A Gentleman strolls through Boston on the 19th Century Pub Crawl.
Over the weekend, the 19th Century Pub Crawl went on the road for one wild night in Boston, home to some of America’s oldest bars and most notorious dens of vice.
The crawl met at Eastern Standard, a new bar that focuses on the revival of classic cocktails. The capable bartenders put together a custom drink list featuring authentic 19th century imbibements. I had myself the “19th Century,” a drink previously known as the Old-Fashioned, and originally known at the Cock-tail. A mix of rye, bitters, and a twist of lemon, this delightful and refreshing drink was the first cocktail, and is the origin point from whence all other cocktails were birthed. I also had the Japanese Cocktail, invented by Jerry Thomas–surprisingly delicious, and perhaps my favorite drink of the evening.
If you are ever in Boston, I highly recommend dinner and a drink at Eastern Standard; their hospitality was touching, their bar-craft unparalleled.
The “19th Century” at Eastern Standard.
The crawl participants met and mingled; and, lubricated with a few fine cocktails, became fast friends. By the time we left Eastern Standard, we had 40 crawlers in tow.
An admittedly blurry photo of the crawl making its way to the Red Hat.
We traveled via subway to the Red Hat, a bar founded in 1906 in Boston’s old Theater district (later a neighborhood known for its burlesque shows). We settled in upstairs, next to the antique bar, and surrounded by a charming mural of old Boston. The ambiance was lovely.
I was won over by a small advertisement on my table and ordered a Kraken and Coke. Kraken is a new brand of “Black Spiced Rum,” which comes in an amazing jug-like bottle adorned with an angry sea monster. Ever since spotting it at Astor Wine & Spirits last month, I’ve been meaning to try it out. I was very pleasantly surprised–Kraken is sweet and spicy, and an incredibly pleasant companion to Coke. I recommend it.
Kraken & Coke. Release the Kraken!
Next, we trotted down the street to Union Bar at the Union Oyster House. The UOH is the oldest continually operating restaurant in the U.S., having been founded in 1826. It was the first bar to pass out wooden toothpicks in the 1860s. Despite my track record at previous pub crawls, I did not slurp up any oysters. Instead, I was bought a whiskey on the rocks by a woman in a dashing hat. Perfect.
We ended up skipping the Bell in Hand Tavern after sizing up the line in front of the door that extended around the block, and discovering there was a $10 cover. Boo. The next time I’m in Boston, I’m going to stop in for a burger and a beer; it is one of the oldest bars in America, after all.
Left: The discreet, nondescript hallway that leads to Drink.
Instead, we headed across the river to Drink, another new establishment known for exploring the history of cocktails. After six hours of drinking, I still had a party of twelve ready for more. When we got to Drink’s front stair, we were met by the doorman who (to quote a fellow pub crawler) had “the most amazing Chester A. Arthur mutton chops.” He sized us up, nodded and said: “I heard you guys might be headed our way. Let me see what I can do.” He disappeared inside, and I addressed my loyal troupe of 19th century gentleman and ladies: “He says there’s at least a 45 minutes wait; last call is in 90 minutes. I’m read to wait them out; who’s with me?” Everyone agreed we were in it to win it.
Ten minutes later, the door opened. Chester A. smiled: “Welcome to Drink,” and he swept us inside.
Drink is a magical place; if you can get in, go. There is no menu, which at first strikes you as annoying. But in fact, it allows you the opportunity to chat with your adorable server/bartender who will say things like “I’ve got the perfect drink for you!” He started me off with another Cock-Tail, then an updated old-fashioned. Some of my companions asked for egg drinks, which are unrivaled at Drink. I think that’s what opened the gates for what happened next.
We were suddenly presented with a “special cocktail,” I didn’t catch it’s name. It has specific instructions for consumption: first, you smelled it. A big long whiff. Second, you sipped off the meringue-like egg white that sat on the drink’s surface. Last, you threw the drink back like a shot, imbibing the alcohol and the egg yolk which sits at the bottom of the glass. The egg yolk bursts in your mouth. As mine ruptured, I thought to myself: did I really just eat that raw egg?
Althought we all commented how sober we were on the walk to Drink, by the time we piled in cabs around 1:30 am, we were 3-5 sheets to the wind. Total Eclipse of the Heart came on the radio, and I sang it all the way back to my brother’s apartment in Cambridge, where I met a few friends for just one more drink.
They’re pointing to the “Gentlemen’s Room.”
I’m now safely entrenched back in New York city, still basking from the warm glow of a night of fine drinks, and even finer friends. I met such lovely people. And if you missed the Boston 19th Century Pub Crawl this year, worry not. There’s already plans for a repeat performance next spring. And for those of you in New York, and those of you willing to hop a Fung Wah to get here, the New York 19th Century Pub Crawl is right around the corner on May 15th. Check out our proposed route, and I hope to see you there!
Check out more photos from the evening below, or on the Flickr 19th Century Pub Crawl Pool.