If you're looking for great music venues and cocktail bars, we've got lots of them here in Boston. If you're looking for awful ones, we've got plenty of those too! What we don't have, unfortunately, are many places that combine the two.
While we can appreciate the merits of a tall boy or a plastic cup of mass market whiskey at a show as much as the next guy (provided the next guy has terrible taste), we sometimes prefer to stop off for a proper drink before a night spent slamming back the cheap stuff at a show.
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Luckily, most of the venues around town where we'd see a band just happen to be within stumbling distance of some of the best bars around town where we'd go for a real, adult cocktail. While regular readers of this column will already know about most of these spots, consider this a handy guide to where to grab a pre-show cocktail for the new influx of students in the city who don't know any better yet — and should.
The Middle East or T.T. the Bear's Place | Central Square
While these are two iconic Central Square music venues who bring in great musical talent, you wouldn't want to stray too far outside of the one and one or beer format here, mostly because the bartender will look at you like you're a jerk. On the other hand, at the nearby Brick + Mortar, you can let your taste palate run wild with some of the city's best bartenders and a spirits selection that goes into the deep cuts. You can order all of the mezcal, bitters, and digestif cocktails you want, or you could just do the Crush on a Stripper: four shots (they change frequently) for just $20 — you are still going to a show after all, let's not get too fancy. Better still, if your rocker friend isn't ready for a mezcal or amaro cocktail, a shot and a Bud will only cost you nine bucks.
Royale | Theatre District
Big nightclub, big bands, big prices for crappy drinks. Pretty standard. Make sure you get a nice solid foundation going before you head in by stopping off at Shojo around the corner in Chinatown. They're literally the best (albeit only) craft cocktail bar in the hood, but they'd be one of the best in any area. Try the Ozawa's Kiss made with Hakushu 12 year Japanese whiskey, Benedictine, yellow Chartreuse and bitters.
Great Scott or Brighton Music Hall | Allston
Two of the best spots to see touring indie bands and locals on the way up, and to drink Narragansetts and... that's about it. Allston is surprisingly lacking in cocktail bars (too many cheap kids), but a little walk up the road toward Lone Star and Deep Ellum will find you in the heart of craft cocktail and beer territory. Try the Hombre Sin Nombre, made with blanco tequila, Peychaud's bitters, mole bitters, agave and a Chartreuse rinse.
Radio | Somerville
Another good spot for checking out Boston's homegrown talent, but you'll be hard pressed to find an interesting cocktail. Around the corner in Union Square, however, you can choose from either Back Bar or The Independent, both of whom are rock stars in their own right when it comes to mixing drinks. If you're at the Independent, go for the Queen Charlotte, made with gin, Punt e Mes, Creme de Violette and meyer lemmon bitters.
The Sinclair | Harvard Square
Success! You've found the one venue/bar where you can both see a quality band and get a quality drink. Order the Word of Mouth, made with Old Monk 7 year rum, amontillado sherry, sweet vermouth and Turkish sumac bitter molasses.