By Mark McLaughlin, Speakeasy

There are good bartenders and there are great bartenders, and Boston is fortunate to have more than its fair share of both.  Men and women who mix not merely alcohol and syrup but also marry science with art staff some of Boston’s best and classiest watering holes.  Whether they make use of rotovaps and centrifuges, infuse beverages with spices, or rely on standard ingredients which they combine in clever ways, they are responsible for some of the best drinks in the city.  Here are just five of Boston’s best signature cocktails and where to find them.

(Photo Credit: Oak Long Bar)

(Photo Credit: Oak Long Bar)

The Jason Bourne
OAK Long Bar + Kitchen
138 St. James Ave.
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 585-7222

The Jason Bourne (stirred, not shaken) is the stately OAK Long Bar + Kitchen’s homage to one of Boston’s favorite sons, actor Matt Damon, who plays the title character in the Bourne movies.  Unlike the decidedly more dapper James Bond, famous for his rather simple, classic martini’s that are “shaken, not stirred,”  the OAK’s drink named after the more rough-and-tumble spy played by the Cambridge-born Damon is pointed “stirred – not shaken,” as is noted on the menu.  Like Bourne himself, this is a very complicated cocktail, as in addition to its liquor base of Bulleit Rye and Bacardi 8 rum,  the bartenders add red wine – King’s Ridge Pinot Noir in particular.  The Barker & Mills cherry juice serves as a lightly sweet mixer for this otherwise powerful, edgy cocktail, which is far more Bourne than Damon.

(Image Credit: Cafe ArtScience)

(Image Credit: Cafe ArtScience)

Koi Pond
Cafe ArtScience
650 E. Kendall St.
Cambridge, MA 02142
(857) 999-2193

Todd Maul of Cafe ArtScience is one of the most celebrated and innovative bartenders in Boston.  He has been dubbed the “Mad Mixologist” by the media, has been featured in many local magazines and, more important, has brought many a smile to the regulars at his establishment in Cambridge.  Using a centrifuge to separate the mass from the lime, Maul has crafted a unique mixer of clarified lime juice for many of his craft cocktails.  Those cocktails are assembled by a team of craftsmen, each of whom mans their own station to crush ice, smoke glasses and perform other tasks directed by Maul to create his signature cocktails.  One of the most famous and popular of those is the Koi Pond, his spin on the classic martini.  In addition to the usual vermouth and gin, Maul adds rose paint and rose essence (made from rose that has been put through a device called the rotavap), as well as Cocchi Americano and edible flowers.  Like all of his drinks, the Koi Pond is both a work of art and a work of science, as befits  the name of his bar and restaurant.

Thai Basil Smash
Blue Dragon
324 A St.
Boston, MA  02210
(617) 338-8585

The Blue Dragon Asian gastropub on A Street in the Fort Point Channel neighborhood is a clever mash-up of tapas bar and traditional pub, with of course an Asian twist.  Owner and celebrated chef Ming Tsai  overseas the kitchen and bar both here and at his Blue Ginger establishment in Wellesley.  Both are well-known for infusing liquor with Asian flavors, and one result of that infusion is the bar’s Thai Basil Smash.  Made with Thai basil-infused rye and ginger beer and dressed with Thai basil and lemon, it is a basil aficionado’s dream in glass.  There are many other unique as well as traditional cocktails at the Blue Dragon, but this signature drink epitomizes everything the chef stands for.

Related: Boston’s Best Mixologist Bars

(Photo Credit: Wink & Nod)

(Photo Credit: Wink & Nod)

Holiday in Holland
Wink & Nod
3 Appleton Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 482-0117

Something of an old-time speakeasy, the Wink & Nod is unique in so many ways.  That they have a “rotating kitchen” where the staff and menu change every six months is unusual to say the least, but add to that a Scotch Club whose members take over the place one night a week for a Scotch tasting.  Their cocktails are prepared in what the staff refer to as a “scratch bar” – because everything is made fresh from scratch.  Take the drink at the top of their “Libations” list, the Holiday in Holland.  The key ingredient is the House Pineapple-Strawberry Soda. To that the bartenders add orange blossom and Nolet’s Gin.  There are other, more complicated concoctions on their menu, some with as many as five or six ingredients. The piece de resistance among those is The Archibault, which while arguably the signature drink at Wink & Nod, goes for $100 a serving – due mainly to its chief ingredient: Hennessey 250 Collector Blend. Compared to that, $14 for a Holiday in Holland is not only more affordable, but explains why they sell more Holidays than Archibaults.

(Image Credit: Trade)

(Image Credit: Trade)

Last Train to Braintree
540 Atlantic Ave.
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 451-1234

Chef and owner Cory Seeker likes to mix things up, routinely rotates out one group of mixologists for another, just to keep things fresh in the bar of his Mediterranean-themed restaurant on Atlantic Avenue.  Seeker is proud of his craft cocktail menu, which is not only ever-changing but also, as the Trade website proclaims “whimsical.”  Perhaps the most whimsical of all is the  Last Train to Braintree.  The kick to this cocktail comes from the Xicaru mezcal and green chartreuse – a potent liquor invented by Carthusian monks three centuries ago.  A potent digestive, the green chartreuse is mellowed by the addition of pineapple and lime – but then given a kick in the monk’s habit, so to speak, with jalapeno simple.


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