If you’re eating at a restaurant called the Salty Pig, you’d better figure you’re going to work up a thirst pretty quickly. True to its billing, the menu at this chalkboard-walled and industrial aesthetic space (more funky Somerville than Back Bay in appearance) is broken up into “salty pig parts,” “stinky cheeses” and other Italian-style items like the outstanding pork and garlic meatballs. Fortunately, unlike many other Italian restaurants, beer and cocktails aren’t just an afterthought. The beer offerings run the gamut from thematically appropriate —with cans of Butternut’s Porkslap Pale Ale and Cisco Sankaty Light — to on-trend session ales, West Coast IPAs and local brews.
Working with a limited alcohol license seems like it would hamstring the cocktail design at any bar, but I found the selection of Italian bitters-style drinks here so interesting that I didn’t even realize it was a cordials-only bar until after.
“It forces us to be creative when approaching the cocktail program,” says general manager Jillian Rocco, recently of Eastern Standard. “From the standard with an Amaro Old Fashioned, made with Meletti (replacing Fernet as the new industry drink of choice, by the way) and three types of bitters, to the light, citrusy and refreshing Apiary, made with lemon, honey and Amaro Montenegro — a fruity, not-too-bitter digestif.
“I am a huge fan of amaros,” Rocco adds. “They range greatly in style, flavor, texture and structure. It has been fun to work with them and explore how they each perform in different preparations.”
What she’s having
My favorite cocktail happened to be Rocco’s as well. The Bitter & Alone is made with the spiced honey liqueur Becherovka and fruit juices, and takes a touch of anise from Peychaud’s Bitters. It was eminently drinkable, and light enough that it didn’t get in the way of any of the rich foods.
“It is the type of cocktail that can turn a novice cocktail drinker into a fan of more serious spirits,” Rocco says.