The opening of a number of promising new bar-centric bars around the city has given way to a regression of sorts in recent months, trending toward more style over substance. That's why the opening of West Bridge in Kendall Square is so heartening for the cocktail and spirits-focused drinker.
You won't be surprised to hear that the bar program at the inventive French restaurant is helmed by longtime Eastern Standard vet Josh Taylor, who has concocted an impressively assertive cocktail lineup. He focuses on rhum agricole (made from cane juice, not molasses), mezcal, brandy and sherry bases. One example, the deeply contemplative Wheelwright, is made with fino (the driest variety of sherry), Wray and Nephew overproof rum, Dolin Blanc vermouth, Galliano and orange water. It changes from one sip to the next, from deep, bitter chocolate from the sherry, to almost dessert-like notes from the vanilla of the Galliano. It's a cocktail, like a few of the others here, worth talking about as you drink it, which is something I haven't been able to say in a while. So too is the Foreign Legion, made with rhum agricole, Dubonnet Rouge and Green Chartreuse. The interplay of the vermouth and the chartreuse adds up to a dark raisin profile somehow.
I praised Taylor for sticking to his cocktail guns when rolling out the menu. Have guests been challenged by it?
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"I'm used to working with a lot of this stuff and explaining it to people," he says, referring to the trend-setting Eastern Standard bar program. "So although things like Becherovka and Campari can be out there for some people, it's really not that complicated. The general idea was, 'Let's make things that are approachable and fun for people that might not be expecting to walk into the place and get that sort of drink.' Obviously with cocktails you can go a million different ways, but we're trying to push things out there. Straight spirit whiskey drinks can be a tough sell, but we're trying to be a little bit lighter and little more fun."
Even more fun:
Among the more fun recipes is the Conant's Island, made with a house-infused cucumber vodka, rice vinegar and green tabasco, which combine for a lightly heated vegetal punch, or King Carnival, Taylor's current favorite, made with Rhum Clement, St. Germain, Dry Curacao, lime and bitters. "In the whole process of picking spirits, I got enamored with the rums that come out of Martinique, rhum agricole -- particularly the Clement House is really good, really different stuff. It sort of blew my mind to have something in this style that was as smooth as it was."
He calls the King Carnival nice and light, in the daiquiri family for summer, and feminine and masculine at the same time.
If you go
One Kendall Square,