The Takeaway: The Eastern Standard is timeless, with an impressive backbar and an cocktail menu featuring a wide array of well-balanced drinks. Oh and the food's not bad either.
To train our livers for Tales of the Cocktail, in the way that runners prepare for a marathon, we've been doing some "pace runs" at bars while visiting Boston for the weekend. First up on our list was Eastern Standard, a bustling bar and restaurant on Commonwealth Ave in Boston.
We met Jackson Cannon, the bar manager of Eastern Standard, a few years ago with introduction from my brother-in-law. He had led us to the back room of the Hawthorne (Eastern Standard’s sister bar two doors down) that felt more like a cozy lived-in family room than a bar. After chatting with us about preferences, he came back with some bespoke cocktails that catered to our respective tastes. After a few magical rounds, we proclaimed him a cocktail wizard.
We have been fans of his bars ever since, and every sojourn to Boston typically involves a drop-in (or two or three) at one of his now-numerous bars across the town. Although rarely do we now get a glimpse of him, since he has a packed schedule launching new establishments.
Eastern Standard features a long marbled bar on one wall and the rest of the space is comprised of a vast Parisian restaurant with dark lacquered wood and red vinyl. The bar/restaurant was one of the first to usher in a new era of craft cocktails, in contrast to Boston’s long-standing tradition of thrown-back shots and free-poured drinks.
Generally, we sit at the bar, but for once our better judgment prevailed and we elected to have some solids along with our liquid dinner. To our delight, the food (particularly the rabbit leg, which melted off the bone) was outstanding.
The cocktail menu has changed since our last visit three years ago, notably missing a Japanese-inspired cocktail that we still remember years later.
Our choices this time included the Riverside (a light citrus-and-honeysuckle rye cocktail), the Island Export (a straightforward tiki drink), the Pappy Van Winkle barrel rested mezcal (good but probably not worth another order), Clouston (a highly quaffable negroni variant), and one of their “dessert” whiskies: a pour of Shay’s Rebellion, which was so good I sent multiple self-addressed emails during the night as reminders to my more sober future-self to purchase it. Many of these emails contained an alarming amount of exclamation marks!!!
As a testament to how good the Eastern Standard is, the large dining room was full on a Thursday night - and the restaurant is humming and feels classic, without feeling faded or dated after 12 years. And we expect it to stay that way when we return next.