Cocktails are supposed to be enjoyable. It’s a common refrain I’ve heard over the years from those who’ve chafed at the stereotypes that propagated in the so-called “mixologist” era of aloof, pedantic hipster bartenders. While I always found that characterization overwrought, particularly in Boston, you’ll still see it from time to time in cities that are just developing their own craft cocktail culture, says Cameron Bogue, the international beverage director for Earls Kitchen + Bar, which just opened in Assembly Row in Somerville. It’s also something you commonly hear from bar types who’ve transitioned from the independent and crafty to bigger outfits like Earls.
“I think for a while bartenders forgot that drinking was fun,” he says. “It’s like why people don’t like eating in fine dining restaurants. I wanted to bring it out of the speakeasy and curlicue mustaches and chef lights thing, and to a wider audience. ”
The premise for the cocktail program at Earls, which is part of a rapidly expanding Canadian chain with 65 restaurants and counting in North America, is to transpose Bogue’s years of expertise into a more broadly appealing format. (He opened Daniel Boulud’s first cocktail bar, Bar Pleiades, in New York City, and served as the creative brand ambassador for Diageo).
“At chain restaurants, cocktails are usually an afterthought,” he says.
Here the ten featured cocktails pull from an array of spirits, incorporating classics that will be familiar to the initiated, but still aren’t necessarily household names. “Everything has some stem to a classic template,” Bogue says. “But most of the drinks are served in fun vessels, and are easy to execute.”
That idea of execution, particularly with so many hundreds of bartenders in their employ, is often easier planned for than done.
True to their billing, the cocktails here are, in fact, quite simply, a lot of fun. The Bee’s Knees, made with Aviation gin, Cointrea, honey, lemon and Angostura bitters is served in a bear-shaped honey jar glass with a honey stirrer. The Cabin Fever, made with Crown Royal, a tawny port, ginger, pineapple, lemon and spicy Moondog bitters, comes in a rustic camping mug, and is garnished with a pine cone (“Because it’s hilarious,” Bogue says). The Tequila Sunset, made with Espolon, Aperol, lemongrass syrup, orange and lime juice comes with cheeky messages stenciled into the egg white foam (“I’m wet” read mine). A punch style cocktail is presented in an over-sized tea pot filled with billowing dry ice.
It’s to give people who may not be accustomed to talking about the nuances of the different types of bitters used in their cocktails something to talk about. “We wanted to take good cocktails and be a little more whimsical,” says Bogue.
If you go
Earls Kitchen + Bar
Assembly Row, Somerville