Everyone has that one bar or restaurant that they really liked but, for one reason or another, never made it back to, despite all their best intentions.
It's been a few years since I've been to 51 Lincoln, but it turns out it was worth the wait — it's since changed for the better. While the cuisine was always memorable, one thing they lacked was a full-sized bar. Since my last visit, they installed a lively 13-seat bar, set apart from the more refined dining room. That, plus the recent hiring of “bar chef” Ginny Edwards earlier this summer, have cemented the Newton Highlands restaurant as a cocktail destination as much as a dining one.
Edwards, who's worked at some of the better cocktail bars around the city (like Island Creek Oyster Bar and Russell House Tavern), is bringing that same level of expertise to 51 Lincoln. Among the most creative concoctions — on a cocktail menu rife with them — is the Peat Monster's Reveal. It takes a peaty scotch, lemon and honey and garnishes it all with applewood smoked corn and watermelon. That latter detail highlights the interplay between the bar and the kitchen here, the boundary between which they're working to break down.
“I started with a Peat Monster scotch, and thought, 'what goes well with a smoky scotch?',” Edwards said. That would be honey, of course. The addition of smoke corn and watermelon simultaneously inject some of their own sweetness, while slightly upping the level of smokiness — it mostly comes through the nose here, and the sip remains bright and lightly sweet. “The way things come across in a glass are not always as they are in my mind, but this one was awesome,” she said. Agreed.
Elsewhere, A Stroll to Provence takes gin, lemon juice, lavender syrup and a house-made thyme soda with egg white. The result is a beautiful, silk texture with a hint of effervescence. Another bucolic option, A Floral Affair, is a mix of gin, Creme de Violette, Elder liqueur, with edible flowers frozen inside ice cubes for a garnish.
Jumping from the fields to the shore, Rupert's Revival takes a cocktail that's often done wrong — and a goofy theme song — as its inspiration. Essentially a deconstructed Pina Colada, it's named for Rupert Holmes' “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” (you know the jam), but pulls it back from teetering on the dangerous edge of touristy with a few dashes of cardamom bitters in addition to white rum, lime and pineapple.
The bitters dry it all out and make for an infinitely more interesting flavor profile. It's topped with a coconut foam and served without a straw, because the idea is to get all of the broken down components at once. This is great in theory, unless you happen to be in possession of a brand new beard and have to spend the length of the drink wiping coconut foam from your whiskers. Fortunately, like most of the new drinks here, it's worth savoring.