Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Boston Shaker: A Bitters Choice

A night out drinking can get very expensive. At many martini bars and similar cocktail lounges, you will usually have to pay $10-$15 for a drink. Have just few drinks over the course of the night, and your final bill, including tip, will easily reach $50 or more. You can do this every week, incurring significant costs, or you might try a cost-cutting measure, making your own cocktails at home.

That might seem a scary prospect, and you may worry that you could not replicate your favorite drinks at home. But, there is an excellent new resource which can not only sell you the equipment and ingredients you need, but can also provide instruction to you in the art of mixology. In the end, you'll save money, learn a new skill, impress your friends, and have lots of fun.

This new resource is the Boston Shaker, which only opened a week ago, on February 5, near Davis Square in Somerville. Originally, in 2008, the store occupied a small space in Grand, a furniture, apparel and gift shop in Union Square. But, the Boston Shaker soon outgrew the space and decided to open their own place. The new, 450-square-foot store sells a variety of cocktail tools, equipment, books and ingredients. This includes items such as shakers, strainers, muddlers, jiggers, artisanal bitters, vintage syrups, glassware, and much more.

The store is owned and operated by Adam Lantheaume, a Boston-based cocktail authority (pictured above). Adam used to work for a Cambridge-based technology company but developed a love and desire for cocktails. Adam found it difficult to acquire the tools and ingredients he needed to make cocktails at home. To fill that void, Adam decided to start a where someone could find those items. So cocktail lovers now have a local resource.

To craft a quality cocktail it helps to start with the right tools and ingredients,” said Adam. “Unfortunately, many of these essential items are surprisingly hard to find, especially all in one place, making it difficult - and a little intimidating – to get started. I founded The Boston Shaker to solve that problem and offer cocktail enthusiasts of all levels access to the tools they need in a comfortable, approachable environment.”

I stopped by the store recently and spent some time chatting with Adam, very impressed with his obvious passion for the world of cocktails. His passion is evident throughout the store, his desire to present the best items and knowledge to his customers. Plus, I saw his interactions with some of his customers, and he treated each one courteously, being helpful without being pushy.

I asked Adam to provide me with the top three items his customers should know about cocktails. First, he stated people should not feel intimidated by cocktails. Though the new terminology and equipment may seem difficult at first, it is all fairly straight forward and easily learned by almost everyone. Second, people should not forget to enjoy cocktail making. They should have as much fun making cocktails as drinking them. Finally, people should experiment with cocktails, trying new things all the time. Though there are some basic rules, there is room for plenty of flexibility as well.

Though small, you'll find much within the store. Visible in the front window are numerous drink glasses, from martini glasses to those small glasses for liquers or even dessert wines. In the near future, Adam will bring in additional glassware, including Tiki mugs and scorpion bowls. You'll be able to order up some take-out Chinese food and then make your own Mai Tais at home.

In the back right hand corner of the store is the book section, with a significant number of titles all about cocktails and spirits. There are plenty of new titles, as well as reproductions of much older books. I was fascinated with the selection, and it includes plenty of how-to books which can educate the novice cocktail maker as well as books for more advanced practictioners. Additional books will be added in the near future and I know I will be returning here to buy some of the titles.

On the right wall, there is a diverse selection of cocktail tools, from shakers to jiggers, to stirrers and strainers. A number of the items are hand-made, and more hand-made items will be added in the future. It is rare to see so many cocktail tools in one place. For the would-be cocktail maker, you should find almost anything you need here. And if you don't know how to use something, or you need advice as to which specific items you need, just ask Adam.

On the left wall, there is more equipment, including machines to make your own soda. Plus, there is a wide variety of bitters, an ingredient used in many cocktails. The bitters come in numerous flavors, such as orange, celery and grapefruit, and many are difficult to find elsewhere. Restaurants often use bitters but many people don't have bitters at home, so it becomes difficult to emulate restaurant cocktails at home. Now you have a place to purchase these bitters, making home cocktail making more productive.

Besides bitters, they also sell artisan syrups, shrubs, tonic water, maraschino cherries and more. Again, many of these items are difficult to find, and now home cocktail makers will be more versatile, and can create a greater number of cocktails. You'll be the envy of your neighbors, capable of producing some amazing drinks. In the future, Adam will carry even more such items, trying to make it a one-stop locale for cocktail making.

In the back left hand corner of the store, Adam will be conducting a variety of educational classes, in-store tastings, and book signings. He hopes to run about two events each month, and will also have other experts come to the store and run other classes. This would be a great opportunity to learn more about making cocktails, as well as learning all the possibilities of the intriguing ingredients sold in the store.

Overall, it is a small, well laid out store with an excellent selection of cocktail equipment, tools and ingredients. You can find many items here that are otherwise difficult to locate. With their books and educational classes, anyone can learn how to make delicious cocktails at home. Adam, a truly passionate individual, is also extremely helpful and will help ease your fears about making cocktails.

I will certainly make the Boston Shaker a regular stop, and I strongly recommend it to my readers as well.

The Boston Shaker
69 Holland Street
Somerville, MA
Phone (617) 718-2999
Open Tuesday – Saturday, 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.

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