Timing is everything when it comes to enjoying a bar, for both good and bad. For example, you might choose an ideal, dry summer evening with a breeze coming off the water to sit at the cozy and cute Alley Bar at Rowes Wharf (not to be confused with the gay dive bar of the same name). But then again, it might also be out of key ingredients in its two signature cocktails, in this case cranberry shrub and muddled cilantro. The fact that it even has either in its repertoire is an encouraging sign, however, because this bar, literally in an alley adjacent to the Boston Harbor Hotel at Rowes Wharf, could very easily have been a touristy joke. It's mostly not.
Nestled amidst the high-rises, and bordered on one end by the waterfront area, the space erects a sort of urban oasis. Burning torch lamps, a super-chill bro playing super-chill acoustic covers -- "That was the Beatles," he informed us after finishing "Hey Jude" -- and the sea air all lend an overall
island-resort feel. On the downside, it also takes on something of a touristy aesthetic, and a pricey one at that, from its affiliation with the high-end hotel; some of the cocktails are on the wrong side of $13.
The resort aura carries over to the cocktail menu, featuring plenty of rums and tequilas, tiki-style syrups and fruits. Cocktails are pleasingly made with orgeat, falernum, Cherry Heering and a variety of interesting concoctions like serrano chili and mint syrup; again, not expected and definitely not necessary -- but welcome all the same.
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This is the type of bar you would take for granted if you were staying in a hotel in another city, thinking of it simply as the hotel bar that's always existed and always will. It's different for locals, though, and it would be easy to feel like you were on vacation yourself if you go -- at least over the course of a few drinks. Not that you have to rush over there, but if you're passing through it's not a bad little getaway.
Don’t fear the Alley Ghost
Worth trying is the Alley Ghost, made with Bacardi 8, limoncello, vanilla syrup, Coco Lopez and grapefruit juice. It’s nicely tart and creamy from the coconut. But the presentation, in a standard tumbler without crushed ice or a garnish, detracted from its potential. The Chills was enjoyable as well, if not mind-blowing, made with vodka, Solerno blood orange liqueur, muddled cucumber, lime, soda and Angostura bitters. It helped take the garlicky edge off the hummus.