It might sound weird to call a longstanding, popular tradition one of the city's best kept secrets, but the magic of the Provincetown fast ferry was certainly a revelation to me when I availed myself of it for the first time this month.
The ferry runs between Provincetown and the Seaport multiple times a day and, at a mere scenic hour and a half-long trip (as opposed to the roughly 13 days it takes to drive to the Cape in the summer), it's a game-changer in terms of quick getaways. As an added bonus, ditching your car means you're free to complete a lengthy bar crawl after a day at the beach.
Surprisingly, considering its wealth of fine restaurants and steady influx of urbanites from around the world, Provincetown isn't exactly what I'd call a cocktail nerd's paradise. Finding a shot of Fernet anywhere proved impossible (although we were able to assuage our digestif needs with Averna at Patio).
There are, however, a few restaurants that are nudging P-town's cocktail scene in the right direction. Local 186 is one of the many picturesque, cottage-style restaurants along Commercial Street where, aside from a good beer selection (Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, the signature Local 186 Lager and Porter Square Porter on draft), you'll find a well-made Blackfish Negroni made with Hendricks, Campari, Carpano Antica vermouth and a Luxardo cherry. You'll also find an Old Fashioned made with Eagle Rare bourbon, Peychaud's bitters and soda (with muddled fruit and sugar). Or — just this once — you could drop your pretensions, give your "serious cocktail guy" persona a vacation and let yourself try the Ruby Red Dress Martini made with Absolut Ruby Red, ruby red grapefruit juice and Cointreau with a sugar rim. Just promise yourself you won't make a habit of it and you might actually enjoy it.
Up toward the end of Bradford Street, more removed from the center of the town, Victor's is another charming option for dinner and drinks. Like Local 186, Victor's boasts a good beer list plus a more extensive wine selection and a cocktail menu that runs an interesting gamut. The Port of Manhattan — made with W.L. Weller 12-year bourbon, orange bitters and a ruby port — was drier than a traditional Manhattan, and better for it. It also apparently contained about a pint of booze, which made the rest of the night more interesting. (It must be said, however, that the food here is decidely more forward-thinking than the rest of their cocktails.)
Speaking of the rest of the night, our bar hop ended, like most good (meaning bad) ones do, at a dive. The Underground Bar (on Commercial Street) has all the standard trappings of a good dive: pool, ping pong and loud punk rock. But it doesn't have Fernet. “What are you, a Boston chef or something?” the sassy bartender asked, in response to the query. Sure, something like that.