The Iceman Stirreth

By Amy Traverso | Boston Magazine |

It sounds like a fancy chef’s term, but its meaning is far more utilitarian. Mise en place (pronounced "mee-zawn-ploss") is simply the French phrase for the orderly prepping and setting out of ingredients and gear that lets you serve 200 diners a night without falling behind.

Bartenders have their own version of mise—especially top mixologists like John Gertsen, bar manager of Barbara Lynch’s Drink in Fort Point Channel. He’s a great lover of golden-age cocktails like Manhattans and highballs, with all their accompanying tools, elixirs, legends, and arcana. Not everything’s retro, however. Along with the obscure potions and bitters of yore, Gertsen’s got a souped-up icemaker that’s decidedly high-tech: a machine that fashions cubes according to precision size and shape specifications, to get you—and your drink—chilling out optimally.

1. HERBS Basil, rosemary, lavender, rose geranium, mint, and thyme come direct from the Herb Lyceum in Groton, and end up muddled in minty mojitos and zesty bee’s knees.

2. VINTAGE GLASSWARE Gertsen has amassed some 500 pieces all told, including a ’60s-era "You, Me, Ours" cocktail shaker set for two. His favorite suppliers: Brimfield and eBay.

3. FRESH FRUIT JUICES Staffers squeeze citrus fruits all year round, adding tropical juices as the season allows.

4. BITTERS Beyond popular commercial bitters like Angostura, Gertsen commissions exotic flavors like grapefruit and mole (with bitter chocolate and spice) from Janet and Avery Glasser, a local husband-wife team whose Bittermens line has made them cocktail stars.

5. SPICES Supplies include fresh nutmeg for rum drinks, toddies, Alexanders, and flips; cinnamon for citrus and hot whiskey drinks; peppercorns for spicy bee stings.

6. SYRUPS From-scratch raspberry, pomegranate (grenadine), honey, and natural cane syrups sweeten everything from fruity drinks to Sazeracs.

7. GARNISHES Gertsen and company cure their own olives, macerate fresh cherries in liqueurs, and pickle onions with allspice, pepper, rosemary, chili, and juniper berries for the perfect Gibson.

8. LIQUEURS House-made cordials like limoncello and lime liqueur serve as flavoring agents, and Gertsen brews up traditional concoctions like milk punch (brandy, rum, lemon, sugar, spices, and milk) to yield the libational equivalent of amuse-bouches.

9. ICE CUBES The ideal cocktail requires a customized cube, says Gertsen, who uses a contraption called the Kold-Draft to turn out ice shaped and sized for optimal texture and meltability—all made from 100-pound blocks brought in from Gloucester. Punch bowls get large, slow-melting chunks; juleps get feathery shavings; and whiskey drinks rate handcarved spheres.