From Quincy to DTX to Woburn, some favorite destinations for top-notch spirits and ambiance
The boom in breweries across the Greater Boston area and beyond has been great for beer lovers, as so many of them are friendly, welcoming places that offer excellent beer options as well as good food.
But what if you’re more into the harder stuff, be it a shot of cheap bourbon, an old-school cocktail, or some really high-quality spirits?
There are plenty of places in and around the city for you as well, including speakeasy-style places, restaurants that offer interesting mixed drinks, and local watering holes that focus at least in part on cocktails and shots.
A handful of such spots are found below, some of which fly at least a bit under the radar.
Silvertone, Boston (DTX)
An industry haunt that tends to attract restaurant workers, media folks, and locals who love the feel of a hideaway for food and drink, this subterranean Downtown Crossing spot has always had a lot going for it. You can certainly get fancy, modern, and retro cocktails at Silvertone, but many come for the “happy meals,” which include such combos as Fernet and Miller High Life, Amaro and Coors Light Draft, and Jameson and Bud Light, and you can pair them all up with great comfort food including macaroni and cheese (a longtime favorite there), steak tips, and poutine.
Silvertone, 69 Bromfield St., Boston.
The Haven, Jamaica Plain
You don’t have to go to a bar to get great spirits, as this comfy little Scottish restaurant certainly proves. As you might imagine, scotch plays a big role at the Haven, with the Hyde Square spot offering countless options, including some very peaty Islay options; smoother versions from the Lowlands; a mix of styles from the Highlands; and, if you want something that’ll put hair on your chest, they offer a few high-end scotches from Octomore that are off the charts when it comes to smokiness and peat. Boston’s only Scottish dining spot also offers some interesting food options, including a smoked haddock chowder and lamb haggis.
The Haven, 2 Perkins St., Jamaica Plain.
Well off the beaten path between Quincy Center and Quincy Point, this neighborhood favorite has the look of a dive bar from the outside, but Cagney’s is anything but that. In addition to its impressive food offerings (excellent takes on pizza, burgers, wings, and steak tips), you’ll also find some excellent local beers here as well, and whiskey lovers will be over the moon with some of the options, including Oban, Ardbeg, Balvenie, Whistle Pig, Bulleit, and Basil Hayden to name a few. And unlike many local watering holes, you can actually do flights of whiskey at Cagney’s, which is a great way to sample those that you may have never tried before.
Cagney’s, 214 Washington St., Quincy.
Joe Sent Me, Cambridge
Most of today’s speakeasies aren’t really speakeasies, but then again speakeasies came about because of Prohibition, so the term is really more of a nod to the past than anything. And so it goes with Joe Sent Me, a dark and atmospheric drinking spot in North Cambridge whose tin ceiling, old-fashioned lights, and well-worn bar give it a ton of charm. Because it’s an unpretentious place with cheap food and drink, people don’t really come here for high-end spirits or cocktails, but it’s a perfect spot for some comfort food (including some of the best hand-cut fries you’ll ever try) and a shot of Irish whiskey or a martini. [Note: Another location of Joe Sent Me can be found in Waltham.]
Joe Sent Me, 2388 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge.
The Last Hurrah, Boston
For those who yearn for a classy, elegant, drinking establishment that is more a place for a quiet drink than a wild night out, the Last Hurrah is a great choice—and part of a dying breed in a way. Located on the ground floor of the Omni Parker House in the heart of downtown Boston, this old-school whiskey bar is all about comfort, with lots of leather and mahogany giving it the feel of a drinking spot from years in the past. Many come here solely for its endless selection of whiskeys, but the Last Hurrah is also known for its outstanding martinis—and its very old-school coffee cocktails—while you can order some food as well, including chicken pot pie, beef stew, and, of course, Boston cream pie.
The Last Hurrah, 60 School St., Boston.
Pleasant Cafe, Roslindale
This decades-old neighborhood joint near the West Roxbury line is typically seen solely as a restaurant, though the lounge side of the space is terrific in its own right with its old bar, wood paneling, and friendly bartenders. But whether you sit in the dining room or the bar area, one part of the menu to check out here is the mixed drink list, as it has nearly every cocktail that your parents (and grandparents) may have sipped way back when, including sidecars, brandy alexanders, rob roys, and tequila sunrises. Oh, and some of the best pizza in Boston can be found at the Pleasant Cafe, along with outstanding Italian food in general.
Pleasant Cafe, 4515 Washington St., Roslindale.
Lucky’s Lounge, Boston (Fort Point)
This Fort Point favorite may be the closest thing to a true speakeasy that Boston has, including the fact that it is very easy to miss because there aren’t many clues that it even resides in the building at the corner of Congress Street and A Street. The retro feel extends inside, with its location below ground level and its low-lit horseshoe bar along with its booths that squeak a bit when you move. The cocktail list at Lucky’s Lounge has something for everyone, though old-fashioned drinks tend to dominate the menu including, well, old fashioneds along with martinis, cosmos, margaritas, punch, and sangria, while food highlights include great takes on fried pickles, chili, meatloaf, mac and cheese, and fish and chips.
Lucky’s Lounge, 355 Congress St., Boston.
Steel and Rye, Milton
Milton wasn’t always seen as a dining or drinking destination, but Boston’s southern neighbor has upped its restaurant game over the past decade, including this casual upscale spot that’s located in an old ambulance garage by the Neponset River. Steel and Rye is a spacious place that includes a long bar, and if you’re a cocktail geek, sitting at the bar is a must as the mixologists love to talk about their creations. For traditional drinks, the manhattans, old fashioneds, and martinis are all top notch, and if you’re in the mood for a negroni or a vieux carré, you won’t be disappointed. Food offerings are many at Steel and Rye, including coal-roasted oysters, duck cassoulet, and grilled swordfish.
Steel and Rye, 95 Eliot St., Milton.
Bully Boy Tasting Room, Roxbury
Distilleries are not nearly as plentiful as breweries in the Greater Boston area, but they’re starting to make some inroads here and there. Places that make their own spirits tend to be hidden away in industrial areas, and Bully Boy is no exception, sitting in an old brick building just outside of Newmarket Square and South Bay. Taking a cue from the breweries, the distillery includes a tasting room—and one that has a colorful and slightly upscale feel to it. People who come to the tasting room have some great options including flights of rum, whiskey, or amari, and both classic and modern cocktails using Bully Boy’s house-made spirits (including vodka and gin) are available as well.
Bully Boy Tasting Room, 44 Cedric St., Roxbury.
Baldwin Bar, Woburn
What could be better than a bar with a speakeasy vibe to it that’s part of a Chinese restaurant—and especially one that’s located inside a historic mansion? Well, nothing, really, which is one reason why the Baldwin Bar at Sichuan Garden in Woburn is one of the most beloved drinking spots in the entire region. It doesn’t hurt that the place has gained national recognition for its sublime cocktails, including drinks made with such ingredients as squid ink, avocado whip, and acidified tomatillo. Oh, and the Chinese food? It’s impressive enough to make the trip here even if you aren’t into mixed drinks.
Baldwin Bar, 2 Alfred St., Woburn.