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Photograph: Erica Gannett

The Whistler | Cocktail bar report card

The iconic bar in the post–Paul McGee era.


History Since opening in 2008, the Whistler has dished out quality cocktails and music: Its tiny space hosts some of the most cutting-edge acts in the city, from free jazz and experimental performers to ace DJs. Star bartender Paul McGee left in early 2012 to work with R.J. and Jerrod Melman, leaving the Whistler’s fate in question.

Decor Trapped in brick box, help!

Crowd Predominantly hip, multi-ethnic eye candy in DIY fashions, plus a few thick-necked brosephs who elbow ladies to get a drink

Noise An excellent DJ spins dub, ’80s hip-hop and break-beat records.

Minutes to get a seat on a weekend night Not happening. We take our drinks to the tiny dance floor.

Minutes to order/receive first drink 15/15

Creativity Cocktails incorporate unusual spirits, produce, dairy, housemade syrups and even beer.

Quality The Rosemary Collins—a relic from the McGee days—is essentially a Tom Collins with a sprig of rosemary, which provides a refreshing burst of flavor on the tongue and in the nose. The Old Salt, made with rye whiskey, burnt sugar and honey, sounds promising but tastes like a stale marshmallow.

Value High. Drinks are $6–$10 with generous portions.

Final evaluation Even without McGee, the bartenders are (mostly) doing this iconic bar proud. There aren’t many spots where you can get a carefully crafted cocktail for as low as $6, plus a killer soundtrack and a not-obnoxious crowd.

Still iconic? YES

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