Since the start of the semester, more and more students have been talking about Saloon, a pre-prohibition style bar that opened in December underneath the Foundry in Davis Square. You would easily miss it if you (a) weren’t paying very close attention or (b) didn’t know exactly where you were going. Up until recently, Saloon has relied entirely on word-of-mouth advertising, and somehow it seems to be working; Yelp exploded with reviews in its opening week, and only a month later the place is bustling every night.
Bucket List Destination of the Week: Saloon; 255 Elm Street; Somerville, MA
Goal: To drink all 105 varieties of whiskey
Successful? Fortunately, not, but we were offered free house-made drams at the end of the night. Minor win for Milas and Stella.
We started out the evening by snagging a corner booth, an ideal vantage point for casual observation. The windowless basement interior made us feel cozy and at ease under the warm glow of the iron chandeliers. After an overwhelming few minutes of “orientation” with the hostess, we perused the wood-mounted menu of over 100 whiskies. Indecisive and overwhelmed, we settled on a flask of house punch for two, which arrived in a funky pre-prohibition glass bottle with a metal clasp. It was like sangria, but complemented by a whiskey smokiness and biting citrus; its innocence was called into question at last call when we found ourselves taking shooters of straight bourbon.
51% rye or 51% corn?
American rye whiskies are made from at least 51% rye, while bourbon is made from at least 51% corn. Frequently believed to be from Bourbon County, Kentucky exclusively, bourbon can in fact be made anywhere in the US. We decided to try the Riverboat Rye and Buffalo Trace Bourbon (off-menu), both recommended to us by our suspender-clad bartender, Tom. While Stella enjoys the occasional glass of Jameson, whiskey is not Milas’ drink of choice. Still, our experience took us both by surprise; the whiskies fell lightly on our tongues and left barely any bite at all. Saloon caters to connoisseurs and adventurous newcomers alike; both Tom and our waitress Brittany were happy to answer the silliest of questions.
Saloon does serve Narragansett tall boys and cans of Budweiser along with its healthy selection of craft beers. Bartender Tom admitted, however, that unlike his previous gig on Boylston Street, this is no “Bud Light crowd.” For a bar whose only proof of existence at street level is a small lantern emblazoned with Saloon in tiny script, we were surprised by how vibrant it was on a Wednesday night. According to Tom, the busiest nights are Thursdays and Fridays, yet you are guaranteed lively attendance any night of the week.
Cocktails, bitters, and drams
Whiskey, yellow chartreuse, lemon, black currant syrup, soda ($11)
Gin, green chartreuse, lime, pineapple syrup, egg white ($11)
House-made pork belly rye whiskey, bitter berry, Southie Comfort ($9)
*Taken like a shot
Our unrealistic expectations
Although we appreciate a bar in Davis whose music level allows us to feign intellectual conversation over our whisky, the ambiance begs for a live band. On a busy night, you might also find yourself seated uncomfortably close to a mid-thirties couple digging into a giant, whole chicken with their knives and forks. Respite can be found in the secluded chestnut-crowned nook across from the bar. Though we applaud Somerville for keeping cigarettes out of bars, we cannot help but wish there had been a hazy cloud of smoke to separate us from that chicken so we could feel a little more like Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.