Northshore Magazine

Northshore December 2018

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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105 Island Creek Oyster Bar BURLINGTON While these other bartenders have decades of experience put together, Vannaluck Hongthong is relatively new to mixology. A native of Long Island, Hongthong and his wife would visit high-end NYC cocktail bars because of her pas- sion for fine cocktails. But when she sought ju- leps at Kentucky Derby time, he ordered a beer. In his mid-30s, things changed. Hongthong, then a contractor foreman by day and restau- rant server by night, went with his wife to the Baldwin Bar in Woburn to celebrate their July birthdays. One thing led to another, and soon he was hired and on the other side of that bar, a testament to his warm personality and charm. "I now have great friends I would not have made had I not made them a good drink first," says Hongthong. Now bar manager at Island Creek Oyster Bar in Burlington, he pours me a beautiful and oh- so-drinkable cocktail made with Ransom Old Tom gin, sage-infused honey syrup, and lemon to balance out the sweetness. e syrup on its own tastes like the stuffing from a ankgiving turkey. e drink, called Give anks, was cre- ated by one of his six bartenders, Zoe Killion. Hongthong likes to challenge his staff, and focus them, by giving them one ingredient to build a drink from. Danna Warmann wowed him with her response to the prompt to make something carrot based for the fall menu. Her carrot shrub, mixed with orange juice and Amaro Montenegro is still unnamed—as it turns out, nobody likes naming drinks—but is unmistakably delicate, earthy, and soft. "I speak in vague generalities and they come up with something really great," Hongthong says. "It's such a great creative outlet, and the results are pretty instantaneous." Sometimes the impulse to jam more ingredients in isn't the way to go, he says, which is why the classic three-ingredient cocktail of base spirit, sugar, and citrus is such a beautiful thing. Not everything is harmonious in a glass together. Sometimes adding sugar doesn't make a drink sweet, but brings it more into balance, says Hongthong. It's more about understanding how everything works as a whole, he says. Asked what makes a good bar, Hongthong says his goal is to be hospitable, while making good drinks with no pretension. "People seem to care more about what's in the glass than who is in front of them, but you can do both," he says. "You can make a really great connec- tion. Some bartenders have lost their way. People come for the connection. ey come for the interaction. Sometimes you forget that the first bartenders were there listening to how much their customers hate their job. ese bartenders knew how to fix people's problems. You went to your bartender for everything. You trusted your bartender." MONTPELIER HOLIDAY I N G R E D I E N T S 1 1/2 oz. Rittenhouse Rye 3/4 oz. Lemon Juice 1/2 oz. Averna 1/2 oz. Maple Syrup 2 dash Angostura bitters D I R E C T I O N S Shake, double strain. Pour into a coupe glass. Lemon Twist for garnish. MONKS DELIGHT I N G R E D I E N T S 1 1/2 oz. Old Monk Rum 3/4 oz. Galliano Ristretto 3/4 oz. Maple Syrup 2 dash Xocolatl molé bitters 1 pinch Salt 1 whole Egg D I R E C T I O N S Add all ingredients and whole egg and dry shake (shake without ice.) Add ice and shake well. Double strain into a rocks glass. Grated nutmeg as a garnish. ISLAND CREEK OYSTER BAR 300 District Ave, Burlington 781-671-6500 islandcreekoysterbar.com Island Creek Oyster's Vannaluck Hongthong

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