What's On Their Mind | August 29 - September 11 | featuring Brother Cleve Print

Local cocktail legend Brother Cleve joins our expert panel of judges at the Movers & Shakers Cocktail Competition in the BCA’s Cyclorama on September 28 from 7–9:30pm. Sample along with Cleve as twenty of the best restaurants in Boston compete to craft a cocktail (and a tasty food pairing) worthy of being called a work of art.

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Where does your passion for cocktails come from? How long have you been writing about cocktails?

Growing up in the 1960’s, cocktails always started off special occasions in my family, and I got my “Roy Rogers” cocktail so as to not feel left out. As a young punk rocker in the 70’s, I drank Manhattans and Old Fashioneds in dive bar rock clubs like The Rat; by the 80’s I was collecting and studying vintage cocktail books. I got my first bartending job in 1988 and started making Pre-Prohibition cocktails for the public…though most people preferred drinks like Sex On The Beach and Mudslides at the time. That all began to change by the mid-90’s, when I started to really lead the charge. I’ve been blessed to have spent 30 years traveling around the world as a musician and DJ, trying every local spirit along the way. I find the alchemy of creating cocktails fascinating.

What’s the most surprising combination of flavors/liquors you’ve encountered? Something that shouldn’t make sense but when you drank it, it was exceptional?

There is a book which was published in 1952 titled Bottom's Up, which contained a recipe for an obscure drink from the 1920’s called The Last Word—Gin, Maraschino Liqueur, Green Chartreuse, and lime juice. It just sounded terrible when I first read it 25 years ago. But it turned out it all works amazingly well! Modern bartenders discovered in in the last decade and now it’s well known as a classic drink!

At Movers & Shakers one of the categories is pairing, best pairing of cocktail and food. What’s the best pairing of food and cocktail that you’ve experienced? What will you be looking for when it comes to pairing?

You know it when you taste it! My education goes back decades to classic Steak Houses featuring Manhattans alongside Filet Mignon, or drinking Vermouth with Tapas in Spain, Negronis with antipasto in Italy. Just as with wine, you want flavors that not only enhance and compliment each other but also balance them out, so one doesn’t overwhelm the other. Pairing cocktails with food courses is a recent development, since traditionally cocktails were served as an appetite stimulant before dinner. But it’s great fun to play around with the plethora of flavor profiles found in the worlds of both spirits and food.

What book, movie, exhibition, play, dance would you recommend to a friend?

I spend the bulk of my days in my lab mixing up new cocktails for BNEG (Red Lantern, Empire) and clients like Jägermeister and Red Bull, or on the turntables in my studio mixing records (check out my mixes at https://m.mixcloud.com/brothercleve/). Wish I had more time to enjoy other things! But everyone who enjoys cocktails should have David Wondrich’s Imbibe and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry's Potions Of The Caribbean in their libraries. And I can’t wait to read Robert Simonson's A Proper Drink, the history of the cocktail revival, due out in September.

What drew you to supporting the work of the BCA? What excites you about the organization?

I’ve worked at over 100 events at the BCA/Cyclorama since its early days in the 1970’s, it’s a fantastic organization and a beautiful space to do events in. My favorite residency, of course, is “The Art of the Cocktail”!