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Boston Bartenders Discuss the Most Overrated Cocktail Ingredients

For Cocktail Week, bartenders around Boston share their thoughts on the most overrated cocktail ingredients (spoiler alert: mostly St. Germain and orange juice).

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Alex Homans

"Artisan-this, small-batch that. We've gone away from judging quality by the product itself and instead assign 'quality' with silly monikers." Alex Homans, owner and beverage manager of The Frogmore

Image credit: Courtesy of Caitlin Cunningham/The Frogmore



Naomi Levy

"St. Germain. One of my bartenders said this, and I thought it was brilliant, he said it’s 'bartender ketchup.' It’s becoming a thing. I’m sorry, St. Germain people." Naomi Levy, bar manager at Eastern Standard

Image credit: Lisa Richov for Eastern Standard



Nicholas Mansur

"I’d say St. Germain. I think a lot of people probably say that, and it’s sort of falling by the wayside anyway now, but I think that for a while it was on every cocktail menu. It’s good, but it’s a little bit of a cheat. There’s a joke that people call it 'bartender’s ketchup' because you can just put it in anything." Nicholas Mansur, bar manager at Shepard

Image credit: Emily Phares for Eater



Fred Yarm

"Pretension. We’re making liquid arts and crafts after all." —Fred Yarm, bar manager at Loyal Nine

Image credit: Provided



Nino Nunziante

"Syrups. Now people are making syrups out of everything grown on Earth. Syrups are rarely made with consistency and simplify drinks by replacing cordials. I prefer to infuse a spirit." Nino Nunziante, bartender at Tico

Image credit: Provided



Kayla Quigley

"Orange, specifically orange juice. It has been beaten to death as a 'mixer' and doesn't offer anything that another citrus can't provide for a cocktail." —Kayla Quigley, bartender at Sweet Cheeks

Image credit: Provided



Tyler Wang

"Is pretension an overused cocktail ingredient? Maybe that makes me sound pretentious. I really think the thing that’s probably overrated is the ego in all of it. The things we make can be so good and so fun, we don’t need — and I’ve been as guilty of this as anyone else over the last number of years — but we don’t need to be snobs about what we’re drinking." Tyler Wang, bar manager at Audubon

Image credit: Emily Phares for Eater



Emmet Kelty

"I think the most overrated ingredient is actually a garnish called a blue cheese-stuffed olive. Ridiculous." Emmet Kelty, bar manager at 51 Lincoln

Image credit: Provided



Thea Engst

"A garnish." Thea Engst, bar manager at River Bar

Image credit: Provided



Will Isaza

"St. Germain." Will Isaza, spirit whisperer at Fairsted Kitchen

Image credit: Provided



Todd Lipman

"Maple. It is severely overused in these parts. I realize it is local and seasonal, two ideas I am a fan of. However, there are so many other fall and winter-oriented flavors to utilize. Nothing against Vermont; I’d personally rather use their apples!" —Todd Lipman, head sommelier at Bistro du Midi

Image credit: Provided



Michelle Raye

"The most overrated cocktail ingredient would be absinthe; it's often overpowering and used too liberally." —Michelle Raye, general manager of Vida Cantina in Portsmouth, NH

Image credit: Provided



Shawn Westhoven

"Orgeat syrup." —Shawn Westhoven, beverage director of Papa Razzi Trattoria and Papa Razzi Metro

Image credit: Provided



Joe Fisketti

"Elderflower liqueur. I feel like this is a crutch ingredient for bartenders, as well as somebody ordering a cocktail due to this single ingredient. It can be fantastic, but I find it overused and often unbalanced in a cocktail." —Joe Fisketti, beverage manager at Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar

Image credit: Provided



Aquitaine cocktail

"St. Germain." —Ludgie Beauvais, bartender at Aquitaine Boston

Image credit: Provided



Dave Miller

"Ginger beer. There are some really great products out there, like Llanllyr Source ginger beer, but I’ve found that a number of places are being a bit too liberal with inferior products." Dave Miller, lead bartender at Clink and The Liberty Bar in The Liberty Hotel

Image credit: Provided



Gabriela Garcia

"Sugar. Most certainly sugar." —Gabriela Garcia, bar manager at Taj Boston

Image credit: Provided



Michael Boughton - BNV

"I don't believe anything can be considered overrated if it's used properly in the cocktail and provides good balance. However, the one ingredient that I feel may be overused and can be substituted for something a little more exotic would be mint." —Michael Boughton, corporate beverage director of Boston Nightlife Ventures

Image credit: Provided



Tony Romano

"Orange juice. It doesn't contain enough acidity to effectively balance a cocktail without another form of citrus accompanying it." —Tony Romano, bartender at BOKX109

