Drinking is easy. Finding the right bar, not so easy. We’re here to help. As a public service to all of you thirsty explorers, every week we highlight the best bars in America and tell you what makes them so damn great. This week we’ve got a bar that’s breathing new life into a Boston neighborhood not known for its nightlife.
WHAT TO ORDER (NEWBIES): Large-format Moscow Mule: vodka, lime juice, ginger syrup, fresh cucumber juice and soda
WHAT TO ORDER (REGULARS): Sherry Cobbler: sherry, strawberry, watermelon, orange liqueur and mint
WHY WE LOVE IT: In Colonial times, Americans shared bowls of alcoholic punch to pass the time, cure their ailments and celebrate their victories. The founding fathers guzzled down 76 kinds of punch after signing the Declaration of Independence. At Yvonne’s in Boston, a new bar with some old bones, punch is treated with the same celebratory spirit—but now it has a little more show.
“Punch was the old-style of sharing a drink with your friends,” bar manager Nicole Lebedevitch says. “Our large-format drinks are an homage to that. Only now we light things on fire.”
Yvonne’s is located in the former home of Locke-Ober restaurant, which was open for 136 years before shutting its doors in 2012. In the 1900s the restaurant was the place to see-and-be-seen in Boston. The restaurant was dark and masculine, as only men were allowed to eat there. (The rules changed to allow women entrance in 1971.) The private dining room upstairs, however, hosted politicians and celebrities of both sexes. John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe dined here together; their photo is on the wall in modern-day Yvonne’s to prove it.
“We took that old space, blew the dust off of it and made it very modern and nouveau,” Lebedevitch says. The bar still has an intimate, dark feel to it because the building doesn’t have any windows—Yvonne’s doesn’t even have a front entrance; you have to enter through a hair salon—but the inside is now a decadent space with chandeliers, gold accents and plenty of glitz.
Yvonne’s has three main rooms. First, the lounge, where you can sit and plan your strategy for the evening. Then there’s the Supper Club straight ahead, a 13-seat bar with an intricately carved, antique mahogany back bar. And farther back is the Library, which has an 8-seat bar and communal couches. The Library walls are lined with books (go ahead, read one!) and features a fireplace that burns year-round. “The menu is the same in all of the spaces, it just depends on which atmosphere you feel more comfortable in,” Lebedevitch says. “We’re a space where everyone wants to be in all parts of it all the time.”
Lebedevitch also blew the dust off of traditional cocktail menus. “Our menu is also an homage to the old becoming new again,” she says. The drinks list contains elaborate, modern cocktails and vintage ones that she and her staff reinterpret in their own way. In the summertime she adds strawberries, watermelon, orange liqueur and mint to the all-American (and quite boring) sherry cobbler, for example.
The real star, however, are the sharable drinks. One, the crowd-pleasing Moscow Mule, comes out in a giant copper mug with colorful straws stuck in it. The presentation is impressive, but so is what’s inside. Instead of just throwing vodka, lime juice and ginger beer in there, Lebedevitch incorporates homemade ginger syrup and fresh cucumber juice. Another punch on offer is the tropical Jet Pilot, which comes out in a crystal decanter and is topped with the crown of a pineapple.
“We make sure people can see-and-be-seen because of their drinks as well,” Lebedevitch says. Samuel Adams would approve.
Alyson Sheppard is the resident hangover specialist at Playboy.com. Find her on Twitter: @amshep