Competing with the slew
of excellent cocktail bars along Mass Ave is a tall order. Even taller? The spectacular 20-foot-high wall of backlit liquor bottles at Union 50. It’s the first thing you see as you walk into the spacious new barroom, the latest from the ubiquitous Cunningham Restaurant Group (Bru, Mesh, Boulder Creek). With that abundant collection of spirits, bartenders mix some fairly daring cocktails. Just don’t mistake the adventurous drink menu for pretension. At Union 50, which opened last summer, T-shirted bartenders serve up cans of Coors and Miller High Life with just as much hustle as they do a Clover Club (gin, lemon, raspberry syrup, and egg white) or El Oso Guapo (tequila, cognac, allspice dram, and smoked cherry). Tabletop shuffleboard and Skee-Ball beckon players to one corner. And the whole thing is housed in an old bricklayers’ union hall.
Union 50 has thus far mostly made headlines as a restaurant. But plenty of 30- and 40-somethings forgo the food menu here for a night of drinking. Snag a spot at the community table or snuggle into one of the five banquettes, where you can sit back and watch the dinner crowd come and go.
Eight wines await on draft, including throwback vinos like Lillet Blanc and Cocchi Americano. (Roddy Kirchenman, Union 50’s general manager, is a certified sommelier.) If you can’t decide among the cocktails, go with the Scarlet Witch—the pomegranate-lemon vodka concoction with a sprig of rosemary is one of the most-Instagrammed drinks downtown. 620 N. East St., 610-0234, union-50.com
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