Sunday, November 10, 2013

Tunnel Bar (Northampton, MA) and V-1 Vodka

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Situated under the old Union Station, in--obviously--an old train tunnel, Northampton's Tunnel Bar is, on a quiet night, about the classiest place in the city, and on a Friday or Saturday, one of the most popular.  Elegant and comfortable, with the bare walls of the tiled tunnel contrasted by the comfortable leather chairs situated around small wooden coffee tables, there is a bar about twenty feet long with some stools and space to stand.  They have a few beers on tap at any given moment, but they really specialize in cocktails, and especially martinis.  With a pretty decent selection of gins and vodkas, you can get just about any variety of martini, from my rather simple personal preference (V-One Vodka with extra olives) to any number of specialty and original drinks.  Additionally, they have a wide selection of other spirits, including but not limited to Scotch (including the cheapest pour of Johnnie Walker Blue I've ever seen, at $23), bourbon, rum, and tequila.  Prices are definitely not low, but considering the incredible potency of their cocktails, they are well worth the cost.  If I am driving, I never have more than one martini at Tunnel Bar, and I make sure there's a little time and water before I get behind the wheel.

When Tunnel Bar is quiet, it is the perfect place for a drinking date, pre-meal cocktail, or after dinner nightcap, giving ample room to stretch out while still maintaining enough proximity to your accompaniment to have a real conversation without worrying about being overheard.  On weekends, it gets too busy to have a quiet conversation, and you may well end up upstairs at a regular restaurant style table, as the tunnel itself cannot hold nearly so many people as want to crowd in.  They will be crowded from about 8:00pm until close on Friday and Saturday, so plan accordingly.


V-One Vodka is somewhat a product of Western Massachusetts, the brainchild of Hadley's own Paul Kozub.  Produced in Poland, it is the winner of several awards in its short lifespan, and is my second favorite vodka, following only Cold River Vodka from Maine.  Incredibly smooth, it makes a great martini, though like most grain vodkas it lacks the flavor of the potato based versions; it lies somewhere in between Cold River and Stolichnaya for me, and is actually unique in that is uses 100% spelt.

I cannot recommend either of these highly enough.

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