Founded in 1630 by English Puritans who loaded their ships with more beer than water, Boston is one of the country’s oldest cities and has a rich drinking history to match.
In colonial times, it was home to a thriving rum industry and later to The Bell-in-Hand Tavern, which claims it is the longest continually run bar in the US—it opened for business in 1795.
Today, Boston is still very much an imbiber’s city with a rapidly developing cocktail culture. Here are some tippling spots to hit the next time you’re in Beantown.
Exposed brick walls, dark wood tables and red drapes give this music venue the feel of an artist’s loft. It’s famous for featuring jazz musicians, but The Beehive showcases artists of all genres. The inspired drinks are some of the best I’ve had in a music club.
What to Drink: Honey Lavender Whiskey Fizz (Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, honey-lavender syrup, club soda)
This warm and cozy pub in Fenway opened last year and stocks more than six dozen whiskies and a range of craft beers. There’s also a long list cocktails, including punches for large groups. The perfect accompaniment to a jumbo bowl? A whole roasted suckling pig.
What to Drink: Modern Tea Punch (Appleton Estate Reserve Rum, black tea simple syrup, lemon juice, lemon bitters)
A guide to Boston’s great hangouts wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the award-winning Craigie on Main. It’s firmly rooted in seasonal cuisine, and the cocktails follow suit, changing depending upon the ingredients available.
What to Drink: Winter Equivalent (hot vanilla rooibos tea, Appleton Estate Reserve Rum, Jameson Irish Whiskey, Galliano, applewood-smoked falernum)
Take one look at the menu here and you’ll know the establishment is run by passionate drinks enthusiasts. For beer lovers, there are dozens of brews on tap and by the bottle, and for cocktail lovers, there’s a beautifully crafted selection of about 30 concoctions, including eight different takes on the Manhattan.
What to Drink: The Bohannon (Plymouth Gin, Chartreuse, Swedish punsch liqueur, black pepper)
The first stop on any cocktail tour should be Drink, which is among the best bars in the country. It’s staffed by some of the industry’s finest, including John Gertsen, Misty Kalkofen and Scott Marshall. The teamwork here is beautiful to watch and the depth of beverage knowledge is deep. Your cocktail choices are limitless, ranging from the vintage to the original.
What to Drink: Oaxacan Old Fashioned (El Tesoro Reposado Tequila, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, mole bitters, agave syrup)
Don’t be fooled by the French-bistro décor; Eastern Standard offers an assortment of cocktails designed by Jackson Cannon (pictured above). Select an elixir from the list of Sparklers, Standards, Heritage, Tikisms, Mocktails, Infusions and Coolers. Or if you’re in the sharing mood, order a huge communal punch.
What to Drink: Late Rubus Harvest (St-Germain, raspberries, lime juice, ginger)
If you’re in the South End, stop by gastropub The Gallows. Its tasty family-style food made with fine ingredients is complimented nicely by April Wachtel’s great cocktails. She also started the Boston Bartenders Collaborative, which provides seminars for professional mixologists.
What to Drink: The Healer (Old Overholt Rye, mead, honey syrup, lemon juice, Fee Brothers Old Fashion Bitters)
Green Street is the local bar you wish was in your neighborhood. Set in a small wooden building, its satisfying comfort food can be paired with a craft beer or a well-made classic or original cocktail.
What to Drink: Fort Washington Flip (Laird’s Applejack, Bénédictine, Vermont maple syrup, whole egg, nutmeg)
The last place you’d expect to find a “modern tavern” is inside the trendy Ames Hotel. But the laid-back Woodward has a great menu created by legendary barman John Lermayer. Choose from 14 interesting cocktails or any of the six different Jameson Pickle Back variations, including red pearl onion and grape.
What to Drink: Boston Mule (Absolut Boston Vodka, Fentimans Ginger Beer, spearmint)
Simon Ford is an award-winning bartender and director of trade outreach and brand education for Pernod Ricard USA. He is also a Liquor.com advisor.