Intimate cocktail bar Farmacia opens in the North End

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The European-inspired nine-seat space in North Square opened on Friday.

Phillip Rolfe opened his nine-seat bar this weekend with a range of fine cocktails showcasing the flavors of Italy. Courtesy/Farmacia

This weekend, a new, intimate apothecary-themed cocktail experience opened in the North End.

Farmacia, which will operate Wednesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight, is currently only booking prepaid ticket reservations. For $50 per person, guests get a 75-minute time slot, three cocktails, small bar snacks and “a few fun and surprising things,” said bar creator and manager Phillip Rolfe.

While the tiny nine-seater bar has seen many owners over the years, it was once a contraband apothecary, Rolfe said, hence the name: “pharmacy” in Italian.

“I got a little lucky – I’ve been watching this space for a long time,” Rolfe said.

A certified sommelier, Rolfe brings his extensive food and beverage experience to the business, creating cocktails from house ingredients right in front of his guests for a highly personalized experience.

After working in wine for much of his career, Rolfe cut his teeth in the cocktail world at Wink & Nod and Parla. At Farmacia, he cold-presses his own juices, infuses his own liqueurs, and otherwise meticulously selects every ingredient on his solo menu.

“It’s a hyper-custom project,” said Rolfe, who essentially runs the bar solo.

It’s what he says is so unique about Farmacia – guests get a ‘vertically integrated experience’, chatting with the guy who not only made their cocktail, but made the whole menu, every sourcing decision and even every design decision in the space.

Guests learn the “why” of every libation they drink.

When he has the time and space, Rolfe said, he’ll accept a la carte customers, but he’s mostly filling up on the $50 experience. He hopes the prepaid tickets will take away some of the monetary stress of making decisions at the bar.

“I’ve been in so many situations where people seem to be agonizing over a $2 difference between cocktails and I really want to take that financial pressure out of the situation,” Rolfe said.

Drink decisions might not be the easiest yet, as Rolfe has an extremely curated lineup of mouth-watering cocktails in store. Its debut menu (it will change menu every few months) is based on Italian summer flavors, with highlights like a tequila drink with melon and basil, a hot pink negroni with pineapple juice and an espresso martini d impressive originality.

One of Farmacia’s creations. Courtesy/Farmacia

Rather than a strict tasting menu, Rolfe said, “the idea [that the menu] is laid out in such a way that you can choose three as you go down and they should end up in the correct order from lightest to heaviest.

“I’m committed to using fresh, more herbaceous produce,” Rolfe said of his current menu of 11 aromatic cocktails with delicate flavors. The intimate size of his space means he’s happy to chat with a guest about his cocktail preferences — and if a guest doesn’t see something he likes on the menu, Rolfe can take it off the script.

Some of his bar snacks will include roasted nuts, pickles, dips and ice cream.

While Farmacia is its own space, Rolfe operates under neighbor Ciao Roma’s LLC.

Reservations have already been underway for weeks, Rolfe said. He plans to attract crowds of mostly locals, as opposed to the neighborhood’s tourist patronage.

“It gives me a bit more leeway to play around with certain things,” Rolfe said.

Farmacia’s small scale will allow Rolfe to stay true to himself while running a real neighborhood watering hole. If he’s on vacation, he’s closed.

“I don’t work from Sunday to Tuesday, I’m just closed. If I’m sick, I’m closed,” Rolfe said. “It’s very European.

“It’s an authentic North End experience,” he said, “and I feel like that’s what people are looking for.”

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