Mixing It Up

Bartender Shannon Corrigan on Boston’s Trendy Bar Scene

Marriott Hotels’ Boston Bourbon Battle winner Shannon Corrigan says bars in Boston are always on trend. (Photo: courtesy Marriott Hotels)

Bartender Shannon Corrigan started her 20-year career in the food and drink biz serving and then bartending in a rowdy and crowded Irish pub. “It’s the perfect crash course for a young first-time bartender,” she says.

Today, Corrigan still enjoys creating an unforgettable cocktail while meeting new people in the fast-paced atmosphere at the Waterline restaurant’s bar in the Boston Marriott Long Wharf. As the winner of the Boston leg of Marriott’s five-city Bourbon Battles competition, Corrigan is on her way to being crowned the ultimate bourbon cocktail craftsman on National Bourbon Day, but first she shares with Marriott Traveler her award-winning cocktail, the best bourbon drink, Boston’s hip bar scene, and one must-see attraction you have to experience when visiting Beantown.

What was the name of your winning cocktail in the Marriott Hotels’ Bourbon Battle? What inspired this cocktail?

I didn’t really have a name for my winning cocktail because it was a surprise drink. I suppose now I would call it the “Breakfast Battle” because my inspiration for the idea came from a mimosa. The surprise ingredient was a cranberry shrub, which has a sweet, yet tangy flavor. I refer to it as a “battle” for a few reasons. It was the final round in the competition. I knew it would be a risky move by adding Prosecco to a bourbon-based drink, which challenged the judges’ preconceived notions of a traditional cocktail… and to take a chance on such strange mix. Nobody thinks bourbon for breakfast!

I would definitely serve this drink at the Waterline Bar. I think it would be a hit … any time of day.

The Breakfast Battle Recipe

• Brown Sugar

• Cranberry Vinegar Shrub (Secret ingredient)

• Aztec Chocolate Bitters

• Gentleman Jack

• Topped off with Prosecco

shannon corrigan boston marriott long warf
Shannon Corrigan (l) with spirits expert Heather Greene at Marriott Hotel’s Boston Bourbon Battle. (Photo: courtesy Marriott Hotels)

What inspired you to enter the Bourbon Battle competition? What did you think about your competitors? Why do you think the competition is important?

In the last few years I have really developed a love of bourbon and I am competitive by nature; so, this was right up my alley. And let’s face it, as bartenders, we are always on stage. I loved my competitors. They were a great bunch that made fabulous and unique cocktails. Some creating classic cocktails, but putting their own spin on them to make them their own.

I think the competition is important to not only create a buzz for a genuine staple of the spirit industry in the U.S., but also to showcase how bourbon — a classic or old-time dinosaur spirit— can be used as the base for an new innovative cocktail.

Marriott Hotels is invested in their Bourbon Program. Do you think the program is helpful to Marriott bartenders and or guests? If so, how and why?

I think the program is helpful to both, bartenders and guests, as well as the bourbon industry as a whole. Having an extended list of bourbons helps to educate the novice drinker and expands the palate of people who have been consuming the same brand for years. By having a variety … I feel we (bartenders) can appeal to a wider net of spirit drinkers; which helps the small batch distilleries gain notoriety in the industry. In the past, this was a much harder feat to achieve.

What specific advice would you give to a first-time bourbon drinker? Explain why.

I would tell them to start slow, and maybe try an “Old Fashioned” because it has a sweetness to it that may help if you’re not accustomed to the taste or feel of bourbon.

Describe the cocktail scene in your city? What are the big trends at the moment?

The Boston bar landscape has everything you could want when it comes to new and trendy. The city has unmarked whiskey and bourbon speakeasies cropping up all over such as the Saloon and Brick & Mortar.

The craft beer movement is definitely giving the speakeasies a run for their money. It seems that the DIY trend of distilling and brewing is pretty hot right now and there are many spots that cater to this small niche crowd.

Is there a popular local cocktail that represents Boston? If so, what is it and why does it represent the city?

Boston’s bar scene is always changing and the cocktails are no different. But I suggest the “Ward 8″ if you want a tried-and-true staple cocktail in Boston. This cocktail was created in 1989 when Martin Lomasney narrowly won his state legislature seat … thanks to Boston’s Ward 8. Rye whiskey, lemon juice, orange juice and grenadine are the main ingredients of this popular Beantown cocktail.

Other than the Waterline Bar, what are your favorite places to pick up the perfect bourbon cocktail and mingle with the locals in Boston? Why?

There are so many hot spots right now. Pier 6 in Chelsea is a perfect spot to sip some bourbon and enjoy the impeccable views of the city’s harbor. The Wink & Nod is also very popular right now because of its handcrafted cocktails served in a perfect speakeasy-like setting.

What is a must-see attraction for first-time visitors in Boston? Where do you have to go? How do you get to know the city?

A must-see attraction in Boston for anyone would be Fenway Park. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a baseball fan or not. Take the tour of the Park. It’s informative, historical and entertaining … and definitely worth a visit.

Boston is a very “walk-able” city. I say grab a Dunkin’ Donuts’ iced coffee and wander the streets. There is also no shortage of bars and pubs around if you need a quick pint or a relaxing “Manhattan.”

What other cities have impressed you with their bourbon? Why?

I loved the charm and variety of bourbons offered in New Orleans. The overall history of the city is an added benefit of the more obscure spirits I found there. I didn’t spend nearly as much time as I would have liked to in New Orleans, but the 21st Amendment and Arnaud’s French 75 definitely had a cool ambience with delicious cocktails. And I’m still bummed I missed out on Sazerac Bar. I heard its classic décor and laidback atmosphere make it a must-see bar. I guess I need to head back (to New Orleans) soon!

This story appears as a part of a partnership with Marriott Hotels and Travel Brilliantly, fostering the creativity of the inventive class through stories that motivate, inspire and fuel a constant quest for knowledge.


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