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Arts & Entertainment

Nightlife: Drink

Celebrating the art of the craft cocktail

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Celebrity chef Barbara Lynch’s Drink, in Boston’s trendy Fort Point section, has become the premier destination for craft cocktails. The bar, tucked with no signage in a basement under modern diner Sportello, epitomizes the term “hidden gem.”

The trendy, bare-bones spot reflects its warehouse past and belies its reputation as one of the city’s hippest nightspots. The walls of exposed brick, the ceiling with wooden beams and black piping, and the dim, dangling light bulbs give the space an irresistibly industrial look. Three U-shaped bars are connected across the front wall, unifying the room and forming several gathering areas. The setting makes customers feel like they’re attending an exclusive party among friends.

We arrived shortly before 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, and not surprisingly, had a 30-minute wait to be admitted. Drink’s hostess keeps a sharp eye on the room, making sure it’s never overcrowded. The bar has a lively, but never claustrophobic feel.

After only a few moments of standing at the thin hardwood table along the back wall, a friendly and attentive waitress greeted us.

Drink bar, Boston nightlife, cocktails, mixology

Drink's stripped-down style gives the space an urban vibe.

“What are you guys feeling like tonight?” she asked.

That question goes to the heart of what Drink is all about. While at most other bars you might answer, “I’ll have a vodka tonic” or “Make it a rum and coke,” here the question is a departure point for exploring cocktails in a new way. You tell your server the kind of taste you’re after, and you get a specially crafted drink. The results are surprising and inventive.

“I want gin, but I always get a gin and tonic. Could I have something different? Maybe a little sweeter?” I asked.

Our waitress put my request to one of the hip bartenders (they all seem to sport vests, skinny ties, and tattoos), and returned with a Bohemian ($12). Equal parts gin and grapefruit juice and mixed with St. Germain liqueur and Peychaud’s Bitters, it had the summery taste I desired from the grapefruit juice, with a touch of sweetness from the liqueur and bitters.

For my next, I asked only for a refreshing rum drink. The bartender whipped up a Mary Pickford ($12), a blend of light rum, pineapple juice, maraschino liqueur, and grenadine. It was smooth, with the pineapple complementing the clean, subtle flavor of the rum perfectly.

Drink offers a lesson in supreme mixology. The bartenders not only provide guests with a break from the usual run-of-the-mill cocktails, but their precision mixing is captivating, bordering on a magic show. Those seated at the bar have a front-row view of their sleight-of-hand. They move the cocktail shakers in the air, one in each hand, with a force that resembles a tribal dance. They shave, chop, and chip ice using vintage tools, measure endless kinds of liquor in tiny metal cups, and place droplets of grenadine into vintage glasses and mugs. At one point during our visit, a bartender lit a drink on fire and poured the flames from one shaker into another. But it isn’t just show—the results are innovative craft cocktails you can’t find anywhere else.

Drink vintage ice blocks, Boston nightlife, cocktails, mixology

Giant blocks of ice are chopped right before customer's eyes.

The only downside? Price. If you’re on a budget, you’ll find the cocktails ($12 is typical) on the expensive side. But this isn’t a place you go to knock back drinks. Here, you’re encouraged to savor what you sip. A letter board sign on the wall explains Drink’s ethos: “Dedicated to those merry souls who make drinking a pleasure, and who achieve contentedness long before capacity and who, whenever they drink, prove able to carry it, enjoy it, and remain ladies and gentlemen.”

We couldn’t have said it better.

Drink, 348 Congress St., Boston, 617-695-1806, is open daily from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., and accepts all major credit cards. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street, transfer to the Red Line towards Braintree, and get off at South Station. It’s about a nine-minute walk to the bar.

This is part of a series featuring Boston nightlife venues of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the comments section below.

This story was originally published on February 28, 2013.

Tom Vellner can be reached at tvellner@bu.edu; follow him on Twitter @tomgvellner.

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