After more than a year away from cocktail culture, people are craving a well-crafted drink made by an expert bartender who thinks carefully about flavors and ingredients to produce a summery sipper. One signifier of a thoughtful cocktail list: local spirits.
“Restaurant-goers expect an interesting and varied beer and wine menu, so using the same five big spirit brands from 20 years ago doesn’t make a lot of sense,” says Dave Gallagher. He’s sales manager for Boston’s Bully Boy Distillers, which makes a wide range of craft spirits, so might be a tad biased, but we’d agree nonetheless. “Customers like seeing local spirits on menus, because there’s a good chance that if a restaurant is using local, high-quality ingredients in their cocktails, their kitchen is probably doing the same thing.”
Indeed, Abbigail Hickey, bar manager at C.K. Pearl in Essex, has been known to raid the kitchen for a summer program of daily drink specials, featuring the seasonal offerings from local farms. Pair the bounty of North Shore artisans with our bountiful water views, and you have a recipe for a relaxing summer afternoon. Here are three spots that mix some local treasures with views to match.
The Scene: This seasonal spot has no indoor dining at all, so no matter where you sit, you’ll be enjoying Merrimack River breezes and a view of the steeples of Newburyport bathed in lovely nightly sunsets across the way. On the main dining floor, choose from high-top tables in the sun or a covered section for shelter from the rays or a passing shower. New this season, the covered second floor deck is upgrading from limited service cocktail lounge to a full food menu, and diners can also enjoy a new patio addition along the water, not to mention new railing seats directly on the pier.
Insider’s Tip: Reservations are not accepted, but you can add your party to the waitlist via OpenTable before arriving and add a note to request your favorite table.
The Spirits: Privateer Rum and Ryan & Wood Vodka
The Drinks: Looking for a social media sensation? Try the frozen Painkiller, a blend of the restaurant’s custom Privateer “All Hands On Deck” Rum, hand-selected by management at The Deck and Village Restaurant (The Deck’s sister restaurant in Essex), plus pineapple juice, orange juice and coconut cream, topped with freshly ground nutmeg and served in an actual pineapple. “This is best consumed on our new pier railing seats, directly over the water,” says general manager Monica Poisson. Prefer vodka? Try the new Truly Fishbowl cocktail: Ryan & Wood “Well Stocked” Vodka, blue curaçao, lemonade, and Truly Wildberry Spiked Seltzer. When you’re finished, you can take the fishbowl home.
Tuscan Sea Grill
The Scene: The full-on lounge vibe feels a bit more Newport than Newburyport, with Merrimack River views providing the backdrop for sleek seating along a rail looking toward the harbor, along with comfy couches and tables. A clear roof and railings mean there’s a great view from every seat.
The Spirits: Bully Boy provides the vodka of choice in all the Tuscan Brand restaurants, and the distiller also crafted a special gin just for the company, infused with Sicilian lemon zest, oregano, basil, rosemary, and juniper. Boston-based Ghost Tequila, infused with bhut jolokia pepper, provides the spirit for the restaurant’s spicy margarita.
The Drink: Try the new “Rosabella” cocktail, a pretty blend of Bully Boy Vodka, Ramazzotti Aperitif, lemon, rose petal jam, and prosecco, garnished with dehydrated rose petals. It’s sleek and sophisticated, just like the space.
The Scene: An expansive, partially covered deck sits directly on the Essex River—a perfect spot for enjoying a breeze as the boats drift by.
The Spirits: Ryan & Wood Beauport Vodka, Ryan & Wood Knockabout Gin, Privateer Rum, Bully Boy Whiskey.
The Drinks: Bar manager Abbigail Hickey likes crafting barrel-aged cocktails with local spirits. Take a trip to the tropics with the Banana Barrel: Privateer Rum infused with banana then barrel aged, mixed with guava, and topped with a dark rum float. Prefer something spirit-forward? Try the house Manhattan—one of C. K. Pearl’s best-selling cocktails. It’s crafted with Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey and Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, aged in a 10-liter barrel. For dessert, sip the Espresso Martini, featuring barrel-aged Ryan & Wood vodka infused with espresso and Kahlúa, then shaken with a touch of Bailey’s.
Drinks to Go
Unless local ordinances change, restaurants are still able to offer cocktails to go, but if you want something a bit more portable, area distilleries have you covered.
Fabrizia Spirits, the leading limoncello producer in the United States, recently introduced freezer-ready packages of its ready-to-drink canned cocktails. Like ice pops for grown-ups, the spirits come in 100-ml. tubes, using the same recipes as the popular canned flavors: Italian Lemonade (fresh-squeezed lemonade and vodka), Italian Margarita (fresh-squeezed lemonade and tequila), and Italian Breeze, made with Fabrizia Limoncello, freshly squeezed Sicilian lemons, premium vodka, and cranberry and raspberry juices.
Bully Boy has introduced two canned cocktails—Grapefruit Spritz and Italian Iced Tea, both made with Bully Boy Amaro, which has bright citrusy notes that fit well with boating and beaching.
Local Hard Seltzer
Great Marsh Brewing has put its scientific approach to German beer to work on hard seltzer with Spass Craft Hard Seltzers. Made with water that mimics that found in the German birthplace of seltzer, in flavors like Plum and Blueberry, they clock in at just 4.5 percent ABV and 80 calories. Prost!