The only thing more mystifying than a back door speakeasy masquerading as a cobbler shop is a perfectly murky bowl of 18 hour broth in the thick of central Massachusetts’ ramen desert. Visit Less Than Greater Than (<>) on any Tuesday tiki night and you’ll see what I mean.

Located in the rear of New City Microcreamery is a cryptic light switch that serves as the gateway to the town of Hudson’s secret classic cocktail lounge. Flip the switch and wait for a Dutch door to swing open in haste. A woman sporting a floral lei will usher you inside before ducking back behind the marble bar. The bar is apt to be packed, so order your ramen immediately and wait for a steaming Japanese noodle bowl to appear before you.

Less Than Greater Than’s ramen dish is arduously prepared with an 18 hour surf and turf broth, fresh noodles, a slow poached egg, fried garlic, braised chicken, scallions and nori. Paired with Three Dots and a Dash, the ramen’s bold salinity is offset by the mellow sweetness of Aged Agricole, orange, and local honey. Three Dots and a Dash also features grassy Demrara Rum that works to enhance the ramen’s deeply earthy sheet of roasted seaweed. Clove and cinnamon notes of Pimento Dram, Falernum, and Angostura Bitters further intensify the broth’s complex dimensions.

Japanese cuisine and classic cocktail culture have a lot in common, calling for clean and simple ingredients combined with an iron-fisted attention to technique. Ramen and tiki are the outliers. They demand a laundry list of ingredients and a healthy dose of creativity. Both continue to attract a cult following.

With that said, noodles and umbrella drinks have had a particularly hard time making a craft resurgence in central Massachusetts. Less Than Greater Than has unearthed a fashionable niche and a rising tide will raise all ships. I feel confident that ramen and tiki drinks are only the beginning.

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Worcester Wine Festival | Sept 4 - 9, 2018