Nicole Lebedevitch: How Boston's First Lady of Booze Changed the Scene in 2016

Nicole Lebedevitch
Courtesy of Nicole Lebedevitch

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.

What currently excites you most about the Boston cocktail scene?

Nicole Lebedevitch: The hungry young bar staffs around the city! We have so many options for where we dine and drink, and the teams that are being built are amazing! Experienced bartenders are taking steps away from the bar to help guide teams and better the support systems around them as they (the younger 'tenders) learn the tricks of the trade. I know I am excited to go to work every day and surround myself with an amazing team of talented, curious bartenders who want to learn from and teach their co-workers. The more I see and hear about this in places around the city, the more excited I become!

What was your vision for Yvonne's bar program when you came on board this year?

Lebedevitch: It was important to me that the bar program echoed the kitchen in a way and made beautiful cocktails that brought inspiration from all over the world. It was also important that some cocktails challenged guests to get outside of their comfort zone while other cocktails are just comfortable! We are very lucky at Yvonne’s to have such an amazing diversity of guests; from young diners to sports-bar goers, to old Locke-Ober regulars, to the nightclub crowd. How can we possibly be all things? The philosophy we try to keep is be approachable, empathetic, excited, and flexible.

What's your favorite drink on the menu right now?

Lebedevitch: The Josephine Baker, a cocktail originally created in Cuba during Prohibition. We have taken and put our spin on this classic, adding a few richer nuances. Our version combines Cognac, port wine (that we have infused with a hibiscus and citrus tea), apricot, cinnamon, and a whole egg. This version is rich and decadent with a light floral undertone. It's the drink I want to sip on by the fire as we enter into these cooler fall months.

You're known for reinterpreting classic cocktails. What drink is in sore need of reinvention?

Lebedevitch: It's not a classic but... the Long Island Iced Tea. No cocktail bar is making this the way that the guests are assuming that it is. The guest wants the most amount of alcohol for the least amount of money, and the craft bartender is trying to make something that is a balanced cocktail while still only putting a responsible amount of booze into a glass. We have taken this drink into a whole new playful territory at Yvonne’s, with still a responsible amount of booze (for six to eight people, as it is one of our large-format cocktails) called a Long Thailand Iced Tea. It mixes rums and tequila with Thai iced tea, coconut, and orange.

Conversely, what cocktail needs no tweaking?

Lebedevitch: Please don't mess with my Sazerac.

What will you be drinking on December 31st?

Lebedevitch: In a perfect world... Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill. But the answer is Champagne!

What are you most looking forward to in 2017 in regard to the Boston bar scene?

Lebedevitch: To get out there and see what all these new restaurants have to offer! As I mentioned before, there has been a lot of teaching going on over the past few years, and we are going to be seeing some of these guys and gals go on to run some of the city’s new bar programs. I’m excited to see what they have learned, experienced, explored, and can bring to the table to better enrich and strengthen the Boston bar and restaurant scene.

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Meaghan Agnew's home bartending game is weak, which is why her bar-hopping game is so strong. Track her drinking tra(va)ils on Twitter and Instagram at @meaghandeth.