By Molly McDonough · 11/26/2016    Somerville · Cocktail Bar · $$

“Umm, is this right?” wonder the lost and thirsty patrons meandering up an alley and down a dark hallway looking for backbar. But not to worry; a speakeasy should make you feel like you’re in the wrong place—until a smiling hostess leads you into a cushiony lair graced with chalkboard-art walls and rays of sun peeking through a hidden skylight.

Cocktail from Backbar

Despite its elusive aura, we love the way backbar strikes a balance between exclusivity and accessibility. On the one hand, the menu’s got plenty of jargon to intrigue cocktail aficionados, and those bearded, suspender-toting bartenders are the kind you’d trust to craft that favorite drink exactly how you like it. But novices can have just as much fun, thanks to poetic drink descriptions to spark curiosity (“we’ll travel the stars on beams of light,” reads one) and categories of “infused,” “refreshed,” “reversed,” and “confused” to guide us toward our desired drunken state.

Rotating specials can be worth the risk. We just had to order “Queen B’s Pink Lemonade,” a Beyoncé-inspired mix of gin, lemon, ginger, hibiscus, and honey. One almost frightening milk punch of the week, the “Hamburger and Ketchup”—a blend of clarified milk, pastrami whiskey, hot sauce, Worcestershire, and citrus—was surprisingly tasty.

Interior of Backbar

While sipping your gastro-inspired cocktails, sample the culinary creations of next-door neighbor Field & Vine via little plates that cost anywhere from $4 to $13: think Buttermilk Ranch Popcorn, Old Bay-spiced nuts, and Sunchoke Hummus.

Between 4 and 6 p.m., free wifi is offered to encourage ditching the office early and finishing those last emails over a few drinks. It’s a great idea, but be warned: You’ll be work-emailing very enthusiastically halfway through the first of these potent elixers, but once you’re well into the second, better to close the laptop and see what else the night has in store.

Cocktails from Backbar

Drink prices aren’t listed, but most cocktails on the menu go for $12.

This is a sit-down place, so no standing and hanging around the bar. Reservations are only accepted for parties of six or more, Sundays and Tuesday-Thursday; expect a moderate wait on weekend nights.

The focus is on cocktails, but beer lovers can order off a small-yet-carefully-curated list. For wine by the glass, there’s only one option each for red, white, rosé, and sparkling.

Like the snacks? Head right over to the lovely, plant-lined dining room of Field & Vine for heartier plates.

Must Haves

  • No matter how tempting the menu, don't make a final decision until your server has described the daily, weekly, and milk punch specials in full-that's where you'll find the most surprising combos.

Fun Fact

Clarified milk—the base for backbar’s weekly milk punch specials—is made by curdling milk using citrus and straining out the whey. The whey is clear but rich in lactose and protein, giving cocktails a uniquely smooth and rich mouthfeel.

Tastes of backbar

So good we can't stop writing about it. Read more about backbar!

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