Drink This Now: the Lanesboro Cocktail, a Tribute to Restaurateur Ken Kelly

A Dana-Farber fundraiser, this barrel-aged take on a classic Irish sipper is now available at Brass Union, the Independent, Saloon, Foundry on Elm, and River Bar.

The Lanesboro Cocktail

The Lanesboro Cocktail. / Photo provided

The late Ken Kelly is an integral reason why the Somerville restaurant scene is booming today, and his employees have created a cocktail-for-a-cause in his honor. The barrel-aged Lanesboro, a play on the classic Irish cocktail the Tipperary, is now available at the Independent, Brass Union, Foundry on Elm, Saloon, and River Bar.

Kelly passed away just before Christmas, after a long battle with cancer, the Boston Globe reported. He is remembered as a dedicated member of his community, who saw Somerville’s potential. His first pub, the Independent, was established in a very different Union Square in 2001. In addition to bars and restaurants, he also opened the Davis Square Theatre. The Somerville Chamber of Commerce honored Kelly with a lifetime achievement award in 2014.

The Lanesboro cocktail has been in the works since August, and it was always in homage to Kelly, says Brass Union general manager Paulo Pereira, who batched and bottled the drink. Through Glendalough Distillery’s national brand representative, Donal O’Gallachoir, Pereira received a 16.5-gallon, Hungarian white oak barrel. It had previously aged some Glendalough whiskey, as well as a Jack’s Abby Framinghammer Baltic porter.

That’s where the idea [to make a batched, barrel-aged cocktail] came from,” Pereira says. “After some thought, we decided to do something that could be available at all of Ken’s restaurants.”

“Ken made such an impression on anybody he ever met. He was a wonderful and unique human being,” Pereira continues. “I’ve been working for the company for a little more than two years, and in those short two years, he made me feel completely at home, like I am part of his family. I always felt a certain level of hospitality at his locations when I’d go in before I worked here. When the barrel was presented to me, it was a natural transition to make something that he would be proud of and really enjoy. You always want to honor someone like that,” he says.

After his death, the restaurant group decided to turn it into a full-fledged tribute. With Glendalough’s support, Pereira produced 75 specially-labeled, commemorative bottles of the Lanesboro, which have been distributed among the restaurants. Drinks will be poured to order. All proceeds from the sale of the Lanesboro cocktail go directly to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Pereira says.

The Lanesboro is named for Kelly’s family’s hometown in Ireland. It uses Glendalough Double Barrel, single-malt Irish whiskey, yellow chartreuse, Carpano Antica, and Bittermens Boston Bittahs. 

I used yellow [chartreuse], because I wanted to do something that was mellower than what green chartreuse gives to a traditional Tipperary,” Pereira says. Carpano Antica, an Italian vermouth, was a favorite of Kelly’s and is popular among his employees. The bitters add chamomile and citrus notes that give the drink a nice dynamic, he continues. Pereira recommends sipping the Lanesboro at room temperature, to best taste all the woodsy and warm nuances from the barrel-aging process, but he’ll happily serve it on the rocks, too.

“There’s no wrong way to enjoy anything,” Pereira says. “We’re very proud of it. We’re happy to share it with everyone we can.”

The Lanesboro cocktail, $16, is available while supplies last.

Brass Union, 70 Union Square, Somerville, 617-623-9211, brassunion.com.

Foundry on Elm, 255 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville, 617-628-9999, foundryonelm.com.

The Independent, 75 Union Square, Somerville, 617-440-6022, theindo.com.

River Bar, 661 Assembly Row, Somerville, 617-616-5561, river-bar.com.

Saloon, 255 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville, 617-628-4444, saloondavis.com.