12 questions with mixologist Jake Smith

Get to know Jake Smith from the UNI bar team. | Photo via @jake_smith_mixologist

Hey Boston, City Editor Jess here. I recently had the opportunity to talk with a local bartender who has shared a similar experience as me. Jake Smith is an award-winning mixologist who relocated from Columbia, SC (hey COLAtoday) last year. Today, we are going to get to know the Uni bartender a little better. 

From his favorite drinks + local dishes to what Bostonians are sippin’ on the most, here’s what he had to say. Plus, keep reading for a custom cocktail recipe just for #DrinkUpBoston. 

What are three things that you want people to know about you?

I’m new here to Boston, pretty much from everywhere on the East Coast. That brings in a lot of the culture that I try to make cocktails with and a lot of my inspiration comes from that. Cocktails are definitely an obsession of mine. 

I’m living here in Boston and I’m starting to find more things that I like, more things that I’m interested in, and things that I really, really love about this city. Culture being one of the most prominent things that I find interesting being here.

I’m from South Carolina. That’s where I’ve been living for the past five years. It’s where I got a lot of my cocktailing history and a lot of my restaurant experiences from that area.

If you had to convince a friend to move to Boston, what would you tell them?

I would definitely say live sports hands down — we would probably be one of the best five sports cities in the world. The food and drink scene is one of the best in the world as well. 

What Boston dish do you crave + rave about?

Okay, so this isn’t necessarily a Boston dish, but it is something that I like. One of my personal favorite things is at Ivory Pearl, they’re in the Brookline area. They have an octopus hot dog and it is out of this world. It’s so simple, but it’s covered with toppings and it’s just cooked perfectly. Not the standard answer I think, but that is a really hard question to answer. I would say oysters here are my second best choice if it’s not going up against that.

How would you describe Boston’s personality?

The most proud people I’ve ever met. They don’t hesitate to tell you how it really is. So very forward, and really progressive. I would say probably one of the most progressive places I’ve ever lived.

Who do you wish would walk into your bar one day and sit down? 

There are a lot of incredible people out there, within the industry and outside of it, that have incredible stories to tell, but when I really think of it only one individual comes to mind, Sasha Petraske. Sasha was arguably one of the most influential of our generation, really driving what we consider hospitality behind a bar today. Known mostly for his work at Attaboy and Milk & Honey, he truly specialized in making the guest feel like they were at home when they shared space with him. He passed away in 2015 in New York.

If you’re going to take someone from Columbia on a tour of Boston, where would you take them?

We’re absolutely going down to the Boston Common. We’re absolutely going to a Red Sox game and we’re gonna go hang out in the bleachers. And third I’d say explore the nightlife. I definitely hang out around the Back Bay area or branch out a little bit and hit the arcade bar (Versus) or something like that. 

As a new Bostonian, what is something you’ve learned since moving here that you think other new Bostonians should know?

Drive quickly — that’s for sure. But on the more real aspect, don’t hesitate to stand up for yourself and when you see something that’s not right, stand up for it because a lot of people up here, especially people that are from this area, aren’t scared to do that. They’ll put themselves in front of something that’s not not right. They’re not scared to say anything about it, which makes me really proud to be a part of this community.

What has been the biggest difference for you moving from Columbia to Boston?

The biggest difference is definitely the city itself. I mean, it’s huge. It’s more similar than most people would think. The people here are pretty identical in terms of how proud they are and that aspect. The most major thing I would say is the weather here is nice all the time except for the winter. And the snowstorms are very serious. Don’t decide to go walking out in the snow storms when you’re getting 24 inches of snow.

What is the most popular drink ordered in Boston? 

People really like their old fashioned stuff here. They like stiff drinks, or they like sweet drinks. My personal favorite is still always gonna be a Negroni, or it’s kind of shifted into like an Americano, so minus the gin just add soda as a little bit more refreshing + you can drink more of them. 

What is your favorite cocktail to make?

I would say a Jungle Bird. It’s a really awesome cocktail that has pineapple, bitters, Campari, lime juice, and then some Jamaican rum. Really, really fantastic cocktail. It’s super tropical. It still has that strong boozy nature so you taste like a party and this funky Jamaican rum. But it’s also a gorgeous citrusy cocktail. I will also say the cocktail this summer though is definitely piña coladas, so that’s what I’m gonna be drinking.

Are there any local bartenders that you’re watching or that you want to learn from?

Obviously, it’s Will Isaza. He’s the bar manager for Ivory Pearl + Blossom Bar. To be a little more specific, Ivory Pearl is part of the same family of restaurants, including Baldwin Bar in Woburn and the new soon to open Birds of Paradise at the Charles River Speedway. Hands down some of the best cocktails in the city. They’re just so well done, and watching them all bartend at those establishments is just magic. 

The other place that I really like to watch what they’re doing is backbar over in Somerville. It’s a bunch of cocktail nerds over there. They really care about what they do and they have a really creative menu.

If you’re taking someone on a date in Boston, where are you taking them?

If I want something casual, then Ivory Pearl because I could walk home from there. If we are going for food and drinks, I would say Mahaniyom. They serve elevated, authentic Thai tapas and a dope cocktail program curated by Boong Boonnak and team. They are the nicest people over there. The food is so authentic — it will burn your face off if you’re not careful. But it is incredible. It’s over in Brookline Village and right across from Blossom Bar. If you haven’t been you absolutely have to go.

Origin Story” by Jake Smith

“Origin Story” by Jake Smith
  • 2 dashes peychauds bitters
  • 1 barspoon ginger juice 
  • 0.5oz Chanh Muôi cordial
  • 0.5oz lemon
  • 1.5oz Hayman’s Old Tom gin 

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail tin then pour into a highball glass. Top with crushed ice and a little soda.

Garnish is optional and features a little lime leaf. 

Chanh Muôi is a Vietnamese fermented lime beverage that would translate closely to lemonade. It’s usually served in the summer with a little sugar water to cool off. 

My recipe for Chanh Muôi includes toasted coconut, lime leaf, lemongrass, clove, bronze fennel, and palm sugar, but you can use any recipe you find online! I’ve found that 5 days is the perfect fermentation period for this.