Your First Look at The Hawthorne, Officially Open This Evening

All photos by Chelsea Kyle for Boston magazine.

Ever since we heard that the Island Creek Oyster Bar and Eastern Standard team had plans to open a cocktail lounge in the old Foundation Lounge space in The Hotel Commonwealth, we were pretty psyched. And after waiting for several months, the official opening date has finally arrived—it’s tonight!

Called The Hawthorne, the lounge is co-owner and local cocktail legend Jackson Cannon’s dream spot, with a sizable 18-seat bar plus a large communal high top table, lots of cushy lounge seating and a second lounge off to the side. Drinks-wise, Cannon says to expect a tightly-edited daily changing roster of specials, as well as a larger menu containing a mix of classics and seasonally-influenced originals.

As for the folks who will be making these drinks, The Hawthorne is stacked with talent: ES longtime barwoman Nicole Lebedevitch is head bartender, and former Drink bar manager Scott Marshall plays a large role behind the bar as well. Matthew Schrage, opening service manager for Menton, will serve as general manager. Food-wise, expect booze-friendly, easy-to-eat fare like kraut-topped reuben toasts, robiola du latte grilled cheese, and soft pretzels with bourbon mustard from ICOB and ES chef Jeremy Sewall.

While obviously it’s all about the cocktails at The Hawthorne, we couldn’t help but be struck by the unique décor. Cannon says that since The Hawthorne is technically a hotel bar (it’s part of the Hotel Commonwealth), the goal was for it to have a homey, residential vibe: “We thought, what would it be like to extend this residential vibe, this kind of comfort of the hotel, to having a craft cocktail experience?”

To find out the minds behind the décor, get a peek at the space, and preview two new cocktails, scroll below.

In the first photo (top, feat. Cannon), the drink to the left is called a “Paper Plane” (it’s an ode to NY-based bartender Sam Ross); it’s a mix of bourbon, Aperol, Nonino Quintessentia, and lemon juice. Above, a look at the upper level of the space (near the entrance). The landing was extended significantly from its Foundation Lounge days.

Above is one of the lounge areas off to the left of the bar. Artist Stephen Sheffield and his wife Alison, an interior designer, collaborated on the space’s design and decor. Several of Sheffield’s art works are featured in the space—you may recognize his work from the large-scale photos in Eastern Standard or the neon-accented Duxbury Bay mural at Island Creek Oyster bar—and he also sourced works from about 60 other artists.

This secondary lounge area doubles as a private dining space. In the back bookcases you can find carefully sourced antiques and knick knacks like a vintage Russian vodka chiller as well as classic books. There are no televisions anywhere in The Hawthorne. “It was important to us to having a stimulating environment, in order to pick up the slack,” Cannon says.

One of our favorite elements of the entire lounge is this bookcase (located in the second lounge area), that’s filled with a mix of Cannon’s favorite things (his favorite spirits line the top, while the glassware comes from his personal collection) and items sourced by Alison Sheffield.

There’s also a second bar in the second lounge. The cart on the left will contain mise en place for the evening’s cocktail specials, Cannon says.

Above is a cocktail called “The Bamboo,” which is a classic cocktail consisting of sherry and dry vermouth. Cannon’s version will likely be dubbed “The Bamboo #2″ or something of the like, since it uses sweet vermouth instead of dry, and also contains Angostura bitters.

(The Hawthorne, 500A Commonwealth Avenue, Boston)

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