Bootleg Special: The Curiousness of Cordials

Earlier this spring (May 30, 2018), Lorri & I eagerly headed a couple blocks south of our office to check out Bootleg Special, the new seafood boil joint at edge of the South End on Tremont Street.

The look of the place as we stepped down into the dining area was charming: very reminiscent of the seafood joints in New Orleans, lamplit with folksy ornateness. The steaming plates of crawfish and chilled plates of oysters on the impressively grand bar were gorgeous. The cocktail menu had a solid array of classics and fun originals.


Lorri ordered the Daiquiri which featured pineapple rum. In the past we would have been chased away from pineapple rum by sickly sweet visions of Malibu and Captain Morgan. However, the category has been singlehandedly redeemed by the good folks at Plantation Rum with their Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple Rum, infused with the rind of pineapples instead of the overly sweet flesh.

So it was worth a shot, but while well prepared, this daiquiri was indeed too sweet … by like, a LOT. The daiquiri is an unforgiving cocktail – with only three components, there’s no place for substandard ingredients, off balance proportions or imprecise preparations to hide. However, this was a surprise as all three of those qualifiers looked spot on.

Was it the pineapple rum? Possibly, but the Extra Fancy (using the aforementioned Stiggins) at Island Creek Oyster Bar has proven that a superior daiquiri can be made with pineapple rum.

Daiquiri with pineapple rum

I went for one of the more adventurous choices, the Foxy Roxy. While the raspberry vodka sounded like pink Kryptonite in a bottle, the aperol, egg white and mixed berries hinted at redemption – you don’t add those ingredients unless you’re aiming for something special.

The Foxy Roxy

Again, everything looked right but the sugar content just pummeled away most of the appealing Clover Club-like flavors beneath.. What was going on here?

A perusal of the liquor on the back shelf offered some clues – why was the only whiskey the extremely odd flavored whiskeys from Bird Dog (apple, strawberry and … errrr ….. chocolate)? Why did the cocktail menu opt for pineapple rum, raspberry vodka, pear brandy, etc.  – was the Bootleg Special a front for a alcoholic fruit worshipping cult?

No, we were experiencing the after-effects of centuries of that puritanical religious cult known as … ummm …. Puritans. Puritans can be blamed for all of the bizarre alcohol laws in New England (because of the the other religious sects had less memorable names), the most annoying of which might very well be the cordials license.

The cordials license allows an establishment to serve liquors with a minimum of 2.5% sugar content by weight … because Puritans don’t want you to get DRUNK, they want you to get DRUNK and FAT! Cordials licenses are less expensive and more available than full liquor licenses in Boston

In this light, it’s clear that Bootleg Special is figuring out how to navigate cocktails using these limitations (in particular, their daiquiri might be fine if they simply leave out the additional simple syrup). They clearly have experience and an appreciation for cocktails and their food is definitely in the upper tier of New Orleans style seafood in Boston (but don’t miss out on the butter noodles!). We’re due for a return visit soon to see how their journey is going.

Bootleg’s cocktails are undoubtedly easy on the eyes!


For another take on a bar with cordials, check out our post on Coppa.

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