When you can’t come up with an actually GOOD blog post title, resort to horrible puns.

When you need a solid cocktail in a no-nonsense bar with seriously good pub fare, go to J.M. Curleys …. or the Gallows!

After moving our offices from Downtown Crossing to the South End, Lorri & I have been on a hunt for a replacement for our long-time lunchtime regular J.M. Curley. Requirements were:

  • Solid classic cocktails
  • A few fun originals
  • “Elevated” pub food
  • No-fuss environment, prices and bartenders

The Gallows checks off all of the boxes. Apparently it’s a little more on the loud & borderline rowdy side at night but at lunch it was as peaceful as a teenager with Netflix on Sunday morning both times we went (on 6/4/18 and 6/27/18)

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I approve of the menu trend of separating the classics from their originals (though c’mon guys, “Love, Tito’s”, featuring the fairly new and highly overrated vodka, is by definition NOT a classic).

[ START TITO’S RANT ]

The love for Tito’s at my office was driving me nuts, mostly because it reminded me of the complete sham marketing success of Grey Goose, which actually worked on me until we had a company party where an impromptu blind tasting of Grey Goose vs Smirnoff proved that Grey Goose was pretty awful stuff (I believe it was something like 8 to 2 in favor of Smirnoff)

Now, vodka is basically any grain spirit with everything interesting stripped out of it through multiple distillations so you’d think that any side by side taste test would come out roughly 50/50, so your stuff’s gotta be pretty bad to lose 8-2.

Furthermore, Tito’s claims to be pot-stilled and handcrafted which is bunk on the level that would shame even the bourbon industry (the most bald-faced mythology spinners in the business). You can’t take some generic industrial spirit bought from who-knows-where, run it through your rig, generate 2.78 million CASES a year and call yourself pot-stilled and handcrafted.

So, I arranged a blind taste taste between Ketel One, Smirnoff’s, Chopin and Tito’s, asking each taster to rank them 1-4, and sure enough, Tito’s finished dead last by a huge margin.

I smugly celebrated my victory for an entire week … until I saw my employees drinking Tito’s — AGAIN!!!

Moral of the Story: You can lead a dumb-ass to water, but you can’t stop it from drinking Tito’s.

Final Note: Aside from their sub-standard and semi-fraudulent product claims, TIto’s is actually a very cool business story. It’s a true startup financed by $90k in credit cards, that had to battle through a pile of Texas and US regulations, has tussled with the NRA for daring to support the Humane Society (no really, SMH) and has emerged as the ONLY independently owned brand out of the top 40 liquor brands.

[ END TITO’S RANT]

So after all that, I’m sure you’re dying to know if “Love, Tito’s” was a good cocktail …. and of course I have no idea. The last vodka cocktail I ordered was probably in 2015, so sorry!

 

Instead, over the course of two lunches, we tried:

The Eye of the Thai-Grrr (OK, now you know why I’m breaking out the bad puns for this review – they DESERVE it!).

Tall & Bubbly drinks are rarely in my lane but this was interesting enough.  Meyer lemons are rare to see on a menu and Thai-chili agave is definitely worth an order. Like most chili-flavored bubbly drinks it could/should have been 3 times spicier but overall this was a nice aperitif.

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Thanks for this EXCELLENT photo of a glass of a water, AutoFocus. Somewhere lurking in the background is the Eye of the Thai-grrr.

 

I’m sure Blue Steel is a reference to Zoolander but it’s a rock-solid down ‘n brown cocktail. The mix of Cynar (a fairly bitter artichoke liquor that is essentially a badge of honor among serious cocktail drinkers these days) and Aztec chocolate bitters was a marriage made in a glass. Stiff, serious and satisfying, like the other movie featuring Blue Steel (which I did NOT know was directed by the terrific Kathryn Bigelow of the Hurt Locker).

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Blue Steel – More Jamie Lee than Zoolander!

 

Lorri got daiquiris as her first drink on both visits, since we had a different bartender on each visit – it’s her way to evaluate a bartender before she feels confident ordering off-menu.  The first visit, the bartender NAILED it.  The second time, it was syrupy sweet and the sugar overpowered the rum and lime.

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Daiquiris never get old

 

Zed’s Dead, Baby (Ginger Bourbon, Strawberry, Orange, Lemon) looked too fruity on paper … and was the same in the glass. There’s probably a Rule of Four or More when it comes to flavor (as in never mix four or more flavors in the same category unless you want it to turn into an indistinct mess) – if there isn’t then I’m happy to call it mine! Great name, even if it doesn’t seem to have any connection to the infamous Gimp scene.

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Zed’s Dead – no Pulp in this Fiction! (OMG, did I really just type that shit?)

Our bartenders on both days (Emily and Laura) were both perfectly suited to the Gallows – able to knock out a classic, an original or a bartender’s choice.

The food was especially good – we’ve tried poutine far and wide (yes, even in Montreal) and the poutine here was one that I’d happily order over and over again, with or without a hangover! The fries were perfectly fried and crispy, even with the gravy!

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