The Hawthorne’s Bar Program Just Got an Update

Gone is the mammoth cocktail menu. More beer and some super rare spirits are now in its place.

the hawthorne

The Hawthorne’s bar director, Jackson Cannon. Photo courtesy of The Hawthorne

Although laid-back and always service-oriented, The Hawthorne—and its swanky, subterranean lounge—has nonetheless exuded the posh extremes of the craft cocktail culture. Now co-owner and bar director Jackson Cannon is attempting to change that perception. Gone are the voluminous tomes detailing every cocktail developed at The Hawthorne since its inception in 2011. In its place, Cannon has created a new streamlined menu featuring five to seven rotating cocktail suggestions, a page of wine, and an extensive new selection of beer.

“The menu is something I’m very passionate about, whether it be the very expansive Eastern Standard menu to the really focused, aperitif-driven menu at Island Creek Oyster Bar, to that book format we established when we opened The Hawthorne,” Cannon says. “Unfortunately, The Hawthorne changed by addition only. The book was pretty weighty and to read the whole thing before you even got your first cocktail was going to take 30 minutes. While we’re still working off of that lexicon, we decided to really narrow down those choices to four or five things that are on our mind at the time. That’s giving people a digestible amount information to choose from.”

At least for their initial round, Cannon is hoping to alleviate the burden of perusing pages upon pages of dense material in favor of Omakase (or bartender’s choice) service, where guests are served drinks based on their articulated preferences. 

“In a sense, the book still exists for us because those are the drinks we’re still going to when we’re having that conversation with a guest and asking them what they’re into,” Cannon says. “We can still back that up with all the information that we’ve developed over the first couple years. Just handing someone that one piece of paper, there are still people who want us to be their guide. In a service way, it allowed us to get to the heart of the matter.”

In addition to the dramatic format changes, general manager Nicole Lebedevitch has also been given free reign to explore her passion for beer. The Hawthorne has doubled the size of its selection with a focus on canned beers from craft brewers like Evil Twin and Founder’s, as well as Belgian-style sours and saisons.

“It’s such an exciting time in beer,” Cannon says. “Initially, we had a very focused menu of world class beers. It had grown in small amounts, but Nicole is very passionate about beer and she oversaw this expansion. The selection is an effort to give people what they’re actually starting to look for. When you don’t have draft, it makes people think you’re not a beer bar, but we sure can be. I know we’re always going to be known for cocktails, and that’s the bulk of what we do. But we’re passionate about beer, and we think it’s on the same footing as all the great alcoholic beverages.”

Returning patrons will also notice the lengthy spirit list edited out of The Hawthorne’s new menu. For those wanting straight sippers, Cannon is printing out an inventory list of spirits that will be updated daily. These will include The Hawthorne’s clandestine collection of rare bourbons, scotches, and mezcals, like a barrel-select Cragganmore 22 chosen by Julio’s Liquors in Westborough and a single-village Del Maguey mezcal that was infused with Iberico ham specifically for José Andrés’ restaurants.

“The new approach has definitely allowed us to become more facile in our interaction with guests,” Cannon says. “I’m proud of the book, but it’s time to put the poetry on the shelf. It’s time to just drink.”