Beer cocktails? Trendy drinks hit Vineyard bars

Mix cognac, peach liquor, triple sec, simple syrup, lemon, and a Stella Artois beer and you'll have M.V. Chowder Company's Beer Sangria. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

In May, Frank Bruni of The New York Times wrote an article about beer cocktails. In “Cocktails with a Beer Buzz” Mr. Bruni proclaims that “beer has gone on to make friends with vodka, and it has made peace with gin.” He goes on to theorize, “Its relatively low alcohol content, in relation to hard liquor, means it can add to the overall volume of the drink without making it too lethal.”

With a number of talented bartenders and mixologists on the Vineyard, it’s no surprise that some Island establishments followed suit, and Micheladas and beer Bloody Mary’s started popping up on drink lists.

The Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company offers beer sangria with Pierre Ferrand (cognac), Peachtree liquor, triple sec, simple syrup, lemon, and Stella Artois. I was weary, I admit. I prefer wine to beer in most imbibing situations and I appreciate the traditional Spanish wine punch just the way it is typically served, with chunks of fruit and some type of seltzer but I enjoyed the Chowder Company’s spin, lighter than expected, and the Peachtree added a nice touch of fruitiness.

The Lookout Tavern serves a Michelada with a twist: your choice of beer with clamato juice, soy sauce, Cholula hot sauce, squeezed lime, and a salted rim. It looks like a Bloody Mary but is surprisingly light, and refreshing with the lime. The Lookout is only open until the end of the month, but next time you’re there I do recommend giving the Michelada a try.

On to dinner

Last week I had two noteworthy, above-average, delicious dinners in Vineyard Haven. The Little House serves dinner Wednesday through Saturday, and their entrees are 20 percent off on Wednesdays. The French lentil salad looks elegant topped with delicate, peppery lentils and it tastes delicious, tossed with raisins and carrots in a maple balsamic vinaigrette served with creamy sheep’s milk feta on crostini.

They also have a classic Nicoise salad with oil-packed yellow fin tuna, baby potatoes, haricot vert, and farm-fresh boiled eggs and herb vinaigrette.

For lighter fare, The Little House offers some of their favorite lunch dishes like crispy fish tacos, Greek lamb burger, falafel wrap, and chicken shawarma.

With the entrees, the chef turns it up a notch and gets crafty. Pan-seared cod was served on a bed of roasted baby spinach, mussel aioli broth, and pommes frites. Beef tenderloin kabobs came atop couscous salad with almonds, dates, chickpeas, and grilled asparagus. Cornish hen with mustard glaze was perched on roasted Yukon Gold potatoes and caramelized red onions. For the vegetarian and curry fan, Indian style curry with potatoes, cauliflower, and peas on Basmati rice pilaf with condiments like mango chutney, yogurt, and sweet onion relish allows one to manipulate the sweetness, creaminess, and spiciness of your dish. Entrees are $21 and $24 while “lighter fare” is between $8 and $12.

Zephrus at the Mansion House has welcomed chef Ben deForest to the team. Mr. deForest has been cooking around the Island for a long time now. Starting at the Red Cat then on to open the original Balance in Oak Bluffs and then the Oyster Bar Grille. As a friend of the Goldstein family, Mr. deForest consulted on the design of Zephrus’ open kitchen when it reopened in 1999 so he is certainly comfortable in the space.

Zephrus still offers their Z Burgers and all-day menu but Mr. deForest has been working on signature dishes to make the menu his own. During a particularly raging deluge one night last week I had the sweet potato arancinis with gruyere fondue. They were delicious. The sweetness of the potatoes, and heftiness of the fried rice balls along with the rich cheese sauce was perfectly comforting on a stormy night.

The rare tuna with Israeli couscous, local bok choy, sweet onions, and vanilla vinaigrette was such a tasty refined dish, perfectly balanced and executed, it made me curious about the pork medallions, The Good Farm chicken, and New York strip. I found myself wondering which friends would be interested in coming back to dinner with me, particularly to share Mr. deForest’s four-course tasting menu. Zephrus is open nightly and if you haven’t been there in a while I urge you to check them out. The menu is different and the chef is excited to show what he can do.