On tour, playing keyboard in a band in the mid-’80s, Brother Cleve had what he calls a “cocktail revelation.” Soon the Boston native and lounge musician became obsessed with mixology, building an incredible home bar and collection of cocktail books and starting a parallel career as a bartender.
Cleve went on to help set up cocktail programs at spots all over town and trained some of Boston’s best-known bartenders, including Misty Kalkofen and John Gertsen, both formerly of Drink, and Jackson Cannon, bar director at Eastern Standard.
Today, Brother Cleve is considered the godfather of the Boston cocktail scene and serves as national brand ambassador for Macchu Pisco. He still plays keyboard and has DJ gigs across the globe but when he’s at home in Beantown, here are his current favorite drinks.
Belafonte at The Hawthorne
After making his name at Boston institution Eastern Standard, Jackson Cannon opened the neighboring Hawthorne in 2011 with the aim of creating a world-class cocktail destination. He has definitely succeeded and the bar has garnered three James Beard Award semifinalist nods. There’s a rotating menu of tasty cocktails on which the Belafonte is a frequent presence. And Cleve likes it for both its “rich, luxurious flavor” and its “retro-styled name, conjuring both the sound of calypso as well as images of Italy.” The drink combines Plantation Rum from the Caribbean with Carpano Vermouth and artichoke-flavored amaro Cynar from Italy as well as a house-made coffee liqueur.
Adams’ Green at The Townshend
Named for the Townshend Acts, a series of import duties passed by the British that helped spur the American Revolution, this all-American tavern serves all sorts of hearty dishes and a long list of craft cocktails, beers and wines. Cleve says the vodka-based Adams’ Green has been a crowd favorite since the place opened in 2015 and calls it “a most refreshing Sour that plays well in all four seasons.” The secret to the concoction is a cucumber-lemon-tarragon syrup that tastes good year-round.
Aztec’s Nightcap at Tavern Road
Tavern Road takes inspiration from street-food hawkers from around the globe and offers a menu of small plates ranging from Thai papaya salad to Peruvian-style chicken to Italian risotto with lobster. Its cocktail list also incorporates similarly exotic flavors. Cleve loves the strong-and-stirred digestif cocktail, the Aztec’s Nightcap, that combines smoky mezcal, a spiced Mexican chocolate bitters, herbal Jägermeister and a chrysanthemum-infused agave nectar. “With a nightcap like this,” he says, “I hope the night never ends!”