The South End’s new Wink & Nod is based on a speakeasy concept. That might lead some people to believe that unveiling Whisk’s involvement in the kitchen mere days before opening was a hush-hush stunt. Those people would be wrong.
It was born out of necessity, according to Curtis McMillan, general manager of Wink & Nod, the new spot from Boston Nightlife Ventures on Appleton Street.
“We had previously hired a group, a private entity, to help with the food,” McMillan says. “The first time I tasted the food, I wanted to kill myself. I said there’s no way this kitchen is going to work with my beverage program.”
Wink & Nod was slated to open in mid-March, so he had to quickly find a replacement. In February, McMillan reached out to Jeremy Kean and Philip Kruta of Whisk. The pair had just finished a well-received pop-up that lasted a few months in the North End, so they were looking for a new home. The timing wasn’t the only thing that matched up well.
The creativity that McMillan strives for in his cocktail program mirrored what Kean and Kruta were producing, even when they first started out with a small menu at a cafe. At Wink & Nod, they’ll offer some dishes familiar from their pop-ups (all in the vogue shareable style), including black pasta with miso, cauliflower and baby octopus. They’ll also serve new items such as yakitori in a cherrywood-smoke-filled Mason jar, as well as a made-to-order fresh Twinkie. Many of the à la carte items will change seasonally, and starting in mid-April, the Whisk team will make a tasting menu for 30-40 seats each night. That’s where McMillan’s cocktail program will get a chance to shine. In addition to wine pairings, there will be Scotch pairings for the food.
“As long as there’s been wine, somebody’s always said, ‘Oh, this goes good with cheese.’ Scotch has not had that kind of love,” he says.
The focus of McMillan’s post-Prohibition-style bar program will be on Scotch cocktails, as well as on rum and Tiki cocktails. One eye-catcher on the drink menu will be the Billionaire Bijou. Priced at $100, it mixes Nolet’s reserve gin ($700 a bottle), Chartreuse VEP ($200 a bottle), Martini & Rossi Gran Lusso 150th anniversary sweet vermouth and a saffron-infused French orange bitters ($500 a bottle). So, who might break the bank for a saffron-coated mouth?
“We may get one or two people who up the ante with their friends, and I end up serving a couple of them,” McMillan says. “Or Goldman Sachs could rent the place out for a day, and I’d serve 1,000 of them.”
Wink & Nod | 3 Appleton St., Boston | winkandnod.com