It wasn’t all that long ago that the tony suburb of Belmont was still a “dry” town. As in, no booze served or sold. Before 1998, you couldn’t order beer or wine in a Belmont restaurant. It wasn’t until 2007 that voters finally allowed the licensing of a wine shop.
But those latter-day prohibitionists have been losing ground ever since. In 2010, the excellent Craft Beer Cellar opened its flagship store in Belmont center. A couple of years later, Damnation Alley Distillery – a distillery! – began brewing the devil’s drink right in Mitt Romney’s old stomping grounds.
And now, in 2018, what do we have right smack dab in the middle of Belmont?
A cocktail bar.
Town Continues Descent into Depravity
OK, technically speaking, the Wellington is not a cocktail bar. Having opened this past June, the Wellington is the latest offering from restauranteur brothers Dante, Filippo, and Damian de Magistris, who run several nearby Italian eateries. Now the group is swapping red sauce for steak sauce with its first non-Italian-focused food menu, focusing on American cuisine and comfort food classics.
But with its contemporary cocktail program, the bar is the centerpiece of this neighborhood joint. And the Wellington isn’t easing into the cocktail world with familiar offerings like martinis and margaritas – they’re plunging in headfirst, bringing to Belmont the trends, techniques, and ingredients that have characterized beverage programs in Boston and other major cities.
Booze in Belmont
Made with Gunpowder botanical gin, green apple, chamomile, lime, and Boston Bittahs, the Esmerelda balances fruitiness with soft botanical notes, the flavor of chamomile revealing itself in the finish.
Soju Want to Be a Rock Star combines soju – a clear, distilled spirit from Korea – with mint, yuzu citrus, agave, and coconut water. It’s a refreshing, almost mojito-like cocktail with an herbal fruitiness.
Happily explaining obscure ingredients like soju to curious customers on a recent Friday night was a bartender named Dio. The namesake of the late heavy metal demigod Ronnie James Dio is something of a cocktail ambassador, enlightening a suburban crowd that may be unfamiliar with mezcal, falernum, and local brands such as Privateer.
Such explanations may be helpful in the case of the Awkward Tinder Date, made with mezcal, passion fruit, house-made falernum, almond, lime, and tiki bitters. It’s a well-balanced, tiki-style drink, with the falernum toning down the distinctive smokiness of the mezcal.
At the heart of Stay Golden, Ponyboy, is Chinese five-spice bourbon – whiskey infused with cinnamon, clove, anise, fennel, and Sichuan pepper. Fresh grapefruit and local wildflower honey make for a spicy drink that’s well suited to fall.
Dio’s enthusiasm is infectious, especially as he sings along to the Friday night soundtrack of 80s and classic rock tunes. (He’s a fine vocalist but doesn’t sound anything like the former Black Sabbath frontman who shares his name. Sadly.)
And he’s happy to improvise, recommending a rum-amaro Old Fashioned.
Made with Privateer amber rum and Zucca amaro, his off-the-cuff creation is bitter and spicy, with just enough of the rum’s sweetness to even things out. A flaming orange garnish serves as a final, dazzling touch…
…and a chilling reminder that the devil has come to Belmont.
Address: 75 Leonard Street
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