Drinks at Saloon
“And he took the loaves and fishes, looked at his disciples and said, ‘F— it. We’re going into the whiskey business’.” – William McCoy, Boardwalk Empire
The Prohibition Era cocktail theme has really hit the ground running in and around Boston. When rumblings of a whiskey bar in Somerville started to get louder and louder, we kept our eye out and finally, Saloon opened. We couldn’t have been more excited to finally check this place out. Subterranean. Speakeasy. Brown liquor. What isn’t there to be excited about?
Bio: Located in the underground space below Foundry on Elm and adjacent to Davis Square Theatre, Saloon brings a prohibition-style bar to Davis Square. The space has seating for dinner patrons, and a bar area designated for those there for libations. Music of the roaring 20′s plays overhead, bartenders sport suspenders and cocktail waitresses dress in the burlesque style of the era.
Cocktails: Saloon’s cocktail program is based mostly on brown liquors with a few others in the mix. The bourbon selection might be one of the largest around Boston and bottles are displayed along a simple mirrored background at the bar.
Ward 44: Pork belly whiskey, lemon, sugar, house grenadine ($10)
This cocktail was what I started the night with, and ended up being my favorite. I’ve really grown a really love for smokey cocktails, and the pork belly whiskey in this one provided that subtle smoke that I really enjoy.
Saloon’s Brown Derby: Aged rum, Antica Formula, maraschino syrup, mole bitter, OJ wash ($10)
Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this cocktail nearly as much as the first. Although well-mixed, something did not quite agree with my tastebuds, reminding me more of cough syrup than a cocktail. At first I thought it was the Antica Formula, but after trying some at home, perhaps it was the mole bitters, which I’m not sure I’ve ever had alone to see if I actually like the flavor.
Jon also had two cocktails this evening, and just like mine, were well-made and he enjoyed both of them.
Old Pal: Rye whiskey, Aperol, Averna ($10)
Americana: Bourbon, brown sugar, J. Thomas bitters, sparkling wine ($10)
Journey to Ixtlan (not pictured): Mezcal, lime, sugar, angostura bitter ($10). A friend ordered this, and it’s one that I recommend. I find I’ve really been enjoying Mezcal, having a more smokey taste than tequila, and this one definitely hit the mark
Crowd: Ranging from Tufts students to those close to retirement, young professionals and even younger professionals alike, the crowd was very mixed at Saloon. A few were even dressed to the style the era: women as flappers and men in newsboy hats. We arrived at 7:15 pm on a Saturday night and were lucky enough to get two seats at the bar. I say lucky because it was already crowded and it just so happened that people were getting up right as we make our way to that section of the bar. A large Saturday crowd night and perhaps some bad acoustics left us struggling to hear our own conversation. While the theme music is a nice touch, we could barely hear it over the raucous group leaning on our bar seats behind us (perhaps one too many $3.50 PBRs, a surprising menu option when trying to tout a bourbon-based liquor program).
Service: Bartenders were attentive, even refilling our water glasses when necessary. As the night wore on and the bar got more and more crowded, service suffered. At one point it took twenty minutes to just get someone’s attention to order a drink. And that was with a seat at the bar.
The appearance of yet another craft cocktail bar gives even more evidence that the movement is strong in and around Boston. We were extremely disappointed with the crowd that this Davis Square location seems to attract. Instead of a wonderful subterranean retreat to the roaring 20′s, Saloon was loud, crowded and raucous for a Saturday night. Cocktails are well-made but unfortunately not appreciated by much of the beer-drinking crowd. Perhaps going for dinner and sitting at a table would alleviate some of these issues, or maybe grabbing a quick drink early in the evening, or going during the week. But this was just not the atmosphere we were looking for on a Saturday night. For us, Saloon is an excitement in concept but a disappointment in execution.