Lion's Tail

By Eric Twardzik   South End · Cocktail Bar · $$

Amid the sanitary glass constructions that line a recently transformed stretch of the South End’s Harrison Avenue, a wooden door with a lion-shaped knocker sticks out from the squeaky-clean mean. If this were 2009, you might need a password to get in. But it’s 2019 and you’re about to enter Lion’s Tail, a bar that manages to capture all that was good about the Great Cocktail Revival while avoiding its excesses.

There’s a familiar neo-speakeasy look about the place: diamond-tufted leather seats, shelves filled with cocktail books, and low, low lighting. Luckily, the curvilinear bar is stocked with miniature lamps to illuminate your delightfully illustrated cocktail menu.

Broken into sections ranging from “Adventurous” to “Stirred” to “Fancy as F*#k,” the menu details 35 cocktails. For all its obscure ingredients and novel combinations, there’s not a hint of pretension. How could there be, considering this is a bar where you can repeat “Paul Rudd’s Hawaiian Name in Forgetting Sarah Marshall” verbatim and receive a drink?

And what a drink that is. It combines two rums, which is nothing new in the tiki game—but it also includes a coconut-washed version of the herbal Italian liqueur Galliano.

Naturally, glorious garnishing is deployed at Lion’s Tail. Order The OG Fizz and enjoy the smell of torched rosemary before taking your first sip. Settle on a New York Streets Swizzle, and you get a tall, frosty glass of pineapple-infused gin crowned with an entire bunch of mint. Even stirred drinks come with flair: The boozy Fat Luke is passed down in a chilled flask.

These aren’t post-now, forget-later drinks. If anything, the multi-layered cocktails reveal new flavors and characteristics with each repeat order. Which presents the following problem: you may have an easier time completing War and Peace than the cocktail menu at Lion’s Tail.

The first Wednesday of each month is #WCW, a.k.a. Woman Crush Wednesday. From 8 to 10 p.m. a special guest female Boston bartender will get behind the bar to mix up her own additions to the cocktail list, with some of the proceeds going to charity.

Bring a little Lion’s Tail home via its signature Old Tom-style gin made in collaboration with Bully Boy, which is sold at Social Wines in South Boston.

Leaving hungry after last call? Lion’s Tail is just a stone’s throw from some of Boston’s only late-night food. Walk to East Berkeley Street and discover El Triunfo and Ali Baba, where respective Mexican and Turkish eats are served until 3 a.m.

Must Haves

  • Japanese whisky, absinthe, and Green Chartreuse: The OG Fizz might sound far-out on paper, but in the glass it’s a frothy and acidic whiskey fizz variant crowned by an aromatic garnish of smoked rosemary.

  • Made with two rums, rye, banana liqueur, and amaro, the Fat Luke is a boozy feast of flavor. Sip from the chilled flask it’s served in or dilute it in the ice-filled rocks glass that comes on the side (we like doing a little of both).

  • We dare you not to snap a photo of this towering swizzle topped with a whole hanging garden’s worth of mint. Its base of pineapple-infused gin makes it taste like a tiki drink that took a delightfully wrong turn.

  • It may take you longer to say the name of this juicy tiki number made from multiple rums and coconut-washed Galliano liqueur than it does to finish it.

Fun Fact

The menu’s whimsical illustrations come from one of the many rare cocktail books in owner Jarek Mountain’s collection.

Navigate the Boston food scene like a pro!

Subscribe to receive intel on Boston’s best bites right in your inbox.

Thank you!