What's for drinks? A look at specialty Island cocktails

Sharky's Drink
The minds behind Sharky's combined their fresh mint, used for mojitos, with margaritas to make a delicious combination of muddled fruit and mint, sour mix, and tequila. Photo by Ralph Stewart

By Eleni Collins - July 5, 2007

One night, it's gin and tonics; the next, Captain Morgan and cokes; and the next, Cape Codders - traditional mixed drinks that most people order often times when out to dinner or a bar. "Honestly, the most popular ones [for women] that I serve are Cape Codders [vodka and cranberry juice], madras [vodka, cranberry, orange juice], and Captain's and coke," says Lampost bartender Karolina Sullivan. "And it's Jack Daniel's and coke, gin and tonics, or Jack and ginger ale [for men]," she says.

For those who are in search of something new to drink, many Island restaurants and bars also offer unique specialty drinks that may be a welcome surprise to your taste buds.

Karolina suggests the p.i.n.k Martini at the Lampost in Oak Bluffs. Despite its name, this is not just a girlie drink garnished with cherries. The drink is made with p.i.n.k., a premium vodka from Holland infused with guarana and caffeine to keep you up all hours of the night. Guarana is a shrub, native to Brazil, and is a common ingredient in energy drinks. At the Lampost, the p.i.n.k vodka is shaken with cranberry and lime juice, and sour mix, to create one of their specialties, an energy-inducing drink.

Donovan's Dirty Banana
Donovan's Dirty Banana can be confused for an ice cream sundae, with a kick.

Another particular martini worth in a try is Balance's blood orange martini. Thick with blood orange juice, this drink is very smooth and much easier to drink than a regular martini or cosmopolitan. The juice is sweet and takes away the strong taste of vodka. The cocktail is thick and a brilliant shade of red-orange. It's a great accessory when socializing at the new and hip bar. Balance, formerly at the end of Circuit Avenue, is still located in Oak Bluffs, now across the street from the Flying Horses.

Over in Edgartown, another tasty and distinctive drink made with vodka is found at The Wharf. Along with several other drinks on the bar and restaurant's specialty drinks menu, the Ice Pick stands out because it's a staple that owner Will Coogan has put on the summer menu. According to Mr. Coogan, bartender Mike Brown concocted the drink, made with Absolut citron, sweetened iced tea, and fresh lime juice. "Even guys like it," says Catie Coogan, a part-time waitress at the restaurant.

Another bartender-inspired specialty is Tatiana Pavlenko's ginger-lime margarita at Sharky's Cantina in Oak Bluffs. Already in competition with the high sales of the mojito and flavored margaritas, the ginger-lime is gaining popularity. At first, it tastes very much like a regular margarita. The ginger is apparent after you sip, and then the two flavors combine for a tart and delicious taste. It is also a relatively healthy alcoholic beverage. "It's very good for digestion," says Tatiana. "It's a Sharky's secret. I put a lot of Russian love into it. Mexican ingredients, Russian love."

Sharky's new ginger-lime margarita deserves a try next time you're there.

If you're at Sharky's, you should also discover for yourself the peculiar pairing of mint and margaritas in the cranberry-mint and pineapple-mint flavors. Because the mojito was so popular, the crew thought to bring mint to the margaritas, according to restaurant consultant Tony May. The result is a hearty margarita with muddled cranberries or pineapples and fresh mint in the glass, which makes it almost like a smoothie.

If you are in Edgartown and looking for a margarita, check out Détente's basil-infused orange version. Jeff Raposa, a summer resident who winters in Los Angeles, brought the drink to the Island this summer after modifying it while bartending out west. "I'm trying to match Kevin's [Crowell, owner] food. It's creative, and made with fresh ingredients," says Jeff. Look for other specialty drinks at the restaurant as summer continues.

In the hunt for exceptional drinks, fruit seems to be a crucial ingredient. At the Park Corner Bistro in Oak Bluffs, they import Italian Black Cherries for a certain specialty drink, the Cherry Blossom. It's a must-try; black cherries are mixed with lime juice, Stoli vodka, and soda. "The cherries are muddled with lime juice to act as a modifier," says Park Corner bartender Joanna Nethery.

One of L'étoile's specialty martinis, the "Startini," is a pomegranate-flavored vodka creation with a splash of champagne. Photo by Danielle Zerbonne

Also worth trying at the Bistro is the Moulin Rouge. "It's like a French martini. There's nothing Earth-shattering about it, it's just good," says Joanna. A mango-based drink with Stoli vodka and Chambord, it's the fruit purée that creates a silky texture. Served straight up, the Moulin Rouge is certainly smooth.

Oyster Bar Grill's must-try cocktail is the Wild Blueberry Gimlet. With a tart blueberry taste, the gimlet is a refreshing beverage, good for an afternoon drink or on a hot summer evening. A good balance of sweet and sour from the blueberry and lime essence, it is a reinvention of the classic gimlet. It is particular to the restaurant as they house-infuse vodka with blueberries. The vodka is added to fresh lime juice and simple syrup, to create this fabulous drink, which is served on the rocks.

Last but not least of the specialty drinks tasted at various bars is Donovan's Dirty Banana, served by Donovan Clark, of the outside bar at Nancy's Restaurant on Oak Bluffs harbor. Perfect on a hot day, his signature frozen drink is like vanilla, Kahlua, and banana-flavored ice cream.

So forget the usual drinks for a night, and let the bartenders create something just for you. They are, after all, the drink experts.