Image credit: Provided



Kaylee Platt

"Fernet." Kaylee Platt, manager of City Bar Westin

Image credit: Provided



Dagan Migirditch

"Vodka. Vodka is like beige of spirits; it's like meeting someone who's really nice. Vodka is fine and all, but once you start mixing it, it just sort of fades into the background. I like spirits that are assertive. Give me some gin." —Dagan Migirditch, general manager of Franklin Oyster House in Portsmouth, NH

Image credit: Provided



Kevin Khem

"St. Germain." —Kevin Khem, restaurant manager at ArtBar at the Royal Sonesta

Image credit: Provided



Wolfertz horizontal

"Orange juice. Just have never felt like it adds a lot to a drink. And it can easily overpower other flavors in a cocktail. I know people might think otherwise with their Sunday brunch mimosas, but I feel you can do so much more with other fruit juices." —Owen Wolfertz, general manager at Moxy in Portsmouth, NH

Image credit: Provided



Aaron Brooks

"The most overrated cocktail ingredient to me is St. Germain." —Aaron Brooks, bartender at Zebra's Bistro and Wine Bar in Medfield

Image credit: Provided



Rob Hoover - La Brasa

"I think everything serves its purpose and has a time and place." —Rob Hoover, bar manager at La Brasa

Image credit: Provided



Sean Barney

"The most overrated cocktail ingredient is bitters. In a lot of cocktails it feels like they are masking the taste of the main spirit and turning the flavor of that main spirit into something else. Example: I was at a bar and ordered a tequila drink, and the bartender says, 'Isn't it cool how I made the tequila taste like bourbon?' In my head I'm thinking, 'No. If I wanted bourbon, I would have ordered bourbon.'" —Sean Barney, bar manager and cocktail chef at il Casale Lexington, as well as cocktail chef for il Casale Belmont and restaurant Dante

Image credit: Provided



Chris O'Neill

"Ginger beer." Chris O’Neill, bartender at Deuxave

Image credit: Provided



Vincent Conte

"Fernet Branca." Vincent Conte, lead bartender at Posto

Image credit: Provided



Rob Ficks

"Pumpkin and pumpkin spices." —Rob Ficks, lead bartender at Craigie on Main

Image credit: Provided



Peter Szigeti

"Ginger beer." —Peter Szigeti, beverage director at Committee

Image credit: Provided



Kerem Benyamini

"Splash of cran." —Kerem Benyamini, general manager at Rowes Wharf Sea Grille and Rowes Wharf Bar at the Boston Harbor Hotel

Image credit: Provided



Mike Thomas 2

"Bitters, especially homemade bitters in crazy flavors. Just doesn’t do it for me." —Mike Thomas, bar manager at Gather in District Hall

Image credit: Provided



Lindolfo Silva

"St. Germain — it's a great spirit but often overused." —Lindolfo Silva, lead bartender at The Painted Burro

Image credit: Provided



Davide Crusoe

"I would say St. Germain. Although a great spirit, it seems to be overused these days. If everyone has a St. Germain cocktail on their list, it may be time to try something else!" Davide Crusoe, beverage director at Chopps American Bar and Grill in Burlington

Image credit: Provided



Eric Cross

"St. Germain; it's almost cheating." Eric Cross, beverage director at Five Horses South End

Image credit: Provided



Mike Wyatt

"Green chartreuse. Well, maybe not exactly overrated — it's delicious — but definitely the most overused, and it tends to dominate cocktails if not careful. I feel like a lot of bars force a chartreuse cocktail on the menu because it's trendy, but it can easily become an unbalanced drink." Mike Wyatt, bar manager at Ward 8

Image credit: Provided



Joe Cammarata

"Jalapeno. I've had enough spicy margaritas for a lifetime." —Joe Cammarata, co-bar manager at Hojoko

Image credit: Kristin Teig for Hojoko



Daren Swisher

"Carpano Antica. Heresy, I know. Don't get me wrong; I think it's delicious, and I would happily drink it on its own, but it's very expensive, and it doesn't really play well with others." —Daren Swisher, co-bar manager at Hojoko

Image credit: Averil Lowry for Hojoko



Jarek Mountain

"Red Bull. I hate Red Bull." —Jarek Mountain, bartender at Back Bay Harry's

Image credit: Provided



Dave Spielberg

"Most overrated cocktail ingredient currently, I feel, is beer being used in cocktails. I love beer and I love spirits, typically not together, but that's not to say there aren't some good beer cocktails out there." Dave Spielberg, bartender at The Salty Pig

