Island Creek Oyster Bar in Burlington is our standard weekly lunch – SO standard that it’s practically “Cheers” to me & Lorri. Sometimes you really DO want to go where everybody knows your name … and your story, and especially your drinks (and vice versa).
ICOB (with Burlington and Fenway locations) is one of Jackson Cannon’s bar programs (the Boston legend has also done two of our favorite iconic bars, the Eastern Standard and The Hawthorne) and bears his hallmarks: eclectic and constantly evolving cocktail menus, creative and knowledgable bartenders, and certain quirks like an insistence on shaking with a pint glass instead of a cheater tin.
We first chummed it up with the sunny, funny and talented Danna and got into a routine of tossing out dorky requests like “I’m feeling sherry … oh you have Licor 43, what do you make with that?” (which was answered in the Spanish Armada) and regular demoing her new creations (her culinary background must give her an edge here), the most striking being the Wellesley.
On paper, Danna’s Wellesley really looks like it should be a train wreck (Old Monk rum, bourbon, Angostura, an orange cordial made from two orange liqueurs, and freaking absinthe ?!?!) but it’s one of those great creations that achieves its own signature flavor and isn’t dominated any of its components. It’s served with a big rock and has a classy vibe that fits its town namesake … except that Danna (hailing from Washington State originally) didn’t even really know of the town of Wellesley and named it after a street she once lived on (a naming technique that was kind of a staff joke), so even its name isn’t what you expect. We’ve had hundreds of original concoctions and the Wellesley is as deserving of being a modern classic as any of them.
Danna’s also worked on boundary-pushers like a Mezcal Chartreuse swizzle, a Chai-based cocktail, a tequila-rum-mole number (if memory serves me right) and one of Lorri’s favorites, a Jack Rose with mezcal instead of applejack that we all dubbed the Jack Rosa. This is especially fun since back in the day Cannon formed the Jack Rose Society with the famed Misty Kalkofen and Brother Cleve perfecting the Jack Rose cocktail.
We’ve also gotten to know:
- A.J. Baumann, who left to found his namesake shrub company, easily the best of those fruity vinegar based concoctions I’ve ever had)
- Billy, who we rarely get to see but is always cheerful and always good behind the stick
- Steven, who made the Cornucopia which was heaven to me since it had almost everything I like in one drink including calvados and egg white but was probably hell for bartenders since it had no fewer than EIGHT ingredients. Steven’s great because he’s willing to give anything a try.
- Vannaluck “Vann” Hongthong, beverage director for the last year and formerly of the Baldwin Bar and the Bancroft. Vann’s also a really successful competitive bartender (US Bartender’s Guild Most Innovative Bartender Regional Champ) but is totally down to earth, even when he’s effortlessly making up something on the spot for you.
ICOB Burlington is a cocktail island paradise in Burlington’s suburban sea of terrible, soul-crushingly mediocre, and solid-but-annoyingly-not-better bars. We keep waiting for another great cocktail bar in the area to emerge so we don’t pathetically turn into ICOB’s equivalent of Cliff and Norm on Cheers … but it’s hard to stay away from a classy joint that’s constantly re-inventing itself, where the staff makes you feel like one of the gang, and there’s always a new cocktail journey awaiting your arrival.