Bar to Bar Through Beantown
“The cocktail menu is extraordinary. It is literally a book (or as is written on the cover, a “drink manual”), filled with 25 pages of creative libations!”
Neighborhood: Back Bay
Address: 370A Commonwealth Avenue
Date of Visit: Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Bartender Name: Todd
Eric had been looking forward to visiting Clio for a LONG time. Jon and Lin of Beantown Eats always rave about the amazing cocktail creations celebrity bartender Todd Maul comes up with behind the bar, and Clio – for the most part – did not disappoint!
First of all, the cocktail menu is extraordinary. It is literally a book (or as is written on the cover, a “drink manual”), filled with 25 pages of creative libations all hand crafted (and presumably sampled) by Mr. Maul, and is complete with a glossary at the back. One of the most unique and elaborate menus we’ve ever seen, Maul divided the drinks up into sections based on base spirit as well as by categories ranging from seasonal to tiki drinks to drinks for two to the Mad Scientist’s lab. The Mad Scientist’s lab is broken down into four sections itself: Smoke, Fire, Ice, and Rotovap (a means of creating clarified cocktails, flavorful-yet-liquid garnishes, or even concentrates). Eric’s review below came from the smoke menu, which includes a lemon-smoked glass, and other drinks include burnt garnishes and other items to give the cocktail a smokey flavor. The Ice section uses ice in creative ways; such as when Maul drills holes in ice and fills them with such items as loomi (which is dried black lime). Finally, Fire either uses elements of heat or the torching of ingredients to give cocktails a truly unique flavor.
The restaurant itself is unique, small in scale, and with two different feels connected between Clio and the Uni Sashimi Bar downstairs. The only odd part about this configuration was the smell wafting around the restaurant, a mixture of fish from the food downstairs and the smoke from the cocktail crafting. The staff was extraordinarily friendly, a welcome surprise after years of walking by the establishment and envisioning a stuffy atmosphere. The bar is pretty small, so we ended up squeezing into a table with our friend’s Mike and Lucia, and were later joined by another colleague, Shepard (or as he refers to himself, the Distinguished Drunk) – who despite arriving in his gym clothes, was not ridiculed any more that what one would consider a gentle ribbing by the hostess despite being in such a “fancy” establishment.
Valerie’s Drink of Choice: Wong’s Grog
Ingredients: El Dorado 5 Rum, Gosling’s Dark Rum, Rittenhouse 100 Rye, Kona Coffee, Grapefruit Juice, Lime Juice, Cinnamon syrup, vanilla extract
Review: Picking a drink off this menu was not easy. While options are nice, I found it to be a little overwhelming! I settled on the Wong’s Grog for three reasons. One, the waitress was getting impatient so I had to make a decision; two, it has a funny name; three, I was curious to see what a drink that has eight very different ingredients in it would taste like. What I was not expecting was the ninth ingredient that accompanied the drink – the large phallic/pear looking block of ice that had just the right size hole for the straw to fit through. Ok, so it kept the drink nice and cold (which came in handy since it took me awhile to finish it), but it also made me feel slightly ridiculous. As for the flavor, it was interesting – it was smokey and the Rittenhouse Rye was prominent. However, due to the number of ingredients, every sip provided a bit of a different taste. I could have done without the coffee grinds floating in the drink though, especially as I couldn’t detect any coffee flavor (maybe it was masked by everything else).
Eric’s Drink of Choice: Frank-o
Ingredients: Frapin VS Cognac, Plantation Rum, Luxardo Triple Sec, Blonde Lillet, lemon juice, smoked glass
Review: Something that I had never had, but had heard much about, was the use of smoke in cocktails. I first learned of using smoke in cocktails when watching a YouTube video from another well-known bartender, Jamie Boudreau, who is based out of Seattle. Check out this video for an idea of how the process actually works. Though this isn’t exactly “smoked” cognac, there’s a pretty good smoke flavor from the smoked glass.
The presentation of this cocktail was incredible, with an ice cone jutting out of the rocks glass keeping the drink at the perfect temperature and not diluting it too quickly and a perfect color. The smokey aromatics enhance the flavor of the rum, and the Lillet smooths the cognac flavor. The smokey infusion played extremely well and almost reminded me of scotch (a Talisker 10 to be exact), and the flavors were perfectly blended to create a wonderful cocktail. The Luxardo was tempered by the smoke and other flavors, lessening the pucker in the drink. Sweet with a hint of tartness at its roots, this is a cocktail I would order again (along with a Ramos Gin Fizz)!
Wine Prices: The wine menu we saw only featured wines by the glass, but bottles are likely also available. Five white wines and six red wines are available by the glass for $10 to $21. Three sparkling wines are also listed from $13 to $22.
Beer Prices: There are fifteen beers listed in the drink manual, including two rare finds, BeerLao and Chang Premium (from Thailand). Prices range from $3to $9.
Other: As we mentioned before, the cocktail list is massive. Descirbing every time of drink would take up numerous blog posts, so here’s the Cliffs Notes: