The Weekly Mix: Rhubarb and Pride at Island Creek Oyster Bar

by Emily Bell
Antoinette Bruno
February 2012




As if the easy cadence of “Yankees Suck” wasn’t enough to catalyze local pride, Mixologist Bob McCoy has gone and added another booster to Boston’s ego: The 1822 cocktail. It might sound innocuously numerical (or vaguely historical), but one taste of this boozy, bitter, fruity cocktail, and you’ll start to shiver in your Manhattan-sipping boots. Boston’s got a cocktail scene that’s about to get playfully, confidently self-referential on all of our asses.

Not that we’re caught with our guard down. We honored one of the city’s most promising mixologists, Tom Schlesinger-Guideli, in 2009. But that’s part of the problem (as far as any extant New York-Boston rivalry goes; imbibers, feel free to rejoice). With Island Creek Oyster Bar, Schlesinger-Guideli’s risen up to a mentorship position, bringing guys like McCoy through the ranks to build upon an already stellar cocktail scene. The results are drinks like The 1822, a mixture of local rhubarb-infused vermouth, local Knockabout gin, St. Germain, and orange bitters.

The 1822 Cocktail, in all its Reverent Glory
The 1822 Cocktail, in all its Reverent Glory

Beyond highlighting outstanding local products, The 1822 has the added townie oomph of being named for the year Boston was incorporated as a city (172 years B.N., or Before Nomar) and the year rhubarb was first available in the Boston marketplace—as McCoy puts it, an “unlikely and fitting coincidence.”

Beantown pride aside, what really differentiates The 1822 is McCoy’s rhubarb vermouth, a rosé-based concoction that clocks in at about six days of prep time. “The bright, fresh, red-fruit flavors of the vermouth are a standout,” says McCoy, genuflecting to the key ingredient. “Rhubarb has fresh raw stalks that are crisp and flavorful, but they also have a strong, tart taste,” which McCoy tames and teases with a laundry-list of herbs and spices—everything from gentian, fennel, wormwood, and cinnamon to green cardamom, wild cherry bark, and the violet-and-berry mystique of orris root.

Not only do these lovingly culled aromatics make for an elegant, complex vermouth, they bring out some of the herbaceousness of the St. Germain and Knockabout, a Gloucester, Massachusetts-based London dry gin named for local fishing schooners of yore. Put all that together and you’ve got lively red fruit anchored with a woodsy potpourri of herbs and bitters, garnished with lemon peel and local pride. “It ends with a pleasantly bitter finish,” says McCoy. Reminds us of a Yankees-Sox game.