Ask a Bartender: Rich from Citizen Public House
Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar (aka “Citizen” as it’s known to its fan base of regulars) is a neighborhood tavern and gastropub that’s become a local favorite since it opened a block from Fenway Park in 2010. It’s a cozy and classy modern take on a traditional English pub with leather booths, a long dark wood bar, a 100-year old fireplace, and a hearty menu of Berkshire pork, steak frites, mussels and oysters prepared by Chef Brian Reyelt (of Franklin Café and Tasty Burger fame).
We talked with resident mixologist Rich at Citizen Public House about the late-night crowds, their famous stockpile of rare whiskies and what’s new on the cocktail menu for the winter season.
What cocktail are you gonna fix up for us?
It’s a new cocktail we added to the menu just a couple weeks ago – Wakin’ Up Ain’t Easy. It’s tequila, Plantation dark rum, orgeat (almond syrup), lime juice, and a little Cynar to finish. It’s definitely a cocktail worth getting out of bed for. Something exciting, something beautiful
Rich carefully adds the ingredients to the shaker and mixes it up. He slowly pours the cocktail in a coupe glass. It’s a little spicy, a little bitter, a little sweet, balanced through-and-through with a smooth kick.
Are you from Boston originally?
No, I’m from New Haven, Connecticut.
What brought you up this way?
I spent a year in Worcester for school and then went to Suffolk. I really wanted to become a bartender, learn how to socialize with people, get out and connect. I helped open up Sweet Cheeks five years ago, and then I moved across the street to Citizen. For me, this is the dream I wanted. I said five years ago: ‘I’m gonna work at Citizen Public House.’ This is the place I wanna be.
Rich shows off the gorgeous long bar with its impressive cocktail list, craft beers on tap and broad shelves of rare liquors and whiskies.
My favorite thing we do is draft cocktails and spirits. Right now we’re running this cool Manhattan called The Cuban Linx, a little ode to Wu-Tang. But what we’ve been known for a long time is having Fernet Branca on draft.
I was wondering about that. Are you a fan of Fernet? What’s your favorite cocktail to make with it?
I personally don’t enjoy cocktails mixed with Fernet. A spirit like Fernet has to be on its own. Or, in tradition of Citizen, chased with a Miller High Life.
Rich pours a shot of Fernet and puts a frosty bottle of Miller High Life on the counter—Citizen’s famous beer and shot combo for the insider crowd.
As an Italian-American coming from New Haven, we always drank flavored rums and stuff like that. My family used to make me drink Jameson. To this day, Jameson is a sore spot for me. But Fernet, it’s delicious, it’s fun. It’s everything you want it to be at 80 proof.
What do you do on your days off?
I find myself out at other bars, my friend’s bars. I find myself over at Hojoko or Sweet Caroline’s. I like being here, but I love eating and drinking. I like knowing that someone next to me could start a conversation and I could meet someone new.
Do you have any hobbies?
I read a lot of fantasy. I go to the movies twice a week, I will say another hobby of mine is cocktails. Especially whiskey. We have very knowledgeable bartenders on this staff; we all know and want to talk about whiskies. Traveling, I try to make my way out of the country every six months. Go somewhere I’ve never been.
In terms of fantasy novels, I’ve gotta ask...
R.A. Salvatore. Like Dungeons & Dragons-themed kind of stuff. Forgotten Realms, all that kind of stuff. 31 novels about—I don’t wanna get into it. Dark Elf, I could read those all day.
Okay, in terms of bar geekdom. What’s your favorite whiskey on the shelf here?
Over the years, I’ve grown to love wheated whiskeys. Normally you have like a bourbon or rye, which means it’s 51% more corn and rye in a mash. For me, more wheat in a mash is a little softer, a little sweeter, some of my favorite stuff.
Rich points to the three-tiered shelf of whiskey bottles in all varieties (American, Bourbon, Irish, Scotch, Japanese single malts). He mentions offhand that Citizen gets rare barrels of whiskey straight from the distilleries.
One of my mainstays is the Bernheim. You get something that’s soft, gentle, delicate, beautiful, also a little harsh on the finish, a little bit of rye in the mash, so a little spice.
What’s your favorite thing on the menu?
Food-wise? I love the way we prepare our mussels as a starter. Sort of a smoky scale, they’re phenomenal. We also offer a really amazing pork duo.
And Citizen does oysters every night.
Yes, we have a raw bar. We do three oysters, usually rotating through, all local. Also littleneck clams, shrimp and cocktail lobsters.
What’s your favorite cocktail for oysters?
Usually I would go with something that’s a little lighter in body, maybe something like a Corpse Revival #2. Something refreshing, citrus forward.
What about the locals and the regulars in The Fenway, could you talk more about that?
That’s the biggest thing to me here. There are six months of madness with the Red Sox fans. Being in a place like this, people that come around just to see you or hang out with you, they’re just a part of your life. That’s why I like working here, my regulars have become friends. That’s why this neighborhood is so close to me. I have some awesome friends here.
If you were gonna cut and run right now, grab a drink in the neighborhood where would you go?
I’m loving every part of Hojoko right now. But this part of the day? I would grab a pulled chicken sandwich on a bulkie roll at Sweet Cheeks. That’s my weakness, but I’d eat it on the way to Hojoko and grab a coconut campari shot. Don’t tell the owner though.
We hear that Monday nights are Emo Nights with Rich. What’s your favorite emo album to get pumped for the beginning of the shift?
Definitely when I’m opening up, we’ll go heavier. I’ll start with some Braid. Some early ‘90s kind of forgotten stuff…I find myself especially on a Monday or Tuesday, I’ll open up, bar’s a little mellow, I’ll throw on like Déjà Entendu from Brand New back in ‘03, I’ll throw on some Minus the Bear, We Were Promised Jetpacks, something a little more focused like that.
Who would win in a fight between The Promise Ring and The Get Up Kids?
The Get Up Kids.
Physical fight...The Get Up Kids every single time.
Come see Rich and the rest of the amazing staff of Citizen every night from 5 p.m. - 2 a.m., with the full menu being served until close.