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Take a Walk Off the Beaten Path for Some Killer Craft Cocktails

By S. Mathur

Among those who know what they're talking about, the Lonely Planet occupies a niche of its own. When they listed Somerville, MA as one of the top ten most unexpectedly exciting places to visit, one of the reasons for the choice was Backbar. The bar is known for its cocktails, but just finding the building can be an adventure.

Bar Manager Melanie Maddox tells you how to get there and what you'll find: "Backbar is sort of a hidden gym, down an alley and long hallway, from the outside it can be hard to find. Once you are inside though, it is welcoming with a lot of personality. Some say we have a industrial, speakeasy vibe and yes you do need to know we are here to find us, so it does have that secret door vibe. The industrial vibe is more a layover from the previous use of the space which was a Ford dealership back in the day."

The bar was built around the space, keeping the look and adding to it with the work of local artists on the walls. The craft cocktail lounge has a hipster vibe but first-time visitors are pleasantly surprised to find that the atmosphere is welcoming and not at all intimidating. In fact, watching the bartenders mixing the cocktails and explaining the process to the customers is part of the evening's entertainment.

The Genius Hour from 4 to 5:30 every afternoon provides free WiFi for people who like an afternoon cocktail while finishing up the day's work. The cocktails include classics like the Hurricane and the Boston Cocktail, as well as new creations like the Peppermill bog with mezcal, cranberry, black pepper and eggwhite, the Refuge with bourbon, bitter, cherry and vanilla and Angel's reviver, which has tart whiskey sour with a touch of absinthe. The Little Brandon is bitter yet pleasant with vermouth and amaro. Or you can just pick the special of the day or leave it to the bartender's choice.

Who is a typical Backbar visitor? Typically, says Maddox, they're looking for something off the beaten path. This can be a cool cocktail, or an evening interacting with the friendly staff. Backbar has earned its reputation as a friendly place, and the friendly attitude extends to the neighbors as well. Maddox doesn't really consider nearby bars to be competitors.

"We love the Independent and Brass Union and usually head over to one of those places on the weekends for a beer since they have a later liqour license than us. Having so many options in the area is great since Union Square isn't really easy to get to via public transportation. People can make a night of it and check out all of the awesome spots in our neighborhood."

All in all, Backbar is the kind of place that makes people worry. As a customer said: "A truly good bar stirs the fear that you may never leave. I'm petrified."

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