The year 2016 was a banner one for Boston drinkers. Yes, between the contentious election season and Deflategate Year Two, we’ve probably pickled ourselves into an early grave, but at least we drank well while doing it. Bartenders throughout the city elevated their game, playing with techniques, ingredients, glassware, and garnishes in an effort to seduce us into just one more round. Before the year comes to a close, we checked in with the five Boston bartenders we think made the greatest splash in 2016.
The HawthorneAddress and Info
A graduate of MIT who started as a tech analyst at Barclays Capital? Apparently that’s what it takes to make it as a bar manager today. Sadoian has taken that genius and applied it to The Hawthorne bar program for a couple of years now, but it was only in 2016 that he graced us with his expertise in rum and agave, expanding those spirit menus considerably, and focusing on small-batch producers. We feel a little less envious of his regular trips to Mexico when he rewards us this handsomely.
We interviewed Jared Sadoian about his remarkable career -- and what's on the horizon.
Cafe ArtScienceAddress and Info
Maul is the mad scientist we didn’t know we needed. Since debuting his Jetsons-like cocktails in late 2014, the former Clio maestro has introduced the drinking electorate to techniques like flash infusion, rotary evaporation, and of course, flavor-infused vapor. This year, it was all about paint garnishes, 40-degrees-below-freezing ice cubes, and charred fruit smokes -- and it’s only going to get more interesting from there.
We interviewed Todd Maul about his spectacular year.
WaypointAddress and Info
When Michael Scelfo's seafood outpost opened just before Labor Day, we were as excited about the bar program as we were about the crudo. Freidus, also bar manager at Alden & Harlow, made absinthe his signature spirit, and the resulting cocktails are a revelation, even to the Green Fairy-adverse. But every drink is a humdinger -- even the mocktails, for those teetotalers tired of Shirley Temples.
We interviewed Seth Freidus about his efforts to step up the Boston cocktail scene even further.
Yvonne’sAddress and Info
When Lebedevitch took over Yvonne’s bar program this summer, her enthusiasm was immediately apparent. The Eastern Standard and Hawthorne alum grew the cocktail list and took it in fascinating new directions, both playing with and perfecting the classics. The lines outside the door may be intimidating, but Lebedevitch has made sure the drink list is nothing but inviting.
We interviewed Nicole Lebedevitch about her biggest moments in 2016.
Tenzin Conechok Samdo
Tavern RoadAddress and Info
We like a good garnish, but Samdo loves a good garnish. Flowers, boba pearls, a flavored ice cube shaped like the Millennium Falcon -- seriously, there’s no topper he won’t consider. Samdo might also be the friendliest bartender in town, so when he left Trade earlier this summer to take over the bar program at Tavern Road, we skipped down the street right after him. If you want to whet your thirst now, go to Samdo’s IG account (@bostonmixdrink) -- he’s also a master ‘grammer.
We interviewed Tenzin Conechok Samdo about the year -- and what he’ll be looking forward to in 2017.
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There isn’t a watered-down vodka cranberry in sight at Café ArtScience, a chic, all-white sensory laboratory-meets-café devoted to creating concepts of scientific, futuristic French and American libations and fare. Innovation glitters in ArtScience’s mixology: you are to inhale the illustrious Whaftiki, a rum concoction served with vaporized rum, before the rest of the clarified lime, burnt cinnamon, and mango liquid is poured. Chef Patrick Campbell’s food program integrates local and seasonal ingredients into meticulous dishes like Hudson Valley foie gras terrine and a salad of native beets and brûléed black mission fig with toasted walnuts and stilton custard.
Cambridge’s Waypoint could have exceeded our expectations with its beverage program alone, but even 20 types of absinthe along with rum, mezcal, agave, sherry, and gin stand second to the coastal-inspired seafood menu. The raw bar is complete with such maritime gems as smoked and salted peel-n-eat shrimp, while hot dishes include pizza, pasta, roasts, and small plates. Seafood is incorporated in unconventional ways wherever possible, from the squid ink bread and smoked whitefish pizza to the fish-shaped neon signs that decorate Waypoint’s walls.
This restaurant and bar in Downtown Crossing features a grand collection of chandeliers, Victorian patterned wallpaper, plush velvet and polished leather booths that will have you weak in the knees. And that's before the food even arrives at your table, which you'll want to pack with your entire entourage because sharing's the name of the game at Yvonne's. You can split a plate of grilled octopus, beef matambre, or quinoa meatballs, but that doesn't mean you'll have to share your handcrafted cocktail (that is, unless you spring for a spiked punch bowl).
South Boston’s Tavern Road is a frenetic cacophony of diners enjoying New American cuisine in small plates, large plates, and, for larger parties, “Street Feasts,” an option for the indecisive who’d prefer the chef to structure their meal. Though the crowd favorites are the chickpea frites, the menu also encompasses tacos, vegetables, charcuterie, fish, meat, and oysters. The main attraction of the dining room is an accent mural in warm reds and burnt oranges, one that sums up the Tavern Road experience: loud, busy, and, above all, lovely.