In the past year-and-a-half, ArtBar at the Royal Sonesta Hotel has undergone a remarkable transformation. What was for years a depressing hotel bar afterthought has been reborn as a hotbed of cocktail experimentation. Credit that to Troy Clarke, the hotel's director of food and beverage, and bartender Elizabeth Powell, who have turned the out-of-the-way bar into a destination.
Among the many colors in their palette are house-made shrubs and bitters, carbonated cocktails, barrel-aged spirits and cocktails, molecular foams and all manner of tinctures, phosphates and flavored salts, which have vaulted them to the front-end of the cocktail curve. Perhaps it's no surprise that ArtBar was one of the centerpiece bars at the recent Boston Cocktail Summit.
Although the space itself, somewhat obscured inside the hotel from the general drinking public, was a hard draw before, it's developed a following.
"It's a huge change," says Clarke. "Now we have a huge, loyal base of locals that we didn't have before. We're getting a change in customer, with a younger generation coming in, and we've grown our cocktail program by leaps and bounds. The guests seem to be becoming more adventurous, being that our list takes some risks."
Among those risks include a curiously contemplative cocktail dubbed the Charles River Cobbler, made with Slivovtiz plum brandy, Averna, Dimmi, cranberry and fennel cane, black walnut and cranberry bitters. Another appealing cocktail is the North vs. South, made with Scorpion reposado mezcal, beet and sage cane and smoked sea salt. It's a well-executed recipe: The beets are cooked down with sage and evaporated sugar cane, although it's a bit sweet and might benefit from a more assertively smoky mezcal.
Wait for it
The menu at ArtBar is constantly evolving, as the bartenders uncover new tricks based on experimentation and riffing off classic and popular trends.
At the moment they’re aging a beer cocktail in a new American oak barrel, which they’d previously aged a Negroni and a tequila cocktail in. This one takes Evolution IPA, mezcal, agave syrup, Bittermens Hellfire Habanero Shrub Bitters and phosphate.
What does it taste like? You have to wait and see.
“We’re really trying to take the sense of flavor and push it even further,” Clarke says. “We’re testing it each week now to see how it changes.”
If you go
40 Edwin Land Blvd.