Upon exiting Lolita Cocina, we piled into a Lyft to our fifth stop, Downtown Crossing’s jm Curley.
When we exited the car, Tom pointed out the wacky-yet-eerie display in the wig store we were passing (Downtown Crossing is a bizarre mix of trendy bars, high end restaurants and kooky super niche-y stores that seem to have been around since the John Quincy Adams administration). We took pictures to make sure we weren’t hallucinating … and it’s even weirder than I remembered.
jm Curley is named after the brash, somewhat unruly, comically corrupt, devastatingly effective and nearly un-defeatable Boston politician, James Michael Curley. The bar shares the best of those qualities and manages the tricky balance between a smart-ass dive bar, a fabulous innovative comfort food restaurant and a top notch cocktail joint.
If if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a tiny but superb semi-secret steak joint hidden behind curtains halfway into the bar. Bogie’s Place is the domain of one of our all time favorite bartenders, Domingo Martin-Barreres, who we came across many years ago when he was working at the W hotel and absolutely dazzled us with his exquisite cocktail artistry, featuring silver glazed strawberries sculpted into the shape of a skull, pomegranate seeds floating up and down a sparkling glittered cocktail, and the first smoked cocktails we’d ever seen (and still the best). It was a formative experience that turned two dedicated whiskey drinkers into cocktail enthusiasts forever. We were privileged to have him bartend my company’s 15th annual party and create 4 signature cocktails.
Bogie’s is also the only place that Lorri and I have been thrown out of! We were excited to invite a couple to this wonderful place with the wonderful Domingo but one of them pre-gamed wayyy too hard and she promptly got into a fight with a poor couple who was on their first date at the table next to us. Once she started loudly proclaiming “I’M a DOCTORRRR!!!!” (spoiler alert: she wasn’t), stroking the guy’s shoulder and flinging the C-word at the lady, that was the end of the night for us! Super cringy at the time but at least we got an eternal story out of it. It took us a year and a half before we dared to show our faces there again.
Happily, all was long forgiven and forgotten by this day. Despite OUR pre-gaming I resisted the urge to ask Danna to not call anyone the C-word even if she WAS a doctor … if you can’t trust a bartender to behave in a bar, who CAN you trust (OK OK OK, I already feel like that might not be a universal rule)?
jm Curley has a legendary “Law and Order” list, a rowdier version of Milk and Honey’s “House Rules”:
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s date, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor his grub, nor his cocktail, his barstool, space, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s.
- No one on our staff goes by: Hey, Yo, Sonny, Tiger, Pal, Kid, Sport, Sweetie, Honey, Pork Chop, Chief, Champ, Captain, Boss, Buddy, Babe, Barkeep, Barmaid, Big Guy, Ma’am or Missy.
- No loud shrieking, shouting, bellowing, whining, barking, nose blowing, flatulence or obnoxious cellphone use.
- No groping, grab ass, mauling, sucking face, canoodling or heavy petting.
- We welcome all comments and suggestions, but refrain from, “You should…” We know we should, but we can’t do everything and please everyone. Open your own restaurant if you know how it should be done.
- The customer is NOT always right. However, the respectful customer is always right, and the asshole customer is always wrong.
- No foul language…
- Nobody’s perfect. Please alert us immediately if your expectations are not met. Exaggerating or lying on Yelp, Chowhound, or to anyone (after you leave) who can’t fix the problem, is for yellow-bellied cowards.
- It’s food and drink, not life and death. Don’t take yourself too seriously, we don’t.
- …Just don’t be a douchebag.
Curley’s menu changes often, but here’s where it stood on this night:
I went with the 24 karat magic, which didn’t exactly elevate my cocktail macho reputation BUT was exactly the light, fruity delicious tipple I needed at that point with rum, raspberry, grapefruit and melon. Yes, it didn’t completely escape my Inevitable Three Fruit Rule (“Any Cocktail With Three or More Fruit Flavors Inevitably Tastes Like Canned Dole Fruit Cocktail”) but sometimes Dole’s Fruit Cocktail is what a real man needs, dammit.
Lorri’s diamante continued her mezcal run – it was a gorgeous crystalline drink and a real showcase for the 2 agave spirits. Danna went for the don’t be a d-bag (undoubtedly named after the last item in their Law and Order list), with gin, chartreuse, grapefruit and a Escher-like cucumber twist. Tom was in a beer mood: Finally! I must say. Danna and Tom’s beer game is far beyond ours.
Some jm Protips:
- Get there earlier or later. jm fills up quickly once the sun goes down & it was fortunate that we got 4 bar stools at 10:00 pm on a Thursday. Once things get going, the bar gets 3 deep, stays 3 deep and stays really loud – great if you’re looking for a lively atmosphere, not so great if you’re looking to savor the cocktails.
- Get the food – I’ve had my favorite veggie burger there for lunch about 30 times: Veggie Burger, Filthy Andy style (housemade veggie patty, vinegary cole slaw, french fries, and a fried egg). It’s completely impossible to eat with your hands without needing to take a shower after so I eat it with a knife and fork like an idiot. A HAPPY idiot.
