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Jun12

Serving up a fresh take on the classic cocktail

Courier News/Home News Tribune

Author: Bourbeau, Mary Ann
Date: Jun 12, 2013

A true cocktail is created and creates. It is like everything you do in life — you must do it well, with passion and with love.”Bryan Mack

Size doesn’t always matter, especially when it comes to cocktails. While some patrons might be pleased with a margarita in a fishbowl-sized glass, there’s a new trend taking hold that may please tastebuds a bit more.

Smaller drinks made with bolder liqueurs are being served in some upscale cocktail bars, making up for in flavor what they lack in size. Verve Bistro in Somerville serves mini drinks, or half-cocktails, often between two and four ounces, and they have proved a hit with the clientele.

“Cocktails are meant to be experienced, not as a way of getting drunk really fast,” said Bryan Mack, the bar manager at Verve. “People often want to try a lot of cocktails but if they did, they wouldn’t be able to walk. Here they can have two or three, enjoy the flavor and still be able to drive.”

These cocktails are often served in fancy, vintage glasses to add a sense of elegance, Mack said.

“I use classic cocktail glasses for a little sense of nostalgia,” he said. “Guys love the old-fashion glasses. Women just love the coupes (bowl-shaped stemware.) I have an old-school set of cordial glasses from the ’50s or ’60s that people really enjoy.”

Verve, which bills itself as the site of a former speakeasy where the first drink was served in Somerville after Prohibition ended, offers an extensive cocktail menu that changes with the seasons. This season, Verve is celebrating the 100th birthday of the Singapore Sling, made with gin, Cherry Heering liqueur, Benedictine herbal liqueur, pineapple, lime, homemade grenadine, cherry vanilla bitters and a splash of soda.

One of Verve’s other spring cocktails is 50 Shades of Pink, made with Kinky vodka liqueur, citrus vodka, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, cranberry, hibiscus and lime.

Many of the drinks are concocted with unusual ingredients such as egg whites, muddled ginger or cucumber, a touch of cinnamon tincture, or lychee — a small tropical fruit. Mack makes a lot of his added ingredients, such as ginger soda, sarsaparilla and tonic, in the restaurant. He also makes his own syrups and bitters, which costs him a quarter of what he might pay to purchase them. This, in turn, helps to keep the cost of the drinks down.

“Small drinks and infusions were first found in England and hit America in the last five years,” he said. “I try to keep things interesting by adding different flavors. There is so much more prep now. I think of myself more as being a chef than a bartender.”

Mack said he often has to fight the chefs for stove time in the kitchen.

“We make a lot of wackadoo stuff, things you won’t find on anyone else’s list,” he said. A drink called the Brooklyn, a different take on the Manhattan, is a good example. It is made with rye, dry vermouth, absinthe, maraschino cherry and tobacco bitters.

“A few of our customers are big cigar smokers,” he said. “I use a very small amount of tobacco bitters. It really smokes up the scotch or cocktail.”

Any drink on the menu can be made in a half size, said Mack, including hot buttered bourbon served in a cognac glass, or the Mack Family Irish Cream, which was his own grandmother’s recipe.

“A great cocktail is not just the sum of its parts, but its intention, its interaction and its environment,” Mack said. “A true cocktail is created and creates. It is like everything you do in life — you must do it well, with passion and with love.”

A true cocktail is created and creates. It is like everything you do in life — you must do it well, with passion and with love.”Bryan Mack

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