When the news came earlier this year that Rendezvous would be closing, one of Central Square's both underrated and yet beloved restaurant and bars, it was a disappointment. Maybe it will be another ATM, because there aren't enough of those on the block. Or a chain restaurant (it was a reclaimed Burger King to begin with after all). But, with the recent opening of Viale, it seems like the worrying was misplaced. So far, at least drinks-wise, based on what I've seen, it's picking up right where their predecessors left off.
To helm the bar program for their Mediterranean inspired restaurant, first time owners Greg Reeves and Mark Young, both alums of the nearby Green Street, have tapped Patrick Gaggiano, previously of Fairstead Kitchen and Trina's.
“Basically we're just trying to have something for everybody and make it approachable,” Gaggiano says of the cocktail program. Among the dozen on the list, 2 will be classics – the Widow's Kiss (applejack brandy, yellow chartreuse, Benedictine, Angostura bitters) at the moment – one will be the “one trick pony,” he says, a fun play on a boring cocktail, and the rest will focus on each of the spirits you'd find in a bar well. “It's so if a guest isn't familiar with something they can just say, oh, I like gin, here's the gin drink.”
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While most of the cocktails I tried recently were all quite approachable, they are certainly highlighting the au courant ingredients you'd expect. “I want to focus on cool amaros, digestifs and modifiers,” Gaggiano says. “There's cool stuff coming out every month from Europe, whose flavors and herbaceousness are fun to play with.” Soon they'll be rolling out their own house-infused amaros, like one he's working on now with Pimm's mulled with raisins, vanilla bean, cinnamon and apples. Another in the works uses Santa Maria al Monte, “which I think is super bitter,” he says, with peach tea, orange zest and a touch of maple syrup. “It's still bitter, but not as intense, and people can get used to it a little bit without getting your mouth destroyed.”
Some of the best recipes so far include the Owl Farm, made with tequila, lime, beet syrup, allspice, and salt. Beet can be a tough flavor to play with, but they found a great workaround here. “Chef and I stumbled upon it haphazardly' he says. “I'm definitely not a cook, and I don't know how to cook a beet.” The end result came from cooking beets with granulated sugar, mint and ginger root, and letting it simmer to “bleed out all the cool, funky vegetal flavor.” There's not much of the earthiness leftover you might expect. “It's got the sweetness from the sugar and the ginger, so we finish it with a pinch of salt on top, which brings out some of the vegetalness. I don't want people to get a mouthful of beet and that's all they taste. I want it to be more friendly.”
Even friendlier than that is the Jackson County Line, made with Ancho Reyes, the rum-based subtly peppered liqueur, applejack, lemon and glogg. The heat from the Ancho Reyes creeps up on you in a whirl of seasonal flavors. “Glogg is basically an old Nordic style, "Game of Thrones"-like wine that just tastes like Christmas,” as he describes it.
Fans of the bar at Rendezvous will be pleased. “We're trying to uphold sort of the cult following and that vibe and atmosphere that Scott Holiday had at the bar here....I definitely want to meet those standards, and hopefully introduce people to some new stuff as well.”
If you go
502 Mass. Ave., Cambridge