MAST’ : The Perils of Free Pour and Farewell, Ridiculous Whiskey Buckets

MAST’ (in the Financial District of Boston) is one of the very best Neapolitan pizzerias in Boston, featuring a totally legit Neapolitan brick pizza oven, one those rounded dome jobs that looks like this:

Photo from Grubstreet

Lorri and I spent one night in Naples, Italy (the birthplace of pizza) and it was enough to totally ruin us on pizza.  It’s gotta be thin and crispy-charred yet somehow chewy, San Marzano tomatoes, legit Bufala mozarella and a bit a fresh basil.

It’s still hard to find in the US (we found a terrific place in the tourist trap area of Sedona AZ, of all places) so we were glad to see MAST’  (no, I have no idea WTF that apostrophe at the end of their name is supposed to signify – the impossibility of finding it on Google?) come into town.

We were even happier when we found a few bottles of outstanding whiskey, Yamazaki 18 and George T. Stagg bourbon (one of the rarer-than-Pappy Buffalo Trace Antique collection), both bottles that typically go for $500 or more but went for a ridiculously cheap $20-$25 a pour here.

We were EVEN HAPPIER when the bartender poured us a FULL WINE GLASS sized pour of both. It dawned on us that this was really a wine joint and the servers weren’t quite hip to what a proper pour of whiskey is.

We were less happy as we struggled to finish our priceless pours (especially since George T. Stagg usually clocks in at a stunning 140 proof). We had to “George T. Stagg-er” our way out of MAST’ that day!

We hadn’t been there in a while, so surely enough when we visited, all traces of super rare whiskey were gone and the pizza menu was strangely cut down do a small handful of options. On to cocktails, we said!

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The cocktail menu at MAST’. This one makes me think they haven’t updated their cocktail offerings in many a moon

I opted for the Strawberry Basil (with half of the simple syrup – they were out of agave). I was pleasantly surprised when the bartender first put the glass out with ice cubes – how rare for a place like this to pre-chill the glasses Japanese-bar-style!

I was less-pleasantly surprised to see him VERY roughly eyeball the components into a shaker – look, if you’re not going to use a jigger you better be one of these three cases:


  1. Super Trained – the best free pour bars have precision pour spouts on their bottles and highly trained bartenders who can time their pours precisely.
  2. Super Menu Expert – The bartender has made this drink so many times they can do it just by feel
  3. Super Taster – The bartender carefully tastes the drink and keeps adjusting until it’s JUST right. In reality, this COULD be superior to a jigger-using bartender because this compensates for any variations in liquors, citrus freshness, syrup concentrations, etc. … but I’ve NEVER actually seen one of these unicorn bartenders.

Of course, this bartender was NONE OF THE ABOVE. He did the “crack open the shakers a bit to pour into the glass instead of using a Hawthorne strainer” thing that might be hipster but always seems slow and wasteful (i.e. I’m not getting all of cocktail in that shaker!) to me.

Even worse, the pre-chilling that initially impressed me turned out to be a cruel mirage, as the bartender just poured the drink into the glass of half melted ice. Predictably, it was a watery, unfocused mess of a cocktail (which was a shame because the ingredients seemed decently fresh – there was a good cocktail in here somewhere).

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Strawberry Basil (featuring twice the water and half the precision!) and Lorri’s Strange but Surprisingly Not Terrible Negroni

Lorri chose to continue her long Road to Negroni (look out for an upcoming post of how a Negroni Hater becomes a Negroni Almost-Enthusiast), using our super-flawed Cocktail Ethnicity Theory that states:

“Restaurants serving ethnic food of specific ethnicity shall also show mastery of cocktail of same said ethnicity, EVEN IF their other cocktails fall devastatingly short of acceptability”

This theory has been proven depressingly wrong in several places that should know better, including Ruka (DTX Boston) and Nino Osteria (Boston) so we’re going to stop relying on it.

(NOTE: One STILL valid beverage theory is the Eddie Izzard Rule, which essentially states that “Drinks shall taste quite excellent when you are in their country of origin, but shall taste like utter SHITE when you get home”.)

As usual, she requested Aperol in place of her hated Campari, and same imprecision happened there (the bartender threw in the last of the Aperol opened another bottle and casually tossed in “some more”). The color seemed off, the amount of ice was bizarre, and Lorri was pretty sure that one of the ingredients was Triple Sec, of all things.

I’ll let her describe her Negroni in her upcoming post, but we were both pretty surprised that the drink was pretty quaffable. I’m not sure I would have identified it as a Negroni if I were blindfolded, but all things considered Lorri got the best of the deal.

Oh well,, at least the pizza was as excellent as ever. Next time, we stick to wine!

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