6 Reasons to Imbibe at Alden & Harlow

Seth Friedus' cocktail program combines seasonal ingredients and culinary panache.

Alden & Harlow

Seth Friedus’ bar program at Alden & Harlow has quickly become one of the most inventive in Boston. Photo by Alex Lau

Seth Friedus’  name might not resonate with the same gravitas as his mentor, Jackson Cannon, bar director of the Hotel Commonwealth holy trinity of Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and The Hawthorne, but that’s about to change. The Alden & Harlow bar manager has launched one of the most dynamic cocktail programs anywhere in the city, incorporating everything from house-made draft bitters to a walk-in brimming with infused spirits. Friedus has even managed to bridge the invisible barrier often erected between bar and kitchen, working closely with sous chef David Tollerud to utilize seasonal produce, brines, sauces, and whole flower hops grown in Tollerud’s own backyard. Here are six reasons why you should be drinking at Harvard Square’s new culinary it spot.

Alden & Harlow

Seth Friedus has an extensive infusion program he uses for his cocktail list like this Chinook hops infused mezcal. Photo by Alex Lau

1. The Hopped-Up Margarita: 

Sous chef David Tollerud is an avid homebrewer who even grows his own Chinook hops, but strapped for time recently, his latest harvest was doomed to wither on the vine. Fortunately Friedus had the innovative idea of infusing the pine-scented cones with smokey mezcal. He combines the neon green aftermath, which he labeled “Hulk Juice,” with Pimms, lime, Demerara, and ginger beer in the Golding’s Bastard highball. “It’s a back-pocket recipe I experimented with from my days at Eastern Standard,” says Friedus. “It’s like a margarita with Pimms instead of curacao. The Pimms just adds those bitter orange and chocolate flavors that work really well with agave distillates.”

2. House Bitter:

“I love drinking straight vermouth and we all drink shots of Fernet Branca at the end of the night,” says Friedus. “But I wanted to do something different that represented what we’re all about at Alden & Harlow.” What Friedus concocted was a vermouth based-potable bitter that he kegs and pours on draft. First, he infuses earthy dates into Madeira and brandy, then mixes them with dry white wine, caramelized sugar, and a secret blend of herbs, spices, roots, and barks. The harmonious aftermath is a bittersweet digestif that’s already one of Friedus’s biggest hits. “My fiancee drinks this all the time when I make it at home and we go through at least one five-gallon keg each week at the restaurant.”  

Alden & Harlow

From top to bottom: Lillet infused with fennel, sweet vermouth infused with smoked orange, and bourbon infused with fennel. Photo by Alex Lau

3. Seasonal Vermouths: 

One of the many reasons Jackson Cannon is admired throughout the cocktail industry is his trendsetting use of house-made vermouths and bitters; a program Cannon is now teaching to other mixologists around the country. But while apprenticing under the influential bartender at Eastern Standard, Friedus began introducing seasonal ingredients into the shrub and vermouth programs. He’s carried that over to Alden & Harlow where he’s made a pumpkin vermouth, as well as his most recent creation, a hickory-smoked orange variety. Patrons often request it straight-up or on the rocks, but Friedus specifically made it as a component of the Krakatoa, an original cocktail made with rye, dry curacao, and Dolin rouge vermouth.

4. Draft Cocktails:

Like the house-made bitter, Friedus has an evolving menu of draft cocktails that he kegs and pours from the Alden & Harlow draft system. The initial offering combined blended scotch, Swedish Punsch, mole bitters, and Green Mountain Distillers maple liqueur infused with oven-roasted chestnuts. “I literally hand-peeled and oven-roasted pounds and pounds of chestnuts at my house,” says Friedus. “It was very tedious, but well worth it.”

His latest, The Plaza Hotel, is a riff on Harry Macelhone‘s [from Harry’s New York Bar in Paris] most famous creation, The Boulevardier. “The Boulevardier was the house favorite cocktail when Macelhone was at the Plaza hotel in New York. We did a play on that with over-proofed bourbon, fennel-infused Lillet, and Campari.”

In place of the sweet vermouth, used as a base in The Boulevardier, Freidus macerates the French fortified wine [a white Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes] with sprigs of fennel. “Lillet is definitely sweet and has those nice stone fruit flavors of apricot and peach. Combined with the fresh fennel and the oregano and dried Italian herb flavors present in Campari, it works really well.”

Alden & Harlow

Alden & Harlow kegs a house-made bitter and a draft-only cocktail. Photo by Alex Lau

5. A Good Sweet and Sour Mix (if you can believe it!):

“I have to give a lot of credit to our sous chef Dave [Tollerud],” says Friedus. “He’s helped develop a tight-knit, symbiotic relationship between the kitchen and the bar.” Tollerud and Chef Michael Scelfo use pickled lemons in a number of dishes with a brine made from white wine vinegar, honey, sugar, white wine, bay leaf, and spices. “What they have leftover from the pickling is an agrodolce, basically a southern Italian sweet and sour sauce,” says Friedus. He uses the brine in place of a sweet and sour mix in his Catania—a blend of Berkshire Mountain Distillers “Ethereal” gin, Vermont maple syrup, and Peychaud bitters.

6. Starch + Booze: 

“I often go out and try these really cool cocktails, but find it very difficult to actually finish them,” says Friedus. “The whole goal is to create something cool and quaffable.”

Friedus seems to have figured out that delicate balance of quirky and delectable with his silky McGregor’s Garden, which combines Fighting Cock bourbon with Benedictine, lemon juice, and spiced parsnip puree.

“Spring-dug parsnips are what I dream about,” says Friedus. “I like to cook at home a lot with parsnips because they’re sweet and earthy and they go well with a good steak or pork loin. In a cocktail, an over-proofed, spicy bourbon can be used like a beefy protein.”