Long gone are the days when downtown Claremont went to bed when the sun went down. The city of Claremont – specifically the Claremont Village – has truly become a destination location over the past couple of decades. The expansion of “Village West” and crowd-driving events such as “Friday Nights Live” has made it almost impossible to find a place to park on a Friday evening. Live music fills the public areas, and the downtown area remains alive well into the evening.
Much of the revival can be attributed to the addition of the Metrolink station years ago, which has inspired the opening of a number of restaurants and other places to enjoy a beverage. New eateries throughout the community have seemingly played off of each other and created a synergy that certainly appears to be working. Now, the Claremont Courier even publishes a blog monitoring local nightlife called Claremont After Hours.
One of my favorite places continues to be Heroes and Legends on Yale Avenue. Perhaps the reason is the “Cheers” environment where “everybody knows your name” (rather than Norm on Cheers, the “Dude” is my brother-in-law Dave Bosson), or the generous portions or the big beers, it’s always been one of our “go-to” places.
With the recent resurgence of classic cocktails, and the explosion of craft beers, Heroes is staying current. Much of the credit belongs to waiter/bartender Mike Kuch, who has helped build an admirable beverage menu to satisfy today’s discerning drinkers. In fact, I’m often torn whether to opt for a craft beer or well-crafted cocktails when I’m there, especially if Mike is working. Classic cocktails have a complexity that those who have not tried them would be surprised to discover. I highly recommend “Mike’s Manhattan.”
I decided to go with bourbon on my last visit, and Mike prepared several different cocktails that are classics that most people my age know best as something our parents drank. Not anymore. My friends and I have developed a great appreciation for these traditional concoctions.
My first drink of the evening was a Manhattan, made with Bulleit rye whiskey, Antica Formula sweet vermouth, Angustora Bitters and a bar spoon of cherry juice. I prefer rye in my Manhattan, and I’ve developed a preference for Templeton Rye at home. Regardless, Mike makes a nice Manhattan.
Next up was and Old Fashioned, featuring bourbon, sugar, bitters and muddled orange and cherry. I closed the night with a Whiskey Sour consisting of bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup and vigorously shaken egg whites to add froth before topping with bitters. Mike shakes the drink twice before pouring it – once to blend the egg and sugar, and then again once the bourbon has been added.
Len Seligman joined me with the Manhattan and Old Fashioned, but ventured to a variation of a Negroni, in which Mike substituted bourbon for gin. As expected, it included Campari, sweet vermouth and an orange wedge garnish.
Meanwhile, my friend Stan Van Horn was happy with his Manhattans, electing not to taint his palate with conflicting flavors. Can’t blame him, but the other cocktails were also delicious.