Image credit: Provided



Tim Kotkowski

"Vodka. Why even bother?" Timothy Kotkowski, Pastoral

Image credit: Provided



Jared Sadoian

"House-made bitters — it's a fun project and in very specific flavors/applications they can definitely make a difference, but why make your own aromatic bitter when Angostura is so damn good?" —Jared Sadoian, bar manager at The Hawthorne

Image credit: Provided



Chuck Guterl

"Pumpkin." Chuck Guterl, beverage manager at Scampo

Image credit: Provided



Justin Lipata

"The most overrated cocktail ingredient, for me, has to be Angostura bitters. Between the great bitters in the cocktail world now and the ability to make your own, this one seems used too much. " Justin Lipata, bar manager at Bukowski Tavern (Cambridge)

Image credit: Provided



Nick Giannotti

"Beer. I would rather just drink a beer." Nick Giannotti, bar manager at The Tip Tap Room

Image credit: Provided



Patrick Foley

"It has to be one of the thousands of flavors for bitters that are available now." Patrick Foley, bar manager at The Independent

Image credit: Provided



Patrick Sullivan

"The mixologist." Patrick Sullivan, executive director of bar operations for the Legal Sea Foods brands

Image credit: Provided



Paulo Pereira

"Smoke. Don't get me wrong as I love to use it as well. I've been making smoke-infused lime juice for my Rum & Smoke cocktail for over a year now. I think the use of a smoking gun at the time of presenting a cocktail has become a bit overused, and most of the time that flavor doesn't have time to permeate the cocktail." Paulo Pereira, beverage director at Brass Union

Image credit: Provided



Schuyler Hunton

"It's all about personal preference, but I think that green chartreuse, although delicious, is most often times used with reckless abandon, and it takes over the entire flavor of the cocktail." Schuyler Hunton, beverage director at Foundry on Elm & Saloon

Image credit: Natasha Moustache



Casey Furtaw

"Sour mix." Casey Furtaw, head bartender at Osteria Nino in Burlington

Image credit: Provided



Freidus

"I think the most overrated cocktail ingredient is orange and grapefruit juice. They are far too flabby and sweet for a citrus cocktail to not also need hard citrus. Also, probably St. Germain. It’s a very specific product and I still don’t really see that many purposes for it. It’s usually added in a quote 'splash,' which really isn’t how a developed cocktail should be." Seth Freidus, bar manager at Alden & Harlow

Image credit: Emily Phares for Eater



Vikram Hegde

"I know I’ll get a lot of flak for this, but bourbon. It’s such a powerful flavor that it overtakes everything else in the cocktail. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bourbon, but it’s rare for me to have a cocktail with it which doesn’t just make me wish I was drinking it neat." Vikram Hegde, general manager at Island Creek Oyster Bar

Image credit: Provided



Todd Maul Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

"I would say that used correctly, there really isn’t anything that’s overrated." Todd Maul, bar director and partner at Cafe Artscience

Image credit: Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater



Ryan McGrale

"Maple or maple syrup." Ryan McGrale, beverage director at Tavern Road

Image credit: Provided



Kyle Powell

"Bacon. I feel like bacon has become this runaway train, careening along the tracks, unable to brake or slow down and clogging arteries everywhere. I was just as smitten with a piece of bacon in my bloody as the next person. But I think we’ve gone too far. It’s time for some veggies. Remember your friend Celery?" Kyle Powell, bar manger of State Street Provisions (opening in November 2015)

Image credit: Provided



Tainah Soares

"Mezcal." Tainah Soares, bartender at Trina’s Starlite Lounge

Image credit: Provided



Corey Bunnewith

"Plain white sugar simple syrup." Corey Bunnewith, co-founder and proprietor of Boston Harbor Distillery

Image credit: Provided



Adam Avelar

"Flowers, botanicals, and other decorative garnishes that do little or nothing to affect the flavor of the cocktail. Every ingredient should function to enhance the cocktail's overall flavor, otherwise they should be left out." Adam Avelar, bar manager at The Sinclair

Image credit: Provided



"Green chartreuse is a fairly common ingredient, but if used excessively or not carefully regulated, it can completely wash out everything else in a drink." Yuri Bredbeck, beverage director at Tres Gatos



"Olive juice." Erin Mahoney, bar director at Row 34 (Portsmouth)



"I hate to go with traditional vodka, but that's the one that jumps to mind." Adam Lantheaume, owner of The Boston Shaker

Scampo at The Liberty Hotel

215 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114 857 241 1150 Visit Website

Il Casale Cucina Campana + Bar

1727 Massachusetts Ave, Lexington, MA 02420 (781) 538-5846 Visit Website

BOKX 109 American Prime

399 Grove St, Newton, MA 02462 617-454-3399 Visit Website

Pastoral

345 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210 617 345 0005 Visit Website

