The excruciatingly long presidential campaign finally came to end this week, and it wasn’t a moment too soon. Not only was I tired of government officials and policy experts telling me that “this issue can’t get addressed until after the election,” those incessant Scott Brown YouTube ads kept interrupting my Kendrick Lamar music video marathons. I was ready to party.
The night began as many of my best Cambridge nights have: at Brick and Mortar in Cambridge’s Central Square. This bar was on my radar long before I departed LA, so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that it was within walking distance of my new home. From the first time I eagerly hopped up the stairs and saw the arched copper bar shimmering in the dim, exposed brick cocktail sanctuary, I knew that I had found something special.
The vinyl’s always spinning, the bar food is simple and delicious, and you can count on the crowd to be lively but never out of control. The atmosphere alone would be enough to make it worth a visit if it was simply a neighborhood bar offering Miller High Life and a shot of whiskey. However, this is not one of those bars. This bar has Misty Kalkofen.
Misty is one of Boston’s greatest gems. She first found herself behind the stick while earning a Masters in Theologian Studies at Harvard. She’s since honed her craft at B-Side Lounge, Green Street, Lilli’s, West Side Lounge, Tremont 647, and Drink. When her friend Patrick Sullivan was ready to open the bartender’s bar Brick and Mortar last year, Misty left Drink to re-team with the B-Side Lounge founder.
Misty continues to be important force in raising the profile of Boston’s cocktail scene. In 2007, she founded the Boston chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of the Endangered Cocktail (LUPEC), a cocktail society that raises money for local charities while “Dismantling the patriarchy…one drink at a time!” As a vocal admirer of strong, talented, no non-sense women behind the bar, it should come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of LUPEC’s mission and efforts.
A current cocktail trend is to use as many ingredients and techniques as possible. Why just add a tobacco tincture when you can add liquid smoke and carbonate it? Brick and Mortar takes a different approach, the same kind I try to adopt at home: serve creative and interesting cocktails using only a few ingredients. There’s no hiding here behind fancy tricks – it’s all about balancing flavors.
And if you’ve ever wanted to learn about mescal, find yourself a stool at the bar when Misty’s working (your best bets are Mon-Wed) and order a Slow Dance with Pedro Infante. Normally my first order at Brick and Mortar, it seems deceptively simple but this smoky, bitter mistress just steals my heart every time.
1.75 oz. Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal
3/4 oz. Gran Classico
1/2 oz. Averna
Stir with ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.
Election night is typically a slow night at bars, so Misty was thrilled when local beer brewing heroes Pretty Things expressed interest in throwing an election event. If you came election night wearing an “I Voted” sticker, you got a gorgeous Pretty Things pint glass, pin, and sticker.
More importantly, you got to order the election night beer cocktail specials. On the menu were three cocktails featuring Pretty Thing’s flagship brew Jack d’Or.
White: Gin, pastis, lemon, and Jack d’Or.
Red: Scotch, Velvet Falernum, beet, lemon, and Jack d’Or.
Blue: Light rum, blue curacao, pineapple, lemon, Jack d’Or.
Despite all being topped off with the same beer, each cocktail was remarkably different in flavor (as well as color, obviously). If you weren’t expecting good news on election night, the White was for you. You can blame the bitter taste in your mouth on the anise-flavored pastis liqueur instead of the election not going your way.
Blue was a bit more familiar: tropical and easy drinking for those having a great night.
My favorite of the night was Red, a scotch drink featuring beet juice that made you stand up and take notice. While I often resist asking such obvious questions, I just had to ask: what was the inspiration for featuring beets? I’m so glad I asked. I was rewarded with an envy-invoking tale of Misty’s trip to the Chartreuse Mountains. The French liqueur Chartreuse is made by Carthusian Monks and is a must-have in my homebar. Misty not only got to visit the distillery, but she got to meet the two monks that each know half of the heavily guarded secret recipe. One of the last cocktails she had on that visit featured beets, and she’s been toying with how to use the ingredient ever since.
After my friend and I finished the Red, White, and Blue beer cocktails, it was time for a little green. My last cocktail of the night was pre-determined: The Last Word featuring gin, chartreuse, lime and maraschino. In addition to being one of my favorite prohibition-era cocktails, Brick and Mortar was donating a portion of the proceeds of each Last Word to a fund for the ailing bartending legend Murray Stenson. You can also enjoy an excellent Last Word while helping Murray at the Hawthorne, as I did recently. If you really want to drink for a good cause, you should join me at JM Curley’s on Sunday night for “This One’s for Murray.”
It was time for me to make my exit, but as luck would have it, one more Jack d’Or was in my near future. Treasure Tip: sometimes it pays off to go up and say hi to someone you’ve only met virtually. After a couple of drinks, I decided to say hi to Todd Alstrom who I had only met on Twitter. In addition to being a co-founder of online beer rating bible Beer Advocate, he’s also a Central Sq local, friend of Pretty Things, and all around nice guy who I found out later bought beers for the first 20 people to find him.
It was hard to say goodbye so early in the night, but I was ready to join my friends for a viewing party in The Forum at the Kennedy School of Government. There was more heated discussion about who had a crush on whom than the validity of Nate Silver’s forecast models, but I got my fill of nerding out. It was time to jump back on my bike and see what the Australians were up to.
As it turns out, the house full of Australian students were more excited about the election than anyone. After too many beers and a regrettable amount of Funyuns later, Obama finally gave his victory speech and I headed home around 1:30 am.
Now that the election is behind us, maybe we can tackle pressing issues like the EU debt crisis, Syria, and Iran while avoiding falling off the fiscal cliff. If we don’t find a resolution to avoid the debilitating cuts that seems to worry Europeans more than us at home, you’ll be able to find me hunkered down in Brick and Mortar drinking away my woes.
Brick and Mortar
569 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139