the aperitif almanac: tikis, torches, and trinkets
T H E T O P F O U R
Number One - Highball Lounge, Lipstick Traces
Floating rubber ducks, torched shots - you name it and Highball Lounge does it. Locals know Highball as the 'adult playground'. The walls are willfully adorned with hand-scribbled crayon art, and the surfaces are overlaid with old school board games that I bet you haven't thought about since 1991 (Hungry Hippos, Operation, and Jenga just to name a few). The funky decor and aesthetic is well complimented by the un-ordinary, celestial cocktail presentations. Whether the bartenders are breathing fire into your shot glass or dropping a rubber ducky into your rosé, you are always guaranteed a hip cocktail that tastes as good as it looks.
Ringing in number one is the Lipstick Traces, which is comprised of Edinburgh gin, strawberry & thyme infused dry vermouth, citrus, and pastis. The drink is served over crushed ice in a tall Collins-like glass and is topped with a rosemary sprout. It was a wonderful blend of sweetness and spice. I most prominently tasted the hint of anise (flavor composition in licorice candy), which came from the pastis.
Number Two - Red Lantern, Natal Queen
Red Lantern, located on Stanhope Street in the South End District, has an enamoring ambiance. The dim lit Asian lounge is dressed in dark wood panels and hanging red lanterns. With an open dining concept that bleeds into their open kitchen, Red Lantern is a hip, hot spot for food and drink enthusiasts alike.
The Natal Queen, coming in hot at number two, truly is the queen of all cocktails. The drink itself is served in a carved out pineapple with the pricks, though still in tact, dulled down to ensure the masterpiece is maintainable. Comprised of Privateer Silver & El Dorado 12 rum, key lime, passion fruit, pineapple, almond syrup, mole, and Sriracha, the Natal Queen is the avant-garde of experimental cocktails. I was nervous to order it due solely to the fact that it contained Sriracha (I do not like spicy foods or drinks). To my surprise, the Sriracha was so well blended with the other components that I could barely even taste it. This cocktail truly was a fantastic combination of spice and something sweet.
Number Three - Saltie Girl, The Pineapple
Saltie Girl, an intimate restaurant that sits perpendicular to Back Bay's Newbury Street, is a mesmerizing display of bright colors, nautical themes, and sea-pixie inspirations. On one side of the dining room are stacked booths intertwined between large bronze banisters braided in nautical sea rope. Adjacent to the dining area is Saltie Girl's full service bar. The bar backdrop displays vintage patterned pastel wallpaper that is overplayed with stacked shelves of colorful liquor bottles. The bar itself is encrusted in shimmering aqua colored fish gills.
If you are not a fan of drinking from prickly fruits, you will certainty favor number three, which doubtlessly goes to Saltie Girl's famous Pineapple. A mixture of Elyz, Yuzu, lemongrass, and citrus soda, The Pineapple is served in a large copper pineapple goblet amidst crushed ice. Intended for two, the cocktail is served with two solid copper straws and is garnished with a mint leaf sliver and hydrated pineapple (which was very tasty, to my surprise). For those of you who dislike strong liquor flavors, this is the drink for you. It tastes like a well-crafted juice for adults. And who doesn’t love drinking from pineapples (whether the real thing or a copper replica)?
Number Four - Banyan Bar + Refuge, Our Painkiller
Banyan Bar + Refuge is a hip, modern-Asian gastropub located right in the center of the South End district. The decor stems from Asian inspired themes. Inside, the ceilings are covered in large white branch structures, and each table is topped with chopsticks and traditional ‘oyster pail’ boxes. Banyan is also well known for their large outside patio, which some native’s claim is one of the best in the neighborhood. The enchanting patio space is boxed in with planted greenery and is illuminated by hanging string lights.
Last but not least, at number four in the countdown is Banyan’s Painkiller. The drink, which I always have served in a tiki glass, contains 5-spice rum, pineapple, and orange. The cocktail itself is sweet, delicious, and satisfying. What is most notable about the Painkiller, however, is that it is topped with coconut foam and sprinkles of coconut shavings. The unexpected garnish gives the drink an extra boost of fun and flavor. Banyan is also very well known for their foamy Kirin Ichiban – which is a popular Japanese beer.
Highball Lounge: 90 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02108, Visit their website, or follow them on social media @highballlounge
Red Lantern: 39 Stanhope Street, Boston, MA 02116, Visit their website, or follow them on social media @redlanternbos
Saltie Girl: 281 Dartmouth Street, Boston, MA 02116, Visit their website, or follow them on social media @saltiegirl
Banyan Bar + Refuge: 553 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116, Visit their website, or follow them on social media @banyanboston