Every year Esquire sends two lucky laborers out into the world to sample the cocktails, food and atmosphere at hundreds of new and existing bars across the country. They then compile their favorites into an annual list.
Boston Bars and Cambridge cantinas are no strangers to Esquire‘s Best Bars in America annual lists, but this year, the publication recognized an intimate cocktail lounge called Baldwin and Sons Trading Co., located in small-town Woburn, MA.
Baldwin & Sons Trading Co. is located in Woburn’s oldest building, the historic Baldwin Mansion built in 1661. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, making it a hard-sell when the owners of Brookline’s Sichuan Garden proposed using the building for the second location of their Chinese restaurant.
The family-owned business won the difficult battle to take over the protected Baldwin mansion for Sichuan Garden II. Their son, award-winning bartender Ran Duan, opened the Baldwin Bar on the first floor next to the restaurant in 2010.
Duan is also responsible for the family’s latest endeavor – the 45 seat Baldwin & Son’s Trading Co. located upstairs on the mansion’s second floor.
Open Thursday through Sunday, the bar features an elegant library theme, dark stained wood and leather furniture.
According to the website, Baldwin & Sons’ “cocktails are approached with using only the finest ingredients and presentation.”
Some of the menu items are downright kooky – take the Jack Sparrow, for example: the description says it is made with Rum, Buttered Popcorn, Salted Bourbon, A Whole Egg and Angostura!
But Duan earned praise from Esquire for his unique drink creations and their elaborate presentations, including:
“the brown and bitter recipes in flasks served in cigar boxes” and “a glass egg filled with Aperol, absinthe, and grapefruit served on a bed of flowers.”
Baldwin & Sons also got an assist from Sichuan Garden downstairs. Esquire’s Luke O’Neil noted the fantastic bar menu which is an abbreviated sampling of the restaurant’s signature Chinese dishes.
“Picture the best Chinese-takeout restaurant you’ve been to: dumplings and thick-cut bacon in garlic, ginger, and Sichuan peppers. Now put that inside a New England Colonial mansion built in 1661. When you tack on one of the best cocktail bars in Massachusetts, it’s almost an embarrassment of riches.”
According to O’Neil, Duan also plans to add a rum-focused cocktail bar to Sichuan Garden I in Brookline at some point.