The Liquor Stores We Rely On: the Scouting Party

Posted on Sep 14, 2017


The Liquor Stores We Rely On: the Scouting Party

We write many words about where we buy drinks, and about what bottles we buy. We’ve realized recently that we’ve written very few on the very crucial question of where we find those bottles. Where would we be without a good spirits supplier? In fact we find that we rely on an entire team of stores to insure that we get the bottles we want, when we want them, at a price we’re willing to pay.

Our specific suggestions will be most useful to people who live on Capitol Hill or in Cambridge, MA. But we’ll also be speaking more generally about the types of liquor stores we turn to, and the characteristics we look for  in them. We started  with a description of the All-Purpose, that store you rely on to fulfill the large majority of your liquor needs. After a brief vacation break, we are spending this week talking about the other stores that play a crucial niche role to help us round out our bar.

Today, we’re take a look at the Scouting Parties. These stores aren’t terribly good at providing the bread and butter necessities. You can’t do without bread and butter, which is why the All-Purpose is the most important liquor store to have in your repertoire. But if you only ever eat bread and butter, things can get a little boring. We all need some help making sure that we don’t get stuck in a rut. For that reason, our favorite stores are the Scouting Parties. They’re like wonderlands of liquor, constantly displaying the diversity of the liquor wold. They’re the stores that delight in finding new and interesting things to try: a new local spirit maker, a unique liqueur, great products from unexpected places. And if you’re looking for a specific bottle, if they don’t stock it, they’re delighted to track it down for you.

Profile of a Scouting Party: Pemberton Farms

Location: Mass Ave in North Cambridge

Best Feature: constantly renewed collection of interesting things

Best Buy: the latest interesting local, craft gin

Weakness: they don’t even try to be well-rounded; it’s not they’re thing

Pemberton Farms started out as a garden supply store, and from the outside it still looks like one. At some point in time, they added a beautifully presented but absurdly expensive specialty grocery store and organic produce market. Next, they added a deli that makes far and away the best sandwiches in the neighborhood. All of that was just them fumbling their way toward their true calling: the most interesting liquor store in the world. One day, without warning, they displaced all of their garden supplies out to the yard and filled their ample back room with wine, beer, and spirits instead. Their large selection of craft beer offers endless fascinating choices. Their spirit and liqueur selection is much smaller, but every bottle counts. Whenever you’re in the mood for something new, simply browse their shelves and pick almost any bottle up for a try. They encourage experimentation by offering regular tastings of new and interesting things. And every once in a while, they blow the doors off by letting distillers practically take over the store with endless spirit samples, and even sample-sized cocktails. This year’s rendition of the Summer Spirits Spectacular has already passed, but it looks like they’ve added a winter version to the rotation as well. Don’t miss it, and make sure you’re well-hydrated and have eaten something before you go, and that you don’t have anything important to do after.