Drink & Tell: A Boston Cocktail Book by Cocktail Virgin/Slut blogger Fred Yarm debuted last Thursday, and Eater spoke with Yarm about his experience collecting over 500 drink recipes from forty local venues. The self-published book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and will be at the Somerville cocktail supply shop The Boston Shaker starting this coming Friday, and perhaps elsewhere soon. Yarm, a biochemist by trade, told Eater where he likes to go for drinks and why you might want to focus on cocktails made with eggs.
How did the book come together? Actually it was a friend's mom who suggested I write the book. My friend used to tour with punk bands, and I was fixing his computer. His mom's stories are all like "I was having coffee with Henry Rollins..." So when this woman said "you should write a book," I thought, "I should listen to you." The document was pretty much done three months later. People were like "you wrote a book in three months?" And I'm like, if you neglect the five years of research, yes.
What was your prior cocktail experience? I had a LiveJournal back in the day. I would write the recipes down and people would request more. That inspired my friend Jess to start the blog [Cocktail Virgin/Slut] back in 2007. She eventually got a little burned out and invited a few more writers and I'm pretty much the only one who stuck with it. I've been writing that for four years and have been collecting my own recipes here and there.
Why this kind of book? I didn't want to do the standard classics. I don't think my book is the first book you should own. You should already have a book that has a Manhattan, a Martini, how to make a Sidecar. I couldn't do better than Dale [DeGroff], [Robert] Hess, Gary Regan. I wanted to make the cocktail book I would want to purchase, which is pretty much unpublished recipes. Out of 505, it's possible that people don't have 480 of them.
Another part was trying to promote what Boston is doing. With things that have been happening nationally and internationally, with Boston getting recognized at Tales of the Cocktail, in 2010 Eastern Standard and Drink got a lot of awards and again in 2011 Eastern Standard got a lot of awards. It's been getting a lot of notice but still not as much as New York or some of the other scenes. They get a lot of notice and Boston seems to get a little here and there but there's so many good things that are happening and there's so many bars that people don't know.
Do you have a favorite bar? It depends on my mood. It's tough to pick one over the others. No. 9 Park - I've never had a bad night there. Some new ones like Brick & Mortar, it's a different feel. It's different whether you're wanting the hospitality of No. 9 or sort of the edginess of Brick & Mortar. If you want dinner, Sahil Mehta at Estragon is great. If you want more comfort food and fun drinks, Trina's Starlite Lounge is perfect. I couldn't really narrow it down to one.
What are some of the lesser known venues you consulted? There are a couple from Steve Shellenberger at Pomodoro, who used to be at dante. You sit at that bar and he's kind of like a cocktail philosopher. As you sit there you realize there are people from Drink and a few other bars. There's hidden gems, like Sahil at Estragon. The Regal Beagle. There's a lot of bars or restaurants out there doing great things that don't get noticed, like some bars have one menu but they do a lot more for people who are looking for the next step up. A lot of cocktail programs have to focus on what will make them money, what will sell the best. You look online and you see what drinks they're making and you hear no, no, no - sit at his bar, ask to see his drink notebook and all of the sudden you have another cocktail list.
Any other tips for bar goers looking to try a great drink? It's pretty rare that I go off the menu or say "can you make me this?" I always see what the bar has to offer first. Talk to the bartender about what's on the menu and keep an open mind. Try to step outside your comfort zone. The Modern Drunkard has a list of things you should do, and one of them is drink 100 drinks in your life. Basically start trying whisky drinks, tequila drinks, rum drinks, drinks that have citrus juice, drinks that don't have citrus juice, try some tiki drinks, try some egg drinks. It took me a while to get up to trying egg drinks and now those are some of my favorites to seek out. A bartender knows that if they put an egg drink [on the menu] they're focusing to someone who wants something a bit more challenging. Often those have a bit more thought in them.