Five Horses Tavern does beer well; but at the moment, it seems that’s the only thing it’s doing well. The bar has some interesting selections, like the lactose-brewed Lefthand Milk Stout from Colorado and the convergence of Belgian- and West Coast-style IPAs in the Sixpoint Bengali Tiger from New York. The sporty, multilevel tavern is decked out with bourbon barrels, horse racing paraphernalia, multiple TVs and throngs of Tufts students eating on the cheap. Really cheap. Credit Five Horses with keeping the price points of an Asian-accented, comfort-food barbecue menu well within the range of the collegiate target demo. The effect is something like an entry-level Highland Kitchen, (just up the street), which comes off as downright mature in comparison.

Cocktails here are an afterthought. The Hit It Rich — made with Bacardi Gold, lime, grapefruit juice and Bittermens tiki bitters — is too watery and unsubstantial. It tastes like fruity nothingness. While the Regal Warrior — made with gin, blood orange liqueur, Regans orange bitters and prosecco — is better, and perhaps well-suited for refreshment after one of the spicier dishes, it’s still slight. It seems like the short cocktail list is steering you toward beer, which is the real draw. Or you might ask for a whiskey, like the High West Rendezvous Rye. Maybe you'll even get a taste first (see right).

A taste of whiskey

This is the golden age of drinking. Never before have so many quality wines, spirits and beers been so available to the consumer.

And knowledge of — or at least interest in — the larger picture continues to rise. But there are still barriers. Foremost among them, naturally, is price. It’s cost-prohibitive to take a chance on small-batch spirits and micro-brews when you’re not sure what you’re getting into. Bars that focus on beer — such as Lord Hobo, Deep Ellum or Five Horses Tavern (with 36 rotating drafts and 80 bottles) — do a good job of making samples available. So do restaurants with expansive wine lists. But purveyors of spirits are a different story.

I bring this up in regard to Five Horses. As I was browsing its broad selection of whiskeys, I wanted to buy a half-serving of whiskey and was refused. I can’t blame the tavern for that response; you won’t find many bars that sell 1-ounce tasting pours, even if you’re hesitant to spend $20 on a glass of unknown whiskey without an introductory swallow.

So, using my bully pulpit here (such as it is), I’d like to suggest more quality bars start doing this. Bartenders and owners talk about wanting to introduce guests to exciting new products. Let’s make it easier to do so.

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