Cocktail Club

Meet the local bartender mixing Italian-inspired cocktails in the South End

We spoke with Marsha Lindsey about growing up in Boston, studying mortuary science, and the cocktail she's most proud to serve.

What is the cocktail that best describes the principal bartender at SRV? A negroni, of course. 

For Marsha Lindsey, the classic drink is “a little sweet, a little bitter, strong, yet approachable,” she recently told The South End restaurant serves so many negronis, they put it on tap.

Lindsey decided to mix it up when she joined the Cocktail Club last week. At the class she mixed two cocktails with bourbon: an old fashioned whiskey cocktail and a classic Manhattan.

Ahead of the class, we spoke with Lindsey about creating a pet-inspired drink, her career aspirations, and what it was like to grow up in Boston. 

What got you hooked in the industry?

I started working in hospitality in mid 2006 at a nighttime spot in Chinatown. I was drawn to the money. I wanted to be financially independent. In terms of fine-dining restaurants, it would have to be Iris Di Cicco. She was the assistant general manager at Sorellina in Back Bay, and was the first person to give me a shot despite any qualms from the company. She has been a mentor ever since. I loved the vibe and pace of being in an upscale environment.

What got you interested in mortuary science, and are you still pursuing this work? 

Mortuary science is the study of deceased bodies, particularly in respect to burial and bereavement of loved ones. I already had a slight morbid fascination with death. My father knew a guy that owned a funeral home. I checked it out and liked it a lot. I went to Mount Ida in Newton to study mortuary science. I am still pursuing the career, and it’s been very challenging yet rewarding. 

Marsha Lindsey

If you were a cocktail, what would you be?

Probably a negroni. A little sweet, a little bitter, strong, yet approachable, and slightest bit of whimsy but classic!

What has the atmosphere been like at SRV throughout the pandemic?

The first word I thought of was “safe.” The director of operations, management, and owners did so much to make sure we as a staff were prepared and took every measure to ensure our safety and our guests’ safety. We went through days of training and practice to make sure we could provide the utmost hospitality, yet an environment everyone could feel comfortable [in]. The past year-and-a-half has definitely had its challenging moments, but we as a team made the choice to go through it together, and it made us all stronger in the end. 

What’s the most popular drink order you get at SRV? Any noticeable changes during the pandemic? 

I would say either our house negroni or our #63 Fairbanks (gin, Aperol, elder, citrus). Our negroni has a bit of Bruto Americano to retain the bitterness after a bit of dilution but kept Campari for the tradition. Another note is that our negroni comes out of the tap because of sheer volume and convenience. A most notable change has been guests indulging in libations a lot more. I feel the pandemic made people miss being in a restaurant and bar and now they want to indulge, which I fully support.

Growing up in Boston, what’s been the most notable change? What’s been the most notable thing that has stayed the same? 

The most notable changes are the construction and many condos. For instance, the Seaport was basically a parking lot and gravel. It is now a buzzy neighborhood with a few recreational options. On the other hand, the lack of diversity and inclusion is still pretty much the same, maybe even getting worse. Gentrification and segregation is very much alive and well in the city of Boston. There are few Black bartenders in the city as well and even fewer female Black bartenders and it shows. Tersillia [Valentini] at Black Lamb, Cairo [Kironyo], and Kyi [Davenport] formally at Tanám are Black female bartenders who are changing the game and are absolute queens. Boston has a reputation for not being inclusive for minorities, and it can still be felt. It is extremely upsetting when guests of color come in and ask, “Where are all the Black people?”

Tell me you’re from Boston without telling me you’re from Boston. 

Slowly sips a medium regular from Dunks while watching two people share expletives and threats over a parking space.

What do you like about the old fashioned?

An old fashioned is bold, smooth, and silky. It’s a slightly sweeter way to enjoy bourbon and that makes it a bit sexier to me. It allows you to go slow, savor the mouth feel and flavor profiles, and sip on the vanilla, oak, spice and sweet notes that bourbon is [known] for. It is quite the symphony.

Can you talk about a drink you are particularly proud of? 

It’s slight, but I’m really proud of a bourbon cocktail that is on our current cocktail list: Pesco and the Grizzly Bear. It is Woodford Reserve, cap corse blanc vermouth, peach bitters, and house-made black lemon bitters with a lemon slice suspended in an ice sphere. It was named after my dog, an English Mastiff named Grizzly Bear that passed away. He loved peaches and [had] a little grit to him, and I turned the inspiration into a cocktail! They say you don’t die until the last person says your name, and I wanted him to live forever. 

What is something we might not know about you outside of work? 

My mother wrote a children’s book about me. It is about my first trip to the country where she is from. It is called “Marsha Goes to Haiti.” It is sold at any online bookstore. She wrote it when I was young and found a rough draft when she moved to Maine from Boston. My mom is an amazing lady and I’m so grateful for her love.

How can people support you and your colleagues in the hospitality industry right now? 

Stop by and grab a cocktail or a snack at your local restaurant or bar, and leave a few extra bucks. But it’s OK if you can’t, we understand very well it’s not always an option. Social media is a great tool as well. Post all the yummy and tasty things and tag the establishment. Also, be patient. We in hospitality work very, very hard to provide the best experience we can in troubling times, and patience is a virtue. To err is human, to forgive is divine. Venmo @MarshaLindsey.

Join the Cocktail Club at the free virtual Globe Summit from Sept. 22-24

Join The Boston Globe for the inaugural Globe Summit, an immersive virtual experience focusing on our region’s future. At 5 p.m. each day, Cocktail Club host Jackson Cannon will be joined by a special guest to mix a drink and toast.

  • Sept. 22 at 5 p.m.: Sazerac with special guest Jeneé Osterheldt, Globe culture columnist
  • Sept. 23 at 5 p.m.: Aviation with Michael Rezendes, senior investigative reporter, The Associated Press
  • Sept. 24 at 5 p.m.: Bee’s knees with Jenny Slate, comedian, actress, and author


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