The wig window at The Wig Shop in Boston.
All photos by Brian Samuels Photography, courtesy the Wig Shop

The RundownBoston

Inside The Wig Shop, Downtown’s New Gloriously Glam Cocktail Lounge


Things are getting hairy on Temple Street. In September, long-running DTX bar JM Curley — which itself hosts the pocket-sized steakhouse Bogie’s Place — greeted a new sibling in the form of The Wig Shop.

The newcomer cocktail lounge is directly connected to the other establishments, inhabiting a next-door space that had been Wig World Boston for over 50 years (that business still exists, having moved a few blocks south). However, passersby may not notice the difference, as its façade retains the wig-filled window and blaring neon sign that made its previous occupant iconic.

However, the inside is like nothing the neighborhood — or indeed, Boston — has seen: a glitzy cocktail lounge where retro cocktails are celebrated beside newfangled creations, gloriously over-the-top canapés, and generous amounts of Champagne.

Welcome to the Wig Shop. Here’s what you need to know. 

The Wig Shop interior.
The Wig Shop interior.

1. Don’t call it a speakeasy.

Yes, it may feature a fake-out façade, but accessing the lounge doesn’t require a password or a false bookshelf. Instead you’ll waltz right in and give your name at the host stand. Pro tip: Reservations are accepted between 5 and 7 p.m. if you want to lock down your spot in advance.

As Kevin Mabry, who acts as a managing partner at The Wig Shop and its associated establishments explains, the purpose of the mock exterior isn’t to deceive but entertain. “The false storefront is fun, it’s engaging, and bars and restaurants are all about offering escapes,” he says.


2. No bar seats — just couches.

Once inside, guests are shown to a dimly lit room that conjures glamour with drawn yellow curtains and velvety blue couches that face one another between gold-accented tables. Behind this nine-couch set-up is a bar — but without a stool in sight. Mabry, a 15-year veteran of the trade, has instead designed it to be the perfect “bartender’s bar.”

“We built that bar ergonomically for the bartender. I feel that when they go behind it, they’re like ‘Wow, I get this.” he says. “Everything is within one reach, one touch, one turn — no bending. I take a lot of pride in bar design and this is definitely the crowning jewel of things I’ve learned over my 11 years in Boston.”

A cocktail at The Wig Shop.
Canapés at The Wig Shop.

 3. The two-page cocktail list is split between original creations and tuned-up retro drinks.

Bartenders working in Mabry’s ideal space will execute drinks from a two-part menu. The first champions classic cocktails like a Remember the Maine or the house Martini service, as well as bold originals like the best-selling I Feel Pretty, mixed with citron vodka, raspberry syrup, and glitter foam.

The second page, printed to appear like an old-school print ad for wigs, features retro drinks like the Amaretto Sour and the Dirty Martini, which receive a contemporary rework from Mabry and his team. In the case of the latter drink, that means olive oil-washed vodka and an olive garnish that’s had blue cheese mousse piped directly into it.

“Everything I’ve done has always been about taking classics and trying to reinvent them to be the best versions possible,” Mabry says.


4. The Espresso Martini comes with fine print.

One house creation sure to draw attention is the Rise & Grind, the brainchild of Wig Shop bar manager Oscar Simoza. In this amped-up version of America’s current favorite cocktail, Old Monk rum is blended with cold brew, espresso liqueur, cinnamon-demerara, and pure caffeine before it’s poured into a teacup and served with heavy whipped cream on top and a sea salt-dusted chocolate-covered pretzel on the side.

Due to its potent mix of stimulants and depressants, guests are limited to just one per visit. You may crave another at the time — but you’ll thank the house policy in the morning.


5. Eat with your fingers. 

Naturally, such potables will inspire an appetite. On that front, executive chef John Malone (who also services JM Curley) delivers with indulgent canapés that could make a ‘70s dinner party hostess blush. The inspired bites include squid ink chickpea crêpes with crème fraîche and caviar, or bites of warm lobster tossed in harissa butter and floated on buttermilk pancakes with tobiko and dill.

What you won’t find is silverware. With the exception of one dish — a king salmon crudo — all are intended to be eaten as finger food.

“It was, ‘Chef, give me a menu of elevated canapés people don’t have to put their drink down to enjoy,’” Mabry says of the food program’s philosophy. “Be able to have a vessel and pick [food] up, take a bite of it and put it back down, or just eat it all in one bite.”

Champagne service at The Wig Shop.
Champagne service at The Wig Shop.

6. Bring on the bubbly.

Everything about the Wig Shop suggests the grand cocktail parties of a bygone age, but there’s more to imbibe than mixed drinks — specifically, Champagne. The bar, which Mabry jokingly describes as “a cocktail lounge with a Champagne problem,” boasts more than 30 bottles of the good stuff, including rare Krug vintages and magnums of Pol Roger and Dom Pérignon.

“We just love popping bottles more than anything, and I think the room really calls for it, too. I think about glam, glitz, and a little bit of pizzaz, and nothing says that like Champagne bottles being popped,” he continues.

And should you need an excuse to uncork, the addition of the Wig Shop to Boston’s cocktail scene makes a worthy occasion.