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Lightly Toasted: Chronicles of the Friday Night Cocktail Club

The Modern Lovers 
Sep. 5, 2011 4:41 pm 
Updated: Sep. 28, 2011 2:40 pm
I was not expecting cocktails. Earlier, when we first stepped into the lobby of the sleek, spare Modern Hotel in Boise, it's fair to say that my impression was running more toward complementary continental breakfast than finely crafted cocktails. Mornings and early afternoons, you see, the lounge disguises itself as a comfy spot for croissants and hot coffee.

But now it was late afternoon--late hot afternoon--as SLS and I strolled out to the patio of the Modern, and took seats in the spot that once would've been the shallow end of the wading pool, back when this was a Travel Lodge. But the whole place has been handsomely refurbished. The Modern has gone modern, tastefully. And now, instead of a pool, there's a rectangular patch of loose gravel overlaid with thin slabs of flat sandstone for stepping, with raised stone fire pits here and there and patches of tall dessert grasses skirting the edges; canvas tarps strung overhead, kite-like, keeping the scene bearable in the August heat. Everything in the muted colors of the desert.

I was plenty parched, and what I wanted most was a cold, cold glass of ice water. Almost immediately, a server appeared bearing two tall, perspiring Tom Collins glasses full of ice water and set them down in front of us. And it was then that I had the clear, unmistakeable sense that we were in the right place for a cocktail after all.

It wasn't the glassware that tipped me off, but the ice in those twin Tom Collins glasses of water. A handful of inch-and-a-half square cubes of beautiful, flawless ice. Now I'm not from Boise, and maybe here in the hot high desert, people go all out in pursuit of cooling down their tap waters and soft drinks. But going through all the trouble of having superior quality, craft ice seemed like a harbinger of some higher purpose.

And indeed, the cocktail list appeared next before us.

I wasted no time ordering a mint julep because I wanted something with loads and loads of ice. SLS ordered a big bourbony drink with French bitters--a little like an old fashioned without the sugar--which, in a cooler setting, would probably have been my drink, too. But in the heat, sitting under the shade on the patio, I was just fine with the julep, and then some. It was delicious and made with shaved ice. Just perfect. SLS' drink had just one giant boulder of a hand-crafted ice cube. Her cocktail was not as ferociously cold as mine, naturally, but equally tasty.

Customized ice and two of the best cocktails I've had in a while. And all so unexpected. Ideally I would need a few more days to see what they did with some other favorites: a negroni on ice, for instance, with a slice of orange (Italian style!) comes to mind. Be we were just in Boise for one night, to catch the Eilen Jewell show at the Egyptian Theater. (Incidentally, it was a better show than I even hoped for--Ms. Jewell is kind of a cross between Lucinda Williams and Billie Holiday, like something from another era, with a voice that almost can't be true, but so clearly is.)

Oh, and in the morning, back at the hotel, we woke, still pulsing with the songs from the night before, and walked down to the lounge to find that, yes, there was a beautiful continental breakfast spread out across the counter. The booze bottles were tucked away someplace out of sight with no sign of an exceptional ice program anywhere. But I know you're there, perfect cocktail ice and high-shelf bourbon and gin, somewhere, and I know what this place is about, and you can be sure we'll be back, just as soon as we can dream up an excuse for slipping back into Boise and the Modern Hotel.
cocktails at the modern
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Sep. 5, 2011 7:38 pm
beautifully written...thanks for sharing Lorem Ipsum!
Sep. 8, 2011 8:12 am
Love it! Cheers!
Sep. 28, 2011 2:40 pm
Thank you for the tip. I live near Boise and now I know where to get a fabulous drink! Cheers!
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Seattle, Washington, USA

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About Me
My wife and I and our two devilish kittens live on Capitol Hill in Seattle. A few years ago, I got a masters in gastronomy. I'm a food/wine writer. I’m also blogging about cocktails.
My favorite things to cook
We cook fairly simple dishes using fresh local ingredients that we pick up at the Seattle farmers market. My favorite thing is making a nice slow-braised or long-roasted something on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I like cooking with wine (in the dish and in the glass...and in the cook).
My favorite family cooking traditions
My mom never liked to cook, but she did well despite herself. Her mother, my omi, was from Munich and made delicious rouladen, sauerbraten and other traditional German and American dishes. Always bins and bins of home-baked cookies at Christmas. Wonderful rye bread. And beer. Opa would say, "Brotzeit ist die beste zeit."
My cooking triumphs
We’ve made the signature timpano dish from The Big Night a couple times. And for Thanksgiving 2007, we made Turducken. My wife and I are always volunteering to cook the big holiday meals with the family. We mix a signature cocktail, and get down to it.
My cooking tragedies
I made Thanksgiving Dinner for myself once when I was snowed-in in Denver. I nearly burned down the neighborhood.
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