Where You Should Be Drinking: Waypoint in Cambridge
On our way to Cape Cod, we made a prolonged stop in Cambridge to visit friends and to volunteer at Soccer Nights, a one of a kind summer evening soccer clinic for low-income, immigrant youth. One of us founded Soccer Nights, and the other volunteered for most of the 10 years of its existence; and it was always one of our favorite weeks of the year. Since we were practically passing right by, we couldn’t resist stopping in to say hello.
On the cocktail front, while we were in Cambridge we really wanted to make a side trip up to Woburn to try out Baldwin and Sons Trading Company’s new menu, Vol. 2; but the end-time for Soccer Nights and last call at Baldwin on a weeknight didn’t allow for that. So, we consulted the latest Best of Boston to see if it had any suggestions of someplace new to us, nearer and with a later last call. Indeed it did. Highly-regarded Cambridge chef Michael Scelfo had opened up a second restaurant since we left town. Located on the edge of Harvard Square, tending toward Central, Waypoint–as it’s called–won Best Cocktail Program for 2017.
Waypoint combines everything you’d want for a nice date with the friendliness and familiarity of a neighborhood bar, warmly welcoming us in our Soccer Nights t-shirts and shorts right along with the better dressed evening diners. In light of our failure to get to Baldwin, we were a little nervous to see them packing up the raw bar while we waited for the rest of our party to arrive. No worries; while they pack up the raw bar station early, the kitchen is open late. And the food is good.
As for cocktails, with several people in our group, we were able to taste much of the menu.
What We Tried
Absinthe Cobbler: white absinthe, blackberry & thyme shrub, Avua Cachaca, gentian liqueur, and lemon
Sinbad’s Sip: La Muse green absinthe, rhum agricole, lime, Stone pine liqueur, orange zest whipped coconut
Sea Level: torched nori tequila, salted cucumber, lime, green absinthe, tonic
Washington: rye whiskey, cherry-infused Amaro Montenegro, Dolin dry vermouth, Suze
Penguin Suit: Gin Mare, rhubarb & tarragon infused fino sherry, Dolin dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, absinthe, bitters
Estate Grown: Martinique Rhum, toasted pistachio infused falernum, house hierbas, lime & herb oil
Waypoint Daiquiri: Privateer silver and overproofed rum, plum, basil, and lime
Spruce Lee: spruce tip gin, la muse vert absinthe, green, chartreuse, lemon, and egg white
The Kraken: squid ink infused mezcal, manzanilla sherry, house Swedish punsch, lime, demerara
What We Thought
Best of Boston definitely steered us in the right direction; Waypoint does indeed have a very good bar program. Their menu includes about half classics and half house creations, and the classics and innovations alike are well-executed and inventive. Absinthe is featured heavily in the menu, but is well-integrated into the drinks rather than dominating them; go here to see absinthe used well as an accent note. All of the drinks are presented well, but without fuss, in classic glasses and simply garnished; unexpected colors are what draws the eye instead. This isn’t the place to find standard drinks done in the standard way; but if you’re looking for interesting tweaks on the classics done with a steady hand, make your way to Waypoint.
The Waypoint Daiquiri is a great example of their approach. It takes the perfectly proportioned rum and lime you’d want from a good daiquiri, and adds hints of plum and basil. The basil brings just the slightest herbal influence, morel like a subtle adjustment of the seasoning than a full-on ingredient to the cocktail. The plum took just a little of the citrus edge off the drink, with a bit of richer fruit flavor. More significantly, it made the drink a soft pink color. Especially with several drinks on the table at once, the visual effect of a multi-colored array of drinks was surprisingly significant; it was pleasing to have the table not be all brown and yellow.
One of Waypoint’s favorite tricks, to nudge the flavor and to significantly alter the color, was infusing unusual ingredients into the spirits. We tried drinks that involved infusions of cherry (not so unusual), thyme (a bit unexpected), rhubarb, squid ink, and nori (all quite unusual). The squid ink, for instance, turned the Kraken a deep, dark purple; it tasted deep and dark as well. The most fascinating use of infusion was in the Sea Level, which combined nori-infused tequila and salted cucumber to create a notably sea-brine base to the cocktail; this bold move wasn’t loved by everyone, but it was appreciated.
Every drink we tried found someone to love it, and almost all of them were liked by almost everyone. The best drinks of the night, though, were the Absinthe Cobbler and the Washington. The Cobbler was a light and refreshing drink with a beautiful balance of berry, anise, and citrus built on the slightly vegetal, smooth sweetness of cachaca. It was a great example of Waypoint turning its inventiveness in a crowd-pleasing direction. The Washington was the best example we’ve ever had of a cocktail involving Suze, the intriguing but finicky bitter French liqueur. We’ve tried many times to mix something with Suze, only ever succeeding in drowning it out or letting it dominate. Waypoint got it just right. They were kind enough to share the recipe of their triumph, below.
If you go
- Dress better than we did–no need to take advantage of their hospitable natures;
- Go as a group–the best way to truly experience what they do is to be able to order several drinks at a time. Plus, if you bring at least two friends there are enough of you to order the delicious, enormous (and proportionately pricey) lamb shoulder.
created by Waypoint’s Mira Stella
- 1 oz Old Overholt rye whiskey
- 1 oz Dolin dry vermouth
- 1 oz Amaro Montenegro infused with fresh cherries*
- 1 barspoon Suze
- lemon twist for garnish
- Combine all of the liquid ingredients in a mixing glass.
- Fill the mixing glass with ice up to the level of the liquid.
- Stir until the ice melts noticeably.
- Strain into a cocktail glass.
*Cherry-infused Amaro Montenegro
- Pour a quarter cup of amaro into a mason jar.
- Add 6 or so fresh cherries.
- Let sit for three days, shaking once a day.
- Taste. If it doesn’t seem quite ready yet, let it sit another day; then taste again. It shouldn’t go more than 5 or 6 days.
- Once the cherry influence is noticeable, remove the cherries.
See our post on infusions for more information and ideas.