Boston Harbor Distillery

12r Ericsson ST, Dorchester, MA 02122

The Frogmore

365 Centre St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 (857) 203-9462

State Street Provisions

255 State St., Boston, MA 02109

The Liberty Hotel

215 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114 (617) 224-4000 Visit Website

Bistro du Midi

272 Boylston Street, , MA 02116 (617) 426-7878 Visit Website

Deuxave

371 Commonwealth Avenue, , MA 02115 (617) 517-5915 Visit Website

Alden & Harlow

40 Brattle Street, , MA 02138 (617) 864-2100 Visit Website

Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar

381 Summer Street, , MA 02144 (617) 629-9500 Visit Website

Sweet Cheeks

1381 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215 617 266 1300 Visit Website

Tres Gatos

470 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts 02130 617 477 4851 Visit Website

Tavern Road

343 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210 617 790 0808

Fairsted Kitchen

Beacon St, Brookline, MA (617) 396-8752

La Brasa

124 Broadway, , MA 02145 (617) 764-1412 Visit Website

ArtBar

40 Edwin H Land Boulevard, , MA 02142 (617) 806-4200 Visit Website

Zebra's Bistro And Wine Bar

21 North St, Medfield, MA 02052 (508) 359-4100 Visit Website

Aquitaine

569 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02118 (617) 424-8577 Visit Website

Boston Harbor Hotel

70 Rowes Wharf, , MA 02110 (617) 439-7000 Visit Website

The Painted Burro

219 Elm Street, , MA 02144 (617) 776-0005 Visit Website

Posto (Somerville)

187 Elm St., Somerville, MA 02140 Visit Website

Tico

1926 14th Street Northwest, , DC 20009 (202) 319-1400 Visit Website

51 Lincoln

51 Lincoln St, Newton Highlands, MA 02461

Osteria Nino

19 3rd Ave, Burlington, MA 01803 (781) 272-1600

City Bar

425 Summer St, Boston, MA 02210 (617) 443-0888 Visit Website

Taj Boston

15 Arlington Street, , MA 02116 (617) 536-5700 Visit Website

Loyal Nine

660 Cambridge Street, , MA 02141 (617) 945-2576 Visit Website

Eastern Standard

528 Commonwealth Avenue, , MA 02215 (617) 532-9100 Visit Website

The Salty Pig

130 Dartmouth Street, , MA 02116 (617) 536-6200 Visit Website

Craigie On Main

853 Main Street, , MA 02139 (617) 497-5511 Visit Website

Hojoko

1271 Boylston Street, , MA 02215 (617) 670-0507 Visit Website

Gather

75 Northern Avenue, , MA 02210 (617) 982-7220 Visit Website

Saloon

255 Elm Street, , MA 02144 (617) 628-4444 Visit Website

Back Bay Harry's

142 Berkeley St, Boston, MA 02116 (617) 424-6711 Visit Website

Committee

50 Northern Avenue, Boston, MA 02110 Visit Website

Shepard

1 Shepard Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Papa Razzi

159 Newbury St, Boston, MA 02116 (617) 536-9200 Visit Website

Five Horses Tavern

400 Highland Avenue, , MA 02144 (617) 764-1655 Visit Website

Audubon

838 Beacon Street, , MA 02215 (617) 421-1910 Visit Website

Island Creek Oyster Bar

500 Commonwealth Avenue, , MA 02215 (617) 532-5300 Visit Website

Brass Union

70 Union Square, , MA 02143 (617) 623-9211 Visit Website

The Independent

75 Union Square, , MA 02143 (617) 440-6022 Visit Website

The Boston Shaker

69 Holland Street, Somerville, MA 02144 617 718 2999 Visit Website

The Hawthorne

500A Commonwealth Avenue, , MA 02215 (617) 532-9150 Visit Website

The Tip Tap Room

138 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114 857 263 7614 Visit Website

Cafe ArtScience

650 East Kendall Street, , MA 02142 (857) 999-2193 Visit Website

Bukowski Tavern (Inman Square)

1281 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139 (617) 497-7077 Visit Website

Chopps Grill

1 Mall Rd, Burlington, MA 01803 (781) 221-6643 Visit Website

Ward 8

90 North Washington Street, , MA 02114 (617) 823-4478 Visit Website

River Bar

661 Assembly Row, , MA 02145 (617) 616-5561 Visit Website

The Sinclair

52 Church Street, , MA 02138 (617) 547-5200 Visit Website

Row 34

300 District Avenue, , MA 01803 (781) 761-6500 Visit Website

Trina's Starlite Lounge

3 Beacon Street, , MA 02143 (617) 576-0006 Visit Website

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