I’ve never met Jarek Mountain, the former beverage director of Back Bay Harry’s and Abby Lane who now leads the cocktail program at Lion’s Tail. But I swear I’d recognize his drinks anywhere.
Almost without fail, I find myself googling unusual ingredients that Jarek uses, like Pommeau de Normandie, an aperitif made with unfermented apple juice and Calvados. Or wondering how exactly he came up with coconut-washed Luxardo bitters. Or thinking “there are too many ingredients in this cocktail, there’s no way it’s going to taste good.”
I’m wrong every time, naturally.
New Kids on the Ink Block
Lion’s Tail opened in December 2016 in the South End’s increasingly trendy Ink Block complex. Jarek is one of the co-owners, along with Ken Casey of Dropkick Murphys fame, restauranteur Brian O’Donnell, and HGTV designer Taniya Nayak.
It bears passing resemblance to other restaurants that Nayak has designed, like Back Bay Harry’s, with its modern, casual-sexy vibe.
Black walls and candlelit tables make the space feel cozy and intimate, even on a bright summer afternoon. A long, curvy bar is surrounded by 20+ comfortable leather seats and plenty of standing room.
A giant lion mural adorns the exposed brick wall on the far end of the restaurant.
Cocktails and Conversation
Good cocktails inspire conversation. And with Jarek’s drinks, there’s plenty to talk about – from the striking appearance of a given drink, to the unconventional ingredients of another, to the pop culture references that abound.
Case in point – Paul Rudd’s Hawaiian Name in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. This tiki-style drink combines El Dorado 5-year and Smith & Cross rums, coconut-washed Luxardo bitters, velvet falernum, Donn’s mix (a grapefruit/cinnamon syrup), mint syrup, pineapple, lime, and Bitter Cube Jamaican bitters.
Bold, sweet, and complex, you can ponder the cocktail’s many flavors while quoting the movie that inspired it.
Same thing with “Good Luck Finding a DJ Who Can Move & Shake Like Thissssssss.” Rum and bourbon might sound like a strong combo, and a honey/ginger foam topping makes this look like a heavy dessert drink. Instead it’s a well-balanced mix of Clyde May’s bourbon, Hurricane rum, Pommeau de Normandie, lemon, and apple bitters. (Jon Lovitz impressions are optional.)
That rum and bourbon combo appears again in the boozy Fat Luke+. Combining Angostura 7-year rum, Plantation pineapple rum, Rittenhouse rye, Banana du Brésil, amaro Nonino, and black walnut bitters, it’s the sort of drink that gives me pause. Rum(s)? Rye? Pineapple? Banana? Apple? Walnut? How are all these flavors going to work together?
Perfectly, it turns out. This boozy number is smooth and rich, with a flavor profile that changes a bit while you drink it.
Experimentation and Discovery
Not every drink has a shopping cart’s worth of ingredients or a name that feels like a trivia question.
There’s a sub-menu devoted to clever variations on the humble daiquiri, as well as a few timeless classics – like the eponymous Lion’s Tail. Made with Old Forester bourbon, St. Elizabeth’s allspice dram, gum syrup, and lime, it’s true to a recipe that dates back to the 1930s.
It also serves as an appropriate signature drink for a bar that takes a sometimes unconventional approach to cocktails. It’s a traditional recipe, but also an unusual one – allspice and lime typically accompany rum drinks, while lemon is the time-honored partner for whiskey.
But the spicy notes in the allspice liqueur pair naturally with the oaky vanilla flavor in the bourbon, and the lime contributes the right amount of zing.
I’d like to think that at some point many years ago, someone saw a Lion’s Tail on a cocktail menu and said “Lime and bourbon, how’s that going to work?”, the same way I look at so many of the inventive recipes here with a mix of curiosity and even skepticism.
And so it is that a new bar like Lion’s Tail continues a long-running tradition of cocktail experimentation and discovery.
Address: 354 Harrison Avenue, Boston
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