Considering the ongoing debate over the mayor's proposal to extend hours of operation for bars and increase the number of liquor licenses available in the city, it's not as if we need another reminder just how convoluted the liquor laws are in Boston. A recent trip to the newly opened Lulu's Allston gave me one anyway.
In short, there are three types of liquor licenses available: a full license, a beer and wine only, and a cordials license. Lulu's fall into that latter limbo-like bar category, which stipulates that they can serve liqueur, but not liquor. Confusing, right? A cordial, or liqueur, according to the law, is a spirit that has been mixed or redistilled with ingredients like fruits, plants, herbs and so on, in such a way that it results in an end product that is 2.5% sugar. Regular vodka or whiskey are a no go, but if you add enough flavoring what-have-you, then you're in the clear. The result is bars that can sell spirits like Chartreuse, absinthe, and Fernet Branca, that will put you on your ass all the same, but are, you know, somewhat sweeter. Everyone feel safer now? You can also serve plenty of 10% alcohol by volume beers, like the St. Bernadus Abt 12, a quadruple Belgian style, but who's keeping track?
You're probably not going to be drinking cocktails at Lulu's anyway, since they've got a pretty extensive beer program, with some 50 drafts, conveniently broken down on the menu in categories such as ales, hop focused brews, lagers, ciders, Belgian style and wheat brews, and Oh you Fancy, where you'll find the aforementioned St. Bernadus and the like, as well as fun surprises like the Revival Saison, a Belgian farmhouse style brew from Providence.
Still, the option of ordering a Fernet is certainly appealing, especially after eating so much of the rich comfort food on the menu here (a Korean bbq pork sandwich with Kimchi and mayo; meat balls, short rib mac and cheese and so on). The bar has come up with a couple of fun options for ordering. The Industry Standard, for example, is a short shot of Fernet paired with the Village Keg for $7.50, which is a rotating surprise draft keg. It could either be a premiere beer, something like Pretty Things, the bartender one night explained to me, or American swill, Bush Light, Natty Light, etc. At $3.50, you might be getting a great deal.
They also utilize the limitations of their license in a beertail menu, which features the likes of the Gypsy Angel, made with raspberry vodka, blue curacao, pineapple juice, and Hoegaarden. But the standard cocktail list has fine options to choose from as well. The Maine Negroni is just a slightly sweeter Negroni, made with Barr Hills honey gin, Carpano Antica, and Campari.
Of course the stupidity of the license isn't their fault by any means. Lulu's is most certainly a welcome addition to Allston, even if some of its choices may find it crossing over with Deep Ellum (just as hipster-friendly, but slightly less hip than Deep Ellum) just a few blocks away. Anything besides the normal middle of the road dreck around here is a huge step up. They should make a law about that.
If you go
421 Cambridge St., Allston
Follow Luke O'Neil on Twitter at @lukeoneil47.