- The bartender turnover there can be pretty severe (in past years it was more or less the Freaks and Geeks of Boston bartenders where so many went on to become a star elsewhere – the batting average isn’t the same now), so be prepared for some inconsistency (Domingo is pretty much reserved for Bogie’s). That said, if you run into Max, you’re in good hands and go for a bartender’s choice. He’s a little reserved but he definitely knows his stuff and works hard to get you something special.
- Don’t call anyone the C-word if you’re in Bogie’s Place. Actually, don’t call anyone the C-word in you’re in Anyone’s Place.
I was glad that we’d finally gotten Danna and Tom to their first trip to jm Curley but I still had to ask (weakly) “Sooooo …. we going to go to Yvonne’s??” (Yvonne’s was just a block away).
The simultaneous answer, in triplicate :”Nooooooooooooo!”.
Whew! Thank god for companions who know their limits.
Speaking of which, some of you may wonder how it’s possible to hit so many places in one night without ending up a disaster … or worse.
Here’s My Guide To Surviving a High End Cocktail Tour:
(Disclaimer: despite going to medical school, I’m not a scientific authority on alcohol consumption. Furthermore, everyone’s body and drinking experience is different, so while these tips really work for me and Lorri, your results can and will vary)
- Make Sure This Is What You Really Want To Do – Don’t do a cocktail tour because some dorky blogger makes it sound fun. Do it because you’re obsessed with cocktails and want to experience a bunch of them in one night and are committed to stopping when your body’s had enough. If you’re drinking solely as an vehicle towards having a good time with buddies or just drinking to get drunk, disregard this list.
- Have a Plan – Randomly stumbling from place to place with no defined start or finish is a recipe for imbibing at an irregular rate. Even if you don’t stick to the plan, just having an idea of how many places you’re going to hit should prevent you from slugging down too many all at one place … and the travel from one bar to another will naturally make you pace yourself.
- Share Cocktails / Don’t Always Finish Cocktails – Obviously, this depends on how close you are to your drinking mates, but it’s far better to get a few sips of multiple cocktails than to slug multiple cocktails. And there’s no law that says you have to finish every cocktail – yes, you may need to assure bartenders that your unfinished cocktails were fine (in addition to getting their attention that you’re ready for another) but in my experience they’re cool with it if you explain you’ve got a lot more ahead of you that night.Rudyard Kipling’s mongoose Rikki Tiki Tavi always made sure to never finish eating a snake because a full mongoose is a slow mongoose. Don’t be a slow mongoose.
- Water! At least one glass per establishment. It’s gonna mean an annoying number of visits to the bathroom, but it’s worth it (especially the next morning!)
- Egg White cocktails– the protein in these cocktails can help. I should know if the protein slows absorption of alcohol or simply gives the digestive system something else to work on … but there’s a reason I’m a FORMER med student.
- Food! Keep eating – luckily most high end cocktail places also have high end bar food. Your diet is trashed anyway – eat!
- Start Early – this sounds counterintuitive, but it really helps to get into a few of your highest priority places near opening time. You can take your time and really savor your drinks and there’s less pressure to keep going late at night when there’s still some must-see bars on your list. Lorri and I learned our lesson by extending an NYC tour to get into Death and Co. at 3 AM – we never got drunk but somehow still felt rotten two days later.
- Don’t Mix It Up If Your Stomach Says Nah – Stick to similar liquors if you’re not experienced in mixing it up in a given night. NOTE: This does NOT mean that you can drink gin cocktails all night without adverse consequences because alcohol is alcohol no matter where it comes from. It DOES mean that some people’s stomachs have a harder time handling a rich assortment of ingredients when they’re not used to it.P.S. The “Liquor then beer, in the clear” rule is complete bullshit. Amount counts, and order means nothing.
- Low ABV! Throwing in a few lower ABV, or rather, lower total alcohol volume cocktails in is a GOOD idea (downing a pitcher of beer is low ABV but still high alcohol volume, Archimedes). 50/50 martinis, SOME sparkling cocktails like French 75’s, Bamboos, or just a good old mocktail can help you pace yourself – and they can all be as magnificent as your full proof zombie or loaded Vieux Carré.
- Pacing – Speaking of pacing, averaging a drink every 45 minutes to an hour is about what I can handle over a long stretch. This tour was 7 drinks across 7 hours and still if we had gone to Yvonne’s I was looking at tapping out and getting a soda.
- Know Your Limits – As I said above, it’s great to have companions who know their limits. For me, there’s few things worse than suddenly realizing that I’ve put too much booze in my body and I can’t reverse the clock – I hate that feeling of self loathing so much that I’ve only thrown up from drinking once in my twenties, once in my thirties and once in the last twenty years … and that’s three times too many.So be good to yourself – there are always other nights, other cocktails and it’s insanely counterproductive to go beyond the point where you’re just not tasting your drinks anymore, or putting yourself or others into harm’s way.
So thankfully, our intrepid crew finished up in perfect fashion (i.e. DIDN’T get thrown out) and another terrific tour was done. Thanks to Danna and Tom for schlepping out to Boston and being the ideal drinking companions – love you guys and can’t wait for the next time! Maybe we can cure Tom of his hatred for NYC???