The Thirsty Test Kitchen crew has been given the month off to find their own trouble without any direction from me, so we will leave the heavy lifting (and pouring) to the capable professionals at Garde East.
The restaurant is entering its third year on the Vineyard Haven waterfront, with expansive views of the busy harbor from two second floor outside decks. The food and atmosphere are equally superb, but we visited last fall to check out the launch of a new craft cocktail program.
Now, my booze antennae really starts to wiggle when I hear anything that smacks of chichi hipsterism; it’s just not my style. So when it sensed the words “craft cocktail,” my antennae sent a message to my skepticism gene to be on alert.
After I sat down, both my antennae and my skepticism gene calmed down considerably. There was a Sazerac on the menu. It doesn’t get any more classic or less hipster than that. The drink is the official cocktail of New Orleans, which is not a bad place to be the official cocktail. Let’s face it: nobody cares about the official cocktail of Sacramento.
Steve Myrick
Sazeracs were originally made with cognac, but are now more often made with rye or bourbon, which is fine by me.
Garde East mixologist Alex Padova explains how he makes the concoction, which is served neat but very cold.
“We wanted to put our own little spin on it,” he said. “It’s been fairly popular. We use an absinthe wash, Bulleit rye, Peychaud’s bitters, and Angostura bitters. And we funnel a sugar cube, use a little bit of water to help the sugar dissolve, stir it up, and then rim the glass with some fresh lemon.”
Padova tries to follow the food 
philosophy of the kitchen, seeking out fresh Vineyard ingredients whenever he can. One such effort on the menu last summer was made with Island-grown hot peppers and Island-made sea salt.
The next menu offering that caught my eye was the Vineyard Haven Lemonade. The visual appeal of this drink as we sat on the harbor watching the sunset was as good as the taste. It made me wonder if Padova consulted with an architect, because the drink is as much built as poured.
“We slice the lemons,” Padova said. “We put a lemon on the bottom, we put crushed ice, another lemon, and then crushed ice. That’s to build the picture of the drink. Then we use Gunpowder gin, and we add fresh lemon and fresh lime juice, then a little bit of our house lemonade, and we top it with basil just to give it that extra bit of flavor or earthy tone. That’s how we build the drink from the bottom up.”
The next time I visit, the Mexican Mule (mescal, ginger beer, lime juice, and pineapple) will definitely find its way to my table. So will Newton’s Law (fig-infused vodka, rosemary honey syrup, and fresh citrus juice). Those are definitely not hipster drinks. No, no. By the way, my daughter says the surest sign you are a hipster is you vehemently deny being a hipster.
But for this visit, the choice for a well grilled steak was a simple but perfectly made Hendrick’s martini to round out a wonderful evening.
Now if I can just round up the test kitchen minions from vacation in time for the next column.
They’re probably off at some 
hipster bar.