Two Boston Street Bars

by Scooter Holt

First, let me dispel any misconception that I take my job seriously.

I would be loathe to think that anyone was under the impression that I had an ounce of journalistic integrity. Was I assigned to cover two bars in Canton, review their beverage program and submit an informative and insightful article in a timely fashion? Absolutely. Did I comply with those guidelines?

Absolutely not.

I’d been itching to cover Bartender’s and the Gin Mill for quite some time, but “review day” also happened to be St. Patrick’s Day so, being the devout Jew that I am, I decided to shirk my responsibilities and tip on into Mick O’Shea’s and dump pints of beer down my gullet like it was my job.

After having redefined the term “Parade Formation,” I rolled my sorry sack down to Little Havana where my lack of work ethic was quickly rewarded. Surrounded by a gaggle of inebriated friends, it was easy to put off my assignment with a few well-placed vodka-tonics. All was going according to plan until Celeste Corsaro, marketing director and contributing editor for the very magazine I write for, came strolling in.

The jig was up, or so I thought.

After a wag of her finger, I was convinced that I needed to follow through. With Celeste in tow, we made our way to Bartender’s, located at 2218 Boston Street in Canton.

Why is Bartender’s an ideal stop for an after-dinner cocktail? Very simple. It’s completely unassuming. With its lacquered bar, trademark ceiling fans and quirky cast of regulars, at first it feels a bit like “Cheers” on acid. But that’s where the similarities stop. Danny Coker, one of the proprietors, happens to be the brother of Chris Coker, sommelier of Corks in Federal Hill. This unassuming bar with its formidable wall of liquor suddenly morphs into a savvy little wine bar. The wine list has Chris Coker’s fingerprints all over it. ‘07 Xarmant Txakoli (an effervescent Spanish crowd-pleaser) tops the “whites” column, a brave move for any wine list. As you dig deeper, you find gems such as ‘05 Neyers Carneros Chardonnay ($40) and ‘04 Talisman “Thorn Ridge Vineyard” Pinot Noir ($70). Should one expect little treasures like this at any other corner bar in Canton? No way.

I was quite ready to wrap this project up, but my boss, Miss Corsaro, had other plans. She dragged me to my next assignment, the Gin Mill, located at 2300 Boston Street, which managed to be a great juxtaposition.

Where Bartender’s hidden talent was wine, Gin Mill was fluent in cocktails. The joint has definitely been beefed up since the previous owners—boasting a more modern, lounge feel. As with Bartender’s, a user-friendly food menu is available, but I’ve always preferred a liquid diet. What sets this joint apart is an “historically correct” cocktail menu. Not only are the recipes printed, but the history of the drink is meticulously tracked, and served to you with the facts in mind.

Dave Nanovich, our bartender, not only took surgical care in making our cocktails, but told the tale of the drink as he was making it. Who would’ve thought that getting twisted could be so educational? As he relayed the history of my whiskey sour, he cracked an egg-white into the mixing cup and I almost forgot just how long it was taking to get my drink. But who cares? A REAL cocktail is worth waiting for, and that’s what this place is all about. Think you know what a Cosmo is supposed to taste like? WRONG! The Gin Mill will set you straight. The beauty of this concept is that drunks like me will order things that I would never order in other bars. Celeste’s Vanilla Lavender Martini went down so easily I found myself distracting her in order to steal another swig.

So I got home pretty blood-shot and swervy but, as usual, I took copious notes on random scraps of paper. Fortunately, in my calamitous state, I wrote down that smashing whiskey sour recipe on a slip of crumpled paper that, upon closer inspection, turned out to be the back of a credit card receipt of Miss Celeste Corsaro. A bleary inspection revealed that she spent $4.78 at “The Dizz” which, after a quick Google session, turned out to be the latest incarnation of Dizzy Issie’s.

Seriously, who doesn’t carry five dollars in their pocket?

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