With the farm-to-bar movement going strong, there’s no better time than summer to bring the garden’s bounty into your glass. Mixologists are hitting up the farmers markets and their own growing patches to take advantage of the freshest seasonal delicacies. They’re coming back with exotic ingredients, building flavor profiles well beyond the typical berry, lime, and melon-infused libations of summer. Ingredients like rose and rosewater, geranium, pineapple, and even celeriac are some surprising ingredients that help refresh heat-fazed customers. And these mixologists are focusing on the lighter spirits (gin, rum, and vodka) as bases for their warm weather concoctions.
The mix masters included here are also all in restaurants rather than stand alone bars. It’s yet another testament to the fact that more and more restaurants are reaping the rewards of investing in serious cocktail programs. And contrary to common perception, artisanal and farm fresh cocktails can be just as profitable as the juice-in-a-jug variety—but a hell of a lot more tasty.
Mixologist Kelley Swenson formerly of Ten 01 – Portland, OR
The inspiration behind Mixologist Kelley Swenson’s sophisticated, herbaceous Celeriac cocktail was the celery bitters. Swenson’s take on a gin sour incorporates gin, lemon juice, pineapple juice, simple syrup, egg white, and four strong dashes of bitters for a foamy, elegant cocktail with a luscious mouthfeel and a slightly tropical, summery taste. Although the pineapple juice and simple syrup provide sweet notes, it’s the sour and bitter background tunes that make this a well-balanced cocktail. Kelley prefers Seagrams gin in this recipe, which contains less juniper and so doesn’t overpower the subtle floral flavors of the drink. The egg whites take off the remaining edge of the gin and provide a cloud-like texture, making the Celeriac appealing to cocktail newbies and aficionados alike.
Mixologist Courtney Bissonnette of Toro – Boston, MA
Mixologist Courtney Bissonnette runs her bar similar to the way a chef runs her kitchen, focusing on seasonality. This cocktail makes use of ingredients available at the cusp of spring and summer, like strawberry and rhubarb. Fresh strawberry may make an appearance in two out of three drinks this summer, but strawberry preserves are not the most common cocktail ingredient. Shaken hard along with gin, house-made rhubarb simple syrup, kalamansi lime juice, and mint, the preserved berries add a velvety, lush sweetness. The result is a simple juxtaposition of sour, sweet, and tart flavors against a clean gin background. Mint garnish reinforces the clean mouthfeel—and just looks damn summery—making the Fresita ideal for sipping on a hot day.
Beverage Director Caterina Abbruzzetti of Againn – Washington, DC
As a British Isles-themed restaurant, it’s no surprise that Againn’s beverage director, Caterina Abbruzzetti, was inspired by Shakespeare for this cocktail creation. The seductive Lady Macbeth can be prepared with gin or vodka and features St. Germain, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, and just a hint of rosewater. The egg gives the drink a silky, viscous mouthfeel while the remaining ingredients combine to create a balanced concoction. Unlike the eponymous villainess, a prototype for the unbalanced, the Lady Macbeth cocktail perches a rosey, floral delicacy on the sturdiness of a strong spirit. The drink is romantic and summery served in a vintage glass with a single tiny dried rosebud as garnish.
Mixologist Johnny Santiago of Jo's – New York, NY
This combination of Machu Pisco, lime juice, fresh blackberries, simple syrup, and ginger beer is summer in a glass—the kind of drink that’ll have its partakers running in search of a porch swing. Of course, it wasn’t entirely born of summertime daydreaming; Mixologist Johnny Santiago had a large quantity of pisco sitting downstairs and wanted to use it for something more unusual than a Pisco Sour. “I find that a lot of stuff I've created is because I've had some booze sitting around and I was wondering ‘how am I going to get rid of this?’” Santiago explains. So while the inspiration for the Peruvian Necktie might be wholly practical, the resulting drink, with fresh blackberries shaken into lime juice and simple syrup, a kick of pisco amplified by the spice of crisp ginger beer, is a summertime revelation.
Mixologist Lulu Almagour of Madera – Menlo Park, CA
It’s not summer if you haven’t made at least one mojito. But most mixo’s know that not all mojitos are created equal, and many attempts to ‘build upon’ the classic with new ingredients end in cloying disaster. But in her unusual spin on a classic mojito, Mixologist Lulu Almagour has made one particular and powerful addition. She makes both a simple syrup and a sugar rim using fresh rose geranium, adding a floral layer that sings against the classic profile of the mojito. Almagour muddles fresh lime, mint, rose geranium leaves, rose geranium simple syrup, and rum—a combination of ingredients that makes for a refreshing, invigorating concoction. And as if tasting good wasn’t enough, Almagour’s drinks are all artisanal and contain antioxidants. In this refreshing summertime mix, mint acts as a digestive and rose geranium as an anti-depressant—ideal to counteract the alcohol, a natural depressant! But Almagour’s mojitos aren’t to be taken medicinally—they’re to be imbibed the way any summer cocktail should be, with friends, outside, sometime in the late afternoon.