Can we please live at the Hotel Commonwealth? Imagine: lazy brunches at Eastern Standard into each afternoon, followed by golden-hour Bavarian beer cheese and pretzels at The Hawthorne before today’s fresh catch at Island Creek Oyster Bar. And throughout it all? Drinks, drinks, drinks. Because these three Kenmore Square hotspots share more than just an edifice; they also share Jackson Cannon, beverage director extraordinaire. He’s directed drink programs at the Commonwealth’s two other restaurants since before he opened this cocktail bar in 2011.
One of Cannon’s many skills lies in grooming his employees for greatness. Here, like in the other bars he oversees, bartenders benefit from a constant learning experience coupled with freedom to experiment. Maybe all that creative nurturing is what makes it possible for The Hawthorne to switch up its cocktail menu weekly, each rendition boasting seven new creations that cover all the bases from ancestrals to tikis.
Despite the variety, balance is the name of the game. Take the tequila-based Spitfire: Chili-infused Aperol offers a simultaneous hit of heat and bitter to confront its citrus and cinnamon spice. The Old Ursuline’s buttery pecan interplays with toasty dark rum and caramely-spicy Lustau East India Solera, all of which stand up against a pithy bitterness from citrus and Cynar. Some creations, like the lime-and-mint-forward East Side, will make you rethink classics. (Why do mojitos need to be on the rocks? Why don’t they always contain cucumber—and gin?)
Cocktails aren’t the only reason we want to live here—this bar is closer to a living room than any other we know. Duos can sink into a series of soft armchairs that line the main room. Separated from neighbors by astoundingly tall backs and a smidge of carpeting beneath, these chairs are especially conducive to conversation. If you sit here and order some of the unpretentious, addictive snacks (mini pretzels, crispy waffle-shaped homemade potato chips, lardo and honey), it’ll be a balancing act to fit everything on the tiny adjacent tables. But this isn’t the kind of place where a smattering of plates will distract you from the dainty glasses and comfortable confabulation.
It’s often possible to squeeze into the bar or a communal table, but the armchairs can get booked weeks ahead of time. For the real lounge experience, plan ahead.
Whether you’re hosting a private gathering for 15 or 40, The Hawthorne offers a rentable private room tucked away from the main bar area, plus customizable beverage menus for the event.
If that drink from last week isn’t on the menu anymore, don’t despair—just ask. Bartenders are willing to combine any mix of ingredients for you and will happily experiment on your behalf.
Before jumpstarting his bartending career at Cambridge’s Lizard Lounge, Jackson Cannon was a professional musician.
Tastes of The Hawthorne
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