Last summer I made my own cucumber vodka from the cucumber bounty of the garden. Peeled, deseeded, and thinly sliced, the cucumbers joined a bottle vodka in the fridge for a couple of days. The result was a refreshing spirit, ready to be paired with lemonade or soda water with a splash of St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur. This year, one of my favorite cocktails is the Walk in the Weeds, a combination of gin, lime, and celery bitters, served at The Port Hunter in Edgartown.
Every summer, people flock to their favorite Island bars to visit the veteran bartenders and order drinks that they have been waiting all winter for. One of these notorious drinks is the Dirty Banana from Donovan’s Reef at Nancy’s Snack Bar in Oak Bluffs. Rain or shine, customers line up for this frozen boozy milkshake, along with other specialties. Donovan suggests trying The Grabber, a fruity cocktail made with Passoã passion fruit liqueur, mango and pineapple rums, and pineapple juice. “You’re going to get addicted to it,” he said.
Each year cocktail trends seem to push the boundaries, creating menu-worthy specialty drinks. With vodkas ranging in flavor from whipped cream (Pinnacle, Smirnoff) and Fruit Loops (Three Olives) to tomato (Crop) and bacon (Bakon), flavor combinations are endless. This season grapefruit, elderflower, and maple reign supreme with a variety of fruit purées and fresh herbs.
This is what the Island is drinking, according to three local bartenders.
“Everyone loves Firefly,” says Erin Pye, bartender at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs. Firefly is a sweet, tea-flavored vodka made in South Carolina. Ms. Pye likes to serve it with lemonade or water with fresh lemons. Pomegranate is also very popular. “I like to combine Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice with Pearl pomegranate vodka and soda water,” she said. Her go-to after-work drink is Deep Eddy ruby red grapefruit-flavored vodka from Austin, Texas, with soda water, or 21st Amendment Brewery Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer from San Francisco.
“Fresh herbs and fresh juices are the way to go,” says Adam Rebello, bartender at Farm Neck Cafe in Oak Bluffs. Mr. Rebello suggests making a maple Manhattan with Green Mountain organic maple liqueur from Vermont and Maker’s Mark bourbon, topped with a cherry. Mr. Rebello is also a fan of Champagne or Prosecco with a splash of St. Germain, and if you are in the mood for beer, he recommends Martha’s Vineyard Ale from Bad Martha Brewing Company, available on tap at Farm Neck. The new venture brews their beer with grape leaves from Martha’s Vineyard and shares a portion of beverage profits with the Island Food Pantry. They also make a Vineyard Summer Ale.
Zenon Godek, bartender at M.V. Chowder Company in Oak Bluffs, says that “skinny” (lower calorie) drinks are all the rage right now. He recommends a skinny Cosmo made with low-calorie Voli lemon flavored vodka, and Voli orange vanilla fusion with cranberry, lime, and triple sec. Another trend he’s noticed is Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. Mr. Godek suggests adding it to an Angry Orchard cider for a cold apple cinnamon beverage. If you like things a little spicy, try infusing liquor with herbs or peppers. Mr. Godek makes habanero vodka for bloody Marys.
Head to the new Vintage MV Wine & Spirits located in Nevin Square in Edgartown to find your favorite spirits from small craft batch distilleries. Owned by John Clift, wine director at Atria Restaurant, and Sara Webber, this new store offers a handpicked selection of wines, beers, and spirits. Mr. Clift recommends trying 44 North Mountain Huckleberry flavored vodka, made from Idaho potatoes, Bully Boy Barrel aged rum from Boston, or Barr Hill Gin from Vermont made from Juniper and raw honey. For a summer cocktail, Mr. Clift suggests sangria made with St. Germain, Domaine de Canton, a ginger liqueur, Myers Rum, orange, sugar, and lambrusco red wine. Or try an Island Girl, made with Deep Eddy ruby red grapefruit vodka, muddled watermelon, fresh basil, and soda water.
The summer of 2012 was full of cucumber concoctions and picklebacks: a shot of whisky followed by a pickle juice chaser. What will this summer bring?
Noteworthy: Plane View starts serving
The Plane View, located in West Tisbury at the M.V. airport, now serves beer and wine. Grab a cold one with your meal while waiting for a flight during breakfast or lunch. They will be open until 7 pm (serving the lunch menu) starting around June 23. For more information, call 508-693-1886.