Tavern: The word comes from the Latin meaning booth or stall. In colonial America, taverns (also known as ordinaries) were a way of life. So much so that in 1656, the General Court of Massachusetts held all towns “accountable to fines” if they did not support one. Taverns were, along with churches, the centerpieces of each community, and were meeting places and venues for news as well as refreshments from morning till night. By the eighteenth century, though, they were mainly venues for drinking with tavern-goers hoisting glasses of flips and shrubs, Madeira wines and port in bibulous delight.

But wait...our Island tavern is located within the teetotal precincts of Chilmark, where more than one unwary newcomer has been flummoxed by the lack of spirituous beverages. At Chilmark Tavern, proprietress and manager Jenna Petersiel has made it easier on all. She offers diners a cleverly crafted drink list of elixirs and mixers that require only the addition of alcohol supplied by the diners to be transformed (under the watchful eye of bartender Eliska Suryckova, shown below) into the cocktails of their desire. There’s a gin-less basil-lime martini, a rum-less dark and stormy, and even a shrub as a nod to the tavern’s name. All the diner has to do is hand over that bottle of booze and wait for the cocktails to return. Petersiel brags, “We’re the wettest dry tavern in America!”

And she’s probably right.

Dry Town Basil-Lime Martini

  • 4­-5 leaves fresh basil, bruised
  • Cane sugar simple syrup, to taste
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice (or to taste)
  • Seltzer, vodka, or gin as desired

1. Place bruised basil leaves, simple syrup, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously.

2. For a dry drink, pour over ice into a tall glass, add seltzer to top, and serve.

3. For a more spirited cocktail, add the desired liquor, continue to shake vigorously for a minute more, then pour into a chilled martini glass and serve immediately.