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Boston Cocktail Classics: Where to Find the Best Negroni, Margarita & More

By Scott Kearnan | March 19, 2014 By Scott Kearnan  |  March 19, 2014

Boston is long on great places to get a drink, from now-established destinations like Drink and The Hawthorne to a slew of more recent openings. The choices are daunting, so what to do? Turn to the experts, of course. We asked a handful of Boston's top bartenders, beverage directors and spirits consultants to tell us where they go (besides their own bar, obviously) for the best version of a favorite classic cocktail. Here are their picks; find your own favorite drink and know where to get its industry-accredited top-shelf version. 

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  • Best Bloody Mary

    We asked: Kirsten Amann, one of the most familiar faces in the industry scene as a brand ambassador for fernet distillerie Fratelli Branca, a pretty prolific spirits writer, and founding member of the soiree-tossing group LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails).

    She chose: Trina's Starlite Lounge. Because a perfect Bloody Mary at its Monday "Service Industry Brunch" makes it "the best industry hang in town."

  • Best Mai Tai

    We asked: Shaher Misif, lead bartender at Highball Lounge - which happens to be one of the Boston's 10 Hottest Bars right now. 

    He chose: Drink. Barbara Lynch's Fort Point mixology mecca is pretty adept at everything, but the spot also hosts weekly Tiki Sundays where the top-notch tropical drinks runneth over. Says Misif, "It's the premiere spot, if you want a Mai Tai made right!" 

  • Best Manhattan

    We asked: Chase Sutton, bartender at the South End's glossy urban steakhouse Boston Chops

    He chose: Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar. It seems like a perfect choice, given that Fenway bar's famously deep whiskey selection, which includes weekly spotlights, flights, and a try-them-all Whiskey Club. "The extensive selection always has me wanting more," says Sutton. "It's great to experiment, try new ones and notice how the different flavor profiles change the overall taste of the Manhattan."

  • Best Margarita

    We asked: Curtis McMillan, general manager of the sexy South End speakeasy Wink & Nod, which opens this week. 

    He chose: Lone Star Taco Bar. The Allston food nerd favorite also knows how to make a great 'rita. "When I go for a margarita, I don’t go to a franchise," says McMillan. "Having more of a personal experience is much better than drinking a margarita that’s all sour mix."

  • Best Martini

    We asked: Andrew Deitz, because this recent 30 Under 30 honoree is a master of all things boozy. By day, he's the Massachusetts State On-Premise Consultant at M.S. Walker, Inc. But in his (apparently limited) spare time, he's founder of Thirst Boston, a multiday festival on mixology; creator of DTO (Daiquiri Time Out), a series celebrating the drink; and the inaugural beverage chair of the Barbara Lynch Foundation. Just thinking of all that, we need a drink.

    He chose: Bogie's Place (the speakeasy-style steak joint within jm Curley). It was an easy choice, says Deitz. "Kevin Mabry absolutely kills it over there. Their version with Death's Door Gin, Noilly Pratt Dry, and the house herb sache garnish is textually and aromatically perfect. It tastes pretty good too."

  • Best Negroni 

    We asked: Emily Warren of Deuxave, chef Chris Coombs' sleek Back Bay French-American. 

    She chose: Back Bay Social Club. "Sipping a Negroni at this bar, cozy and warm, makes the depths of winter not only tolerable, but enjoyable. And a gin cocktail reminds you that summer will eventually come, bringing a warm breeze from the patio to every seat at the bar."

  • Best Ramos Gin Fizz

    We asked: Jared Sadoian, beverage director of chef Tony Maws' Craigie on Main and Kirkland Tap & Trotter

    He chose: Eastern Standard. Why? Because sometimes, bigger is better. Not only are the Ramos Gin Fizzes here expertly made, says Sadoian, but "they serve these in a pint glass. A pint glass. 16 ozs. of Ramos? Brunch cocktails can't get any better."

  • Best Sazerac

    We asked: Sam Gabrielli, bar manager of the handsome tippler haven Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square. 

    He chose: Backbar. He says the Union Square hideaway has a top-shelf bar manager in lauded co-owner Sam Treadway. (We agree.) "Sam is a perfectionist if he's anything, and there have been many nights when he would use different rye whiskies, or even different spirits to see how we could make the perfect Sazerac. Turns out my favorite rye is Sazerac 18 and favorite non-rye spirit was Berkshire Mountain Distillery's Barrel Aged Ethereal gin."

  • Best Sidecar 

    We asked: Brett Henderson, beverage director of Ceia Kitchen + Bar and BRINE. Over the weekend, Henderson also happened to just win Mass Farmers Markets' inaugural "Mixology Throwdown," besting a dozen competitors in a Chopped-style competition involving mystery baskets and a lot of quick thinking.

    He chose: Clio. The sidecar might seem like a straightforward classic, but Henderson says that the innovative approaches of Clio's resident cocktail guru Todd Maul embody a level of dedication and attentiveness to the craft that this drink demands. "Todd Maul is part mixologist, part chemist," says Henderson. "His bar 'lab' includes a Centrifuge. He freezes ingredients and makes impeccably clean simple syrups. These are details that matter for an exceptional cocktail."

  • Best Whiskey Sour

    We asked: Katie Emmerson, bar manager at acclaimed cocktail den The Hawthorne and one of our most recent 30 Under 30 honorees.

    She chose: Craigie on Main and Kirkland Tap & Trotter. She couldn't decide, because when it comes to a whiskey sour, the common denominator between the sibling restaurants is beverage director Jared Sadoian. "This is always my cold-weather, pre-dinner cocktail," says Emmerson. "There is something so comforting about coming out of the cold and having a delicious, rich, egg-white whiskey sour. I always love it wherever Jarod Sadoian is working."

Places Mentioned

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Deuxave

AmericanBack Bay
Food27 Decor26 Service26 Cost$81
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Back Bay Social Club

AmericanBack Bay
Food19 Decor21 Service20 Cost$36
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Highball Lounge

BarDowntown
Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
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Drink

Cocktail BarSeaport District
Atmo.- Decor24 Service23 CostE
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Ceia Kitchen + Bar

MediterraneanNewburyport
Food24 Decor22 Service23 Cost$46
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BRINE Oyster • Crudo • Chops

AmericanNewburyport
Food24 Decor22 Service22 Cost$56
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Clio

FrenchBack Bay
Food26 Decor26 Service26 Cost$106
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Craigie On Main

FrenchCambridge
Food26 Decor22 Service24 Cost$90
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The Kirkland Tap & Trotter

New AmericanSomerville
Food23 Decor21 Service22 Cost$38
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Eastern Standard

BarFenway/Kenmore
Atmo.27 Decor26 Service25 Cost 
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Boston Chops

SteakhouseSouth End
Food25 Decor25 Service24 Cost$66
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Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar

Oyster BarFenway/Kenmore
Food24 Decor23 Service24 Cost$48
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Russell House Tavern

AmericanCambridge
Food21 Decor19 Service20 Cost$36
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Trina's Starlite Lounge

AmericanSomerville
Food18 Decor16 Service21 Cost$26
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The Hawthorne

BarFenway/Kenmore
Atmo.26 Decor26 Service25 CostM
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Bogie's Place

SteakhouseDowntown
Food24 Decor21 Service22 Cost$27
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jm Curley

AmericanDowntown
Food24 Decor21 Service22 Cost$27

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