Many restaurants go to great lengths to create a cocktail menu that will attract and satisfy thirsty customers.
Sharky’s has their numerous margaritas, especially their delightful watermelon made with fresh purée. Alchemy is known for their freshly muddled mojitos and the French Quarter, a refreshingly delicious grapefruit-y martini. Sidecar Café and Bar serves an Aquinnah Punch with light and dark rum, banana liquor, Chambord and grenadine. Mike Harmon, bartender extraordinaire at Détente recently put together a cocktail list that features old favorites with a twist like the Sunset Punch: Knob Creek bourbon, dry vermouth, fresh lime juice, simple syrup ,and a splash of ginger beer; as well as original creations like the Spicy Grapefruit Margarita with house-infused habanero tequila mixed with pink grapefruit juice and a salted rim (or not). Check out Atria’s specialty cocktail list — including the summery Berry Berry Minty with Mount Gay rum, fresh mint, and strawberries — and their new buy-one-get-one-free burger deal in the downstairs lounge after 10 pm. Last time I checked in with Anna Ward at Kenn n’ Beck, she was hard at work creating a unique Southern-inspired drink list.
But what about the restaurants in Vineyard Haven and Aquinnah (and a few elsewhere), whose town laws prohibit them from mixing with hard alcohol? Surely they have carefully selected beer, wine, and sometimes cordials to complement the food, but there are times, especially on vacation, when a cool cocktail to sip on pre-dinner is all that will suffice. Some of these restaurants, and their crafty bartenders, have found ways to spice up the drink list.
With their evening menu, which starts at 5:30 pm, Espresso Love serves six tempting “cocktails” using Prosecco (sparkling Italian white wine), such as the Sambuca Spritz with Sambuca (anise-flavored liqueur), Prosecco, and soda water, or the Raspberry Bellini with raspberry purée and fresh lime, which would go down nicely with the baby spinach salad with red grapes, candied pecans, gorgonzola, and Champagne vinaigrette. Because it is a coffee shop, Espresso Love naturally serves an array of after-dinner coffee drinks, such as Irish Coffee (with Bailey’s), Spanish Coffee (with Kahlua), and the Coffee Thin Mint: iced coffee, Godiva Liqueur, and crème de menthe.
Among the Flowers Café serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is kid-friendly, offering a menu specifically for the little ones. For the grown-ups, in addition to their beers and wines, the restaurant offers a list of sparkling cocktails: Prosecco mixed with a flavorful liqueur, such as the Blueberry Bluebell with Thacher’s blueberry liqueur and the Elderflower Blossom with St. Germaine, as well as cordials to spice up your coffee.
While Offshore Ale remains focused on their brewery, the only one on the Island, they also offer a red wine Sangria and a Bloody Mary cocktail where sake (Japanese rice wine) replaces vodka.
Aquinnah doesn’t have many dining options, but the small town manages to pack in something for most tastes. At the cliffs, Dream Catcher serves classic fried plates, chowder, burgers, and soft serve, while just feet away, Faith Vanderhoop offers a raw bar, steamed lobsters, fresh fish tacos, and sushi at Faith’s Seafood Shack. As for sitting down, being waited on, and perhaps enjoying a beverage, the Outermost Inn and the Aquinnah Shop are the places to go. For upscale fine dining, the Taylor family at the Outermost Inn welcomes you to their cozy inn and spectacular dining room. The three-course prix fixe dinner is $80 and reservation only. A full beer and wine list is available, as well as white wine sangria and the house specialty Sour Patch — house-made limeade and Cava (Spanish sparkling wine).
The Aquinnah Shop serves some of the best fish cakes (the Tomahawk Special) and striped bass burgers around. They are open for breakfast and lunch serving beer, wine, and a special red wine sangria brimming with chopped fruit, a nice accompaniment to the incredible view of the Gay Head Cliffs, if you dine outside.
Chilmark and West Tisbury remain the Island’s only dry-towns, though West Tisbury is working on obtaining a beer and wine license. While they remain dry, diners are welcome to bring their own beer, wine, or cocktail fixings to restaurants such as Lambert’s Cove Inn, State Road Restaurant, and the Chilmark Tavern.