(Author’s Note: First off, I want to say that I wrote this post 2 and a half years ago, shortly after I visited the Eastern Standard in Boston. I still think fondly of my time there, and I was only there for an all-too-brief Sunday morning brunch. I dearly hope I have the chance to return one day. Secondly, I want to note that my bro-in-law told me that the Eastern Standard was the ‘second best bar in all of Boston’ based entirely upon his research before visiting either the first or second best bars. After experiencing both of them, he revised his opinion as the Eastern Standard being FAR better than the so-called ‘best’. i.e. The Eastern Standard is the best bar in all of Boston. Take it to the bank. Thirdly and finally, I would like to say that I have a very high regard for my brother-in-law’s opinion concerning cocktails and cocktail establishments. He has been to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, has visited numerous highly-rated cocktail establishments all over the United States, has won a few drink competitions with his own mixological concoctions, and finally manages a bar in Southern California, where he hopes to one day rank among the top cocktail places in the world. When he tells me that the Eastern Standard was one of the best cocktail and culinary experiences he’s ever had, it means a great deal. Now, without further ado, on to the post.)
So, my brother-in-law wanted us to go to a place called the Eastern Standard for their well-reviewed Sunday Brunch. The Eastern Standard is, in his words, “The Second Best Bar in All of Boston”. (See above note for revision.) Since I skipped out on the “Best Bar” evening last night, in my experience it is the best bar I’ve ever been to.
To begin with, the staff is unbelievably courteous. I’ve been to nice places before. I’ve been treated well, and I’ve tipped well in response. However, I don’t believe anything has compared to the personable nature of every single one of the staff I encountered. Genuine smiles, courtesy without simpering, knowledge of their menu and drinks without haughty smarminess…this is what service ought to be. I did not have a single person place a napkin on my lap as though I were incapable of doing so. I didn’t have them attempt to use terms with which I was unfamiliar. They were all very competent and genuine.
Next, the menu. The fabled Crème brûlée french toast was had by many at the table. My wife had the corn and blueberry pancakes. Claire had a burger, and my father-in-law had the Eggs Benedict. The Eggs Benedict was truly tempting, but I happened to notice a Maine Crab and Chorizo Hash. I love me some chorizo, so I ordered that. Everything was fabulous. The pancakes were fluffy without being insubstantial. The french toast with caramelized bananas were stellar. Claire’s burger was a tad underdone for her, sadly, but Mark and I found it to be absolutely excellent. My hash was everything I hoped it would be and more. The food was gourmet par excellence. I couldn’t have wished for a better culinary experience.
Now, to the cocktails.
I am not a huge cocktail nerd. I like a well-made cocktail, but what I define as “well-made” isn’t as choosy as my brother-in-law’s definition. However, we had Mark at the table to help us uncouth cocktail samplers.
I started off with a Sazerac. Mark has been touting the wonders of the Sazerac for a couple years now, and I admit my curiosity was piqued. A Sazerac is basically a rye whiskey, 3 dashes of Peychaud bitters, some sugar, and a lemon peel in an old-fashioned glass that has been rinsed with absinthe or pastis. The result was the most exquisite cocktail I’ve ever had. To make the perfect Sazerac is the only reason I need to begin considering choices for purchasing Rye Whiskey and either pastis or absinthe. Aromatic and wonderful, I don’t even know that I can describe the flavor except to say that the whole was definitely greater than the sum of its parts. And Mark said it was probably the 3rd best Sazerac he’d ever had. I don’t know if I can say this with any degree of certainty, but I can definitely say that it is up for discussion whether or not this particular cocktail was worth the trouble of the entire trip to Boston. It was amazing.
After the Sazerac, I went with Mark’s recommendation, which was the Vieux Carré, another New Orleans-based cocktail named The Old Square, which is the French Quarter of New Orleans. It was invented by the head bartender of the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans. As with all cocktails, the recipe varies. This one had cognac, a mix of sweet and dry vermouths, rye whiskey, Benedictine, and dashes of Peychauds, Angostura, and another brand of bitters, I believe. It was a little dry to start, which both Mark and I attributed to using dry vermouth in place of some of the sweet that is traditional. However, as it warmed and mellowed, the sweetness became more apparent. I enjoyed this cocktail, but it was tainted by the amazing nature of the Sazerac. I’d like to try this one without having such a stellar cocktail before it.
We were asking about various other drinks of our excellent waitress, and Mark stumped her with the ingredients of a drink called a Ramos Gin Fizz. This particular drink needs to be ordered by permission of the bar staff, since it takes 15 minutes to be made properly. (Lots of shaking apparently.) In discussing this drink with our waitress, she called over Kevin, the bar manager who discussed that and other drinks and drinking establishments with us at length. We ordered Strawberry Shortcake and Butterscotch Bread Pudding for dessert, which was absolutely AMAZING. Especially the bread pudding.
Before we left, however, Kevin sent us an Eastern Standard original, which was a variant on the Pisco Sour. It used Whiskey Barrel Bitters, and it was most excellent. He sent us a sampler-size drink for each of the 5 of us remaining, and didn’t charge us for it.
Overall, the Eastern Standard is an absolutely classy place, and I enjoyed my experience there as much as some of the finest restaurants I’ve tried. Probably more than most, to be honest. Absolutely excellent food and drinks. I couldn’t have wished for more, and I’m glad I have the experience. It’s one to which I’ll return in my memory frequently.