WDB invites you Behind the Bar every Thursday for interviews with your favorite bartenders, menu…
The Boston Shaker
The Boston Shaker
The Cocktail Comes Home
Ahh the elusive Home Bar. I’ve certainly never lacked motivation when it came to having an active and working place to make delicious cocktails but it was always just out of my reach. The closest I ever came would be a 3 month stretch after a holiday party I hosted in 2008 and really that’s just because there was a ridiculous amount of leftover alcohol and I had no choice but to drink it (every night.) I guess I always thought it would be something I’d obtain when I was a little older and a little wiser.
Today I don’t feel much older or wiser but I find myself on the cusp of putting together a bona fide Home Bar. Complete with a Shaker, strainer, proper drinkware, gourmet ice cubes and yes, several relevant and well thought-out brands of alcohol. How did this happen? It’s all thanks to my new friends at The Boston Shaker in Davis Square.
The Boston Shaker is a shop that is dedicated to outfitting and educating everyday people to the power and wonder of a well made drink. After just one visit to the Shaker I can honestly say that I have a legitimate shot at being that guy. You know that guy who always has people over at his place, knows a lot more girls than you do and says things like “You want that on the rocks?” Anyone who is yet to realize that booze makes the world spin either isn’t paying attention or has never really had one of those nights to remember. I thoroughly believe that to be one of the few who have developed the skills and knowledge to master it’s powers is definitely something worth striving for.
To that end, I recently sat down with the owner of The Boston Shaker, Adam Lantheaume, to find out where such an awesome idea came from and how someone like myself can become that guy.
So…where did the idea for The Boston Shaker come from?
I used to work at Akamai Technologies in Kendall Square and our after work joint was the B-Side Lounge which is really where a lot of the cocktail world that we know here in Boston started. I really got into their cocktails but when I wanted to start making drinks at home you couldn’t find a lot of the ingredients, like good bitters. So I started tracking stuff down online and found that a lot of the companies that made this stuff would charge the same for shipping for say one bottle of bitters vs 12 so I starting getting stuff for my buddies at the bar too. The more I did that the more people starting asking about getting in on it. So I started thinking what if I bring all of this stuff together, weed out the crap because these’s a lot of crap out there and give people a place to walk into. We originally opened in Union Square inside of a store called Grand. Then we found this place in Davis around the end of 2009 and open in 2010.
Did you know back then that there would be such a demand for this stuff?
I wasn’t sure. The Union thing was really just to test the waters. I was still working my day job but I knew how to use the internet really well so I could source and track stuff down. I was actually stocking the store from my apartment building. I remember I had a pallet of glassware delivered to my apartment and I had to load it all into the basement. We had bitters stacked to the ceiling. As word got out we quickly out grew that store. At that point, I really couldn’t get enough inventory.
Wow, who are your biggest customers now?
Most people are either industry folks buying for their work or people buying for their home who maybe had a great drink at a bar and just want to know how to make it themselves. These days we are getting a lot people who want to get into cocktails but don’t quite know where to start. Our goal is to make things very accessible and easy. When you get into anything new there’s always a whole bunch of phrases and jargon that can make it feel very intimidating. But cocktails are not intimidating, cocktails are fun. Part of what we try to do is guide you and help you get started by giving you great products to choose from as well as literature and the classes we teach here at the store.
What would be a good first step for someone who wants to get into making their own drinks?
I always recommend getting down your base techniques. Obviously you can’t replicate the huge selection at a cocktail bar, the atmosphere or the social experience but if you want to make the drink you can definitely do that. You can buy the same ingredients, you can have the same tools and as long as you learn how to assembly the drinks it’s easy. Learn how to stir it, learn how to shake it, all of which we can talk you through or there’s lots of books. Once you get that down then I recommend you starting with a drink you like. If you love Manhattans when you go out, then you need to learn how to make your Manhattan. So start out with things you like and then augment from their.
What are your classes like?
So we’ve been doing a Craft Cocktail Technique Workshop for years now which has been so popular that we’re actually planning to expand into some more advanced stuff. The workshop is all your core stuff. It’s two hours of hands-on drink making. You learn how to open and close a Boston Shaker, proper stirring techniques, entertaining tips, garnishes and all types of stuff. We work with local distilleries to show you how to make a shaken drink and a stirred drink. Right now we are making what’s called a Martinez which is a step between a Manhattan and a Martini. So it’s Gin, Sweet Vermouth and Maraschino Liqueur. It’s one of my favorites. The classes sell out about 8 weeks in advance.
What are your Home Bar essentials?
You want a Boston Shaker, which includes a Mixing Glass. Those two items cover a big family of drinks. You need a bar spoon, a strainer for the shaker and the other core piece is a measuring tool. Then you’re set. The rest of it will tend to be defined by what you like. For example, someone who likes stirred drinks will probably end up with a bigger collection of bitters.
Can you give us a good starter drink?
The one I always point to is the Countdown Sour. The countdown comes from the proportions in the drink. 3 parts Rum (spirit), 2 parts Lime Juice (citrus), 1 part Simple Syrup (sweet.) Once you have that down it can be altered to make thousands drinks. For instance, use Tequila instead of Rum, keep the lime and instead of syrup use Cointreau and you have a delicious Margarita. If you learn that proportion set you can make tons of stuff. Then you can serve it in different glassware like in a high ball over ice topped with soda water to make a great sitting on the back porch type of drink. It’s also a very palatable drink so everyone can handle it.
The Boston Shaker is located in Davis Square at 69 Holland Street in Somerville, MA.