Reason to Believe (The Longfellow Bar)

Alexis Jesup

On the final track of his 1982 album Nebraska, Bruce Springsteen sadly croons, “At the end of every hard-earned day people find some reason to believe.”

The Boss’s refrain takes on literal meaning at The Longfellow Bar, Harvard Square’s new gorgeous go-to for after-work cocktails. Here, beverage director Dan Pontius has created a creamy, spicy, and just-smoky-enough cocktail named for the aforementioned album’s penultimate song.

Pontius accomplishes a flavorful feat by splitting the cocktail’s spirit base between the more approachable, less smoky Pelotón de la Muerte mezcal and Batavia-Arrack van Oosten, an Indonesian relative of rum made from sugar cane and fermented red rice.

“It’s a funkier version of your regular rum,” Pontius says.

A key non-alcoholic component is coconut milk, which contributes a thick, viscous texture and an integral layer of flavor, plus a bit of dilution that eases the need for shaking.

Rounding out the experience is a lemongrass syrup made with a curious mix of ingredients, including Thai bird chilies (half of which are seeded to lessen the spice). For color and aroma, the drink is garnished with a mix of toasted coconut chips and partially dehydrated lime zest (which you can make by leaving lime zest to dry at room temperature for two hours).

Reason to Believe isn’t the only concoction christened after a Springsteen song. Every one of the drinks on Longfellow’s opening menu pairs with a Nebraska track.

“It was a happy marriage, because I made 10 drinks and Nebraska has 10 songs,” Pontius says.

Reason to Believe
1½ ounces coconut milk

1 ounce Pelotón de la Muerte mezcal
1 ounce Batavia-Arrack van Oosten
½ ounce lime juice
½ ounce lemongrass syrup*
Ground, toasted coconut chips and partially dehydrated lime zest (3 parts to 1 part), for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a shaker filled with ice. Shake for about five seconds and double strain into a rocks glass with a half-rim covered in coconut-lime garnish. Add a dusting of remaining garnish to the surface of the drink.

*Lemongrass Syrup (yields about 3 cups)
3 cups water

2 cups sugar
¼ cup lemongrass, divided
1 tablespoon lime leaves
½ tablespoon Thai bird chilies (half of them seeded)
¼ tablespoon salt
¼ tablespoon black peppercorns
¼ tablespoon celery seed

Add black peppercorns, celery seed, and 1/8 cup lemongrass to a pot over low heat and toast until aromatic. Add water, remaining lemongrass, lime leaves, Thai bird chilies, and salt and bring to a boil. After 30 minutes, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove pot from heat and allow mixture to cool down for one hour before transferring to a sealed container and refrigerating overnight. Strain after 24 hours. Keeps about one month, refrigerated.

Brian Samuels

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