It’s traditional to allow a new opening a few weeks to get up and running before going in to review. This gives them time to work out any kinks before they’ve opened “officially.” Which would be all well and good if they weren’t, you know, still officially accepting currency for their services in the meantime. That courtesy mostly applies to the food side of things anyway; a kitchen is a tricky beast with a lot of moving parts and a lot of new dishes to learn. A bar, on the other hand, is a bar, and the staff has presumably been making these cocktails at other bars for years. In the case of Sterling’s — the brand new State Street “cocktail bar” and restaurant — presumably at one of the Glynn Group’s many other properties like Dillon’s, Clerys, or Granary Tavern.
A lot of work seems to have gone into the newly renovated space’s interior. It’s a small but sophisticated feeling room, with views overlooking Quincy Market. Meant to be an after work haven for the Financial District happy hour and late night downtown crowd, it takes a 60s inspiration for its décor – a swinging, jazzy soundtrack and iconic Boston black and white prints (plus fedoras inexplicably stacked on the back bar) – and its cocktails. Their website announces the theme as a “tribute to the time when cocktails were part of a lifestyle.” The echoes of that “Mad Men” era in the name are expressed literally on the menu, with drinks like a Mad Men Mule, and a Ginger Joan, both of which are made with…actually, it doesn’t matter.
On a recent visit I sat down next to an older couple complaining about the Old Fashioned, that quintessential, period-specific cocktail. “This is horrible,” the gentleman said, sending it back. ‘Wow, what a bunch of jerks,’ I thought, eyes rolling. ‘I better try one.’
He was right. I’ve had a lot of Old Fashioneds in my day, but never one that somehow tasted bitter, brothy, and savory at the same time. I don’t even know how that happens. Was the fruit off? Switching to a Gin Fizz — made with gin, simple syrup, lime juice, egg whites and soda — proved, amazingly, even more disastrous. Instead of an appropriately lengthy, vigorous dry shake (meaning, before the ice is added)of the ingredients, here a half-hearted, seconds-long wet shake made for a thin, flabby and ultimately undrinkable mess. A Manhattan, on the other hand, was shaken to within an inch of its life. None of which exactly conjured the glory days of the cocktail.
Instead, it all brought to mind another cocktail-minded decade, the 2010s. You remember those days, right? Back when all the phony craft cocktail bars were opening around town.