On a Thursday night at Marcelino’s, the mood is infused with live jazz tunes, a sepia glow cast over cozy seating nooks, and the percussive din of drinks being shaken at the bar – the centerpiece of this intimate third-place. The phrase “craft cocktail” tends to get thrown around loosely, but the artistry behind the drink menu at Marcelino’s Boutique Bar reminded me what ingenuity actually looks and tastes like when it comes to cocktails.
And it began with Beets. A savory foray into the evening, this gin and tequila drink was topped with a goat cheese foam that teased the sensory thrills to come; a second sip introduced the balanced bitterness of the vibrant red beet juice and Campari. This is just one chapter of many in this season’s Curated Fundamental Cocktails list, which follows a journey through the core flavor profiles, from sweet to umami, and everything in between.
With these flavors, the Marcelino’s team also spins a culinary tale set in the Mediterranean. Before I could unpack each layer of Beets, the Mezze Trio arrived at the table with an array of hummus varieties, along with the Beetroot Tartare, a vegan delicacy that recasts the earthy root vegetable in a lightly spiced, herbed context. Chicken and Lamb Flatbreads incorporate creamy cucumber tzatziki and Middle Eastern spices, respectively. A personal favorite, the Roasted Cauliflower is a deceptively simple dish elevated by a rich tahini sauce and bursts of brightness from the pickled red onions.
Sipping the Lavender / Galangal cocktail, it became clear each beverage or small plate that came out of the kitchen would be an adventure. At Marcelino’s, the devil is in the details – from the paper-thin “fruit roll-up for adults” garnish topping The Strawberry to the light yet frothy Espresso Martini. Any of the attentive, passionate servers at Marcelino’s can offer suggestions tailored to your taste, as well as regale you with the processes and inspiration that went into each.
My advice? Don’t skip dessert – even if you don’t have a sweet tooth. The sesame-tinged Halva Dates were like nothing I’d ever tried, and the Kunafa, which features a sweet cheese filling with a marriage of textures and flavors, is the final note of the evening to leave you wanting to return again.
Marcelino's Boutique Bar
1 West Exchange Street, Providence
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