Boston’s Most Beloved Bartender: Smiley, by Jonathan Soroff, April 12, 1995

“’Bartending is one of the last professions that still has a mystique,’ Singleton, who is widely known as ‘Smiley’ and has been at it for 19 years. A teetotaler himself, he describes his regulars as ‘very sophisticated, interesting people, who are extremely knowledgeable about the world. I learn a lot from them, and they learn a lot from me. I’ve been known to give lectures from behind the bar.’ In keeping with the restaurant’s Southern flavor, Singleton’s most common request is for Margaritas, but there isn’t a cocktail, no matter what you call it, that throws him. ‘There are basically four, maybe five, drinks, and everything else is just a variation on the theme.

Blue Margarita: ‘Plenty of tequila, a dash of triple sec and freshly squeezed lime juice, with blue food coloring ‘to taste — preferably until it’s a vivid blue.’ Shake vigorously. Salt the rim of the glass and serve straight up or on the rocks.

Tranquilo (a signature concoction of the East Coast Grill‘s, which ‘took months of R&D.’): Soak assorted Rums — one white, one golden and one dark — in a jar with vanilla beans and pineapple chunks. Be sure to peel the pineapple to avoid bitter taste. Leave on a shelf for at least one month, and then strain to use.”

“Good help may be hard to find. I wouldn’t know. The one thing I’m sure of, though, is that good bartenders are even fewer and farther between.

Because physically, almost anyone can sling drinks, a lot of dilettantes do it for a living. In fact, of the two noble professions (medicine being the other), bartending probably has even fewer practitioners who are capable or qualified.

In search of excellence, therefore, we cast our nets wide, questioning every expert we could find, in addition to quite a few alcoholics, and soliciting suggestions from our readers. The following list
— an Honor Roll of those who are tops in their field — may not be exhaustive. However, selection was based on corroboration from multiple sources, and everyone on it is a true professional, who acts as a significant draw for the place where he or she works.

Warning: Your favorite bartender might not be mentioned. Before sitting down to voice your outrage with a nasty letter or an obscene phone call, we suggest you sample some of the signature drink recipes and bartending tips so thoughtfully provided by Boston’s Most Beloved Bartenders, Class of 1995..”

-Excerpt and images courtesy of Boston Public Library, The Improper Bostonian, “Boston’s Beloved Bartenders,” by Jonathan Soroff, photography by Darlene DeVita, Elie, Matthew Sapienza, April 12 – April 25, 1995

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