Brett Henderson loves local ingredients. Friends know to stop by The Poynt in Newburyport, where he is bar manager, with fresh produce that he can experiment with to make tasty cocktails. On his own, he can often be found at Tendercrop or Cider Hill, perusing what is in season.
“Especially for summer cocktails, I love to use locally sourced [ingredients] whenever possible,” Henderson says. “Instead of an orange, I might try a strawberry.”
So he was inspired when the mead makers at 1634 Meadery in Ipswich dropped by with some samples of their honey wine—especially the Strawberry Fields flavor, produced with local strawberries and local honey.
“Mead is huge for cocktails,” Henderson says. “It has a great nose, can add viscosity, and comes in a range of sweetnesses. It really opens up a cocktail.” That sweetness means it can also act as a local version of simple syrup or agave nectar.
When developing a new cocktail for the summer list at The Poynt, Henderson’s first thoughts were of a vodka-based lemonade drink with mead as a supporting player, but it quickly became apparent that the Strawberry Fields Mead demanded a starring role.
“Now the vodka is just a supporter,” Henderson says. The same went for the lemonade—he didn’t want it to dominate the drink. Even muddling lemon added too much flavor, so he just shakes a lemon wheel with the other ingredients to get some flavor without so much tartness.
“You want some of the oils from the lemon, but you don’t want it to become the dominant flavor,” Henderson says.
To enhance the summery color of the cocktail and to add a complex medicinal undertone, Henderson used Yellow Chartreuse, a vibrant neon-colored liqueur that comes by its hue naturally—it has been made by French monks for hundreds of years, using a secret combination of herbs, spices, and flowers.
Henderson serves the drink, dubbed “I Mead Eh Diffusion,” in a coupe heaped with crushed ice, so customers can enjoy it slushy-style. As a finishing touch, he carefully pours cassis, a blackcurrant liqueur, through a straw so it rests at the bottom of the glass. While you could skip the cassis, Henderson says the lower alcohol content and level of sweetness can make the cocktail more approachable, while leaving it at the bottom lets it slowly mellow and mix with the melting ice and other components. If pouring it through a straw seems too complex, Henderson suggests swirling it over the top for a tie-dye effect.
The result is a very grown-up snow cone, subtly sweet and refreshing. The temptation
is to go right for the straw for that hit of sweet-tart cassis, but take a sip from the glass first, and enjoy the smell of a summer field. With ripe fruit flavors and a hint of lemon balm, it is summer encapsulated in a glass. While this drink goes down easily, it has three ounces of alcohol, so sip it slowly and watch
I Mead Ah Diffusion
Makes one drink
From Brett Henderson Bar Manager, The Poynt?
Photo by Gary Tardiff, food styling by Alisa Nealy for Anchor Artists
> 1 oz. 1634 Strawberry Fields Mead (Ipswich)
> 1 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
> 1/2 oz. Bully Boy Vodka
> 1/2 oz. House Lemon Cordial (see recipe below)
> 1 wheel of lemon
1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously.
2. Strain over a coupe-style glass heaped with freshly crushed ice.
3. Center a straw through the ice to the bottom of the glass. With a squirt bottle pour 1/4 oz. Giffard Cassis through the straw.
4. Garnish with a large sprig of lemon balm.
+ To enjoy with friends, quadruple the recipe, heap a scorpion bowl–style glass with ice, and serve with four straws. A martini glass or a beer goblet is a good alternative if no coupe is available. The recipe will fill an 8- to 10-ounce glass when strained over crushed ice. Henderson says crushing is easy at home with a blender.
House Lemon Cordial
> 1 c. fresh lemon juice
> 1 c. Demerara sugar
> 1/2 c. Limoncello
> 2 c. warm water
1. Combine ingredients
31 Water Street, Newburyport