sibling.

Television

'Orphan Black' recap: Episode 1, ‘Nature Under Constraint…

Welcome to your first Season 2 “Orphan Black” recap! Hopefully Tatiana Maslany can help Tatiana Maslany get through this, with the help of Tatiana Maslany,…

Books

Poems from prison: 'How to Survive a Bullet…

Celebrate National Poetry Month with, "'How to Survive a Bullet to the Heart."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

NHL

Rangers blow two-goal lead in Game 2 loss…

The Rangers got out to an early 2-0 lead in Game 2 and the Garden was rocking. But it went downhill quickly from there.

NBA

Deron Williams leads Nets over Raptors in Game…

The Nets traveled to a raucous Air Canada Centre but came out with an important Game 1 victory over the Raptors.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.

Parenting

Is camp right for introverts?

We ask an expert for tips on sending your introverted child to camp

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.