Beverages

Garden to glass: Celebrate with produce-driven cocktails

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A Strawberry Daisy from Vickers Restaurant features vodka, muddled fruit and mint. Photo by Emily Ryan.

By Emily Ryan, The Mercury

You’ve heard of farm-to-table dining. Now say “cheers” to the garden-to-glass movement, where fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs raise cocktails to the next level.

“Farm-to-table is obviously a big trend in the past few years, and that’s trickled in from the kitchen to the bar,” explained Steven Gullo, sommelier and beverage director at Paramour in Wayne. “Bartending and cocktail culture follows what chefs are doing, for sure.”

While enjoying a nice meal, “you shouldn’t have a bottled cocktail,” agreed Aaron Gordon of 13th Street Cocktail Catering in Philadelphia, who grows many of his ingredients on the family farm.

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PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN This Lillet Basil Cocktail also works with mint or thyme.

“Having a solid herb garden — that’s almost like the home bartender’s arsenal. Fresh herbs go a long way,” added the company owner and “spirit guide.” “Our mantra is using fresh ingredients for everything we do.”

His Morey Melon Smash combines watermelon, vodka, lime and ginger juices for a “beautiful cocktail” that’s “essentially a gimlet with watermelon.”

Cucumber stars in another concoction called the Marrakesh Express.

“We skin half the cucumber. So when we juice it, it still has some of the green, but it’s not too vegetal,” Gordon said. “These cocktails are stuff you can totally grow in your home garden.”

Even a window box will do. Experiment with rosemary, mint, thyme, Thai basil, which “holds up really well after you pick it,” and sage for starters.

“Sage is amazing,” he expressed. “Sage goes great with pineapple in drinks, if you’re doing punch. You get a lot of flavor with sage.”

Have a big backyard? Plant watermelon and cucumber for those refreshing summer sips. Or head to The Butcher and Barkeep in Harleysville and order the Garden Variety cocktail.

“The main flavoring in this drink is just cucumber juice, sweetened up a bit with a lemon-thyme cordial,” said co-owner Cody Ferdinand. “Everything’s made in-house. It’s a damn good drink.”

At Vickers Restaurant in Exton, the Lillet Basil Cocktail includes fresh orange juice and orange vodka.

“Lillet is a French aperitif,” noted Amanda Burigatto Brogan, director of marketing and events. “The basil’s a little bit peppery, so it gives this peppery pop. And then you have the sweetness of the Lillet and the sour of the fresh citrus, so it’s hitting all the senses.”

And come strawberry season, taste a Strawberry Daisy, featuring muddled fruit and mint.

“It’s just fresh simple ingredients,” she said. “It’s lovely.”

Finally back at Paramour, try the Saigon Sling, a “refreshing martini-style cocktail” with honeydew and basil.

“It’s a really aromatic drink and just screams springtime,” Gullo described.

Garden Variety

Ingredients

2 ounces Bluebird Distilling Juniperus Gin

½ ounce Art in the Age Sage liquor

½ ounce fresh cucumber juice

½ ounce lemon-thyme cordial (see note)

Dash orange bitters

Instructions

Shake all ingredients and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

Note: To make lemon-thyme cordial: Wash and peel 4 lemons. In a bowl, muddle the lemon peels and 1 cup of sugar. Let sit for 1 hour. Add the juice of the lemons to the bowl with ½ cup of vodka and one bundle of thyme. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, let simmer for 2 minutes and let cool at room temperature. Ready to use once cooled.

RECIPE COURTESY OF THE BUTCHER AND BARKEEP

Strawberry Daisy

This is a lovely cocktail that makes an appearance in the height of summer at Vickers bar when the strawberries from the Sankanak CSA are juicy and perfect! The addition of mint gives it a refreshing “cooler” feel.

Ingredients

3 ounces vodka

4 ripe strawberries

½ teaspoon sugar

3 drops dry vermouth

4 mint leaves

Instructions

In a cocktail shaker, muddle strawberries, sugar and mint until pureed. Add ice and vodka. Shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. With an eye dropper, add vermouth on top of drink. Garnish with a strawberry.

RECIPE COURTESY OF VICKERS RESTAURANT

Lillet Basil Cocktail

This is a nice way to use your garden herbs. You can substitute mint or thyme for a fun variation, but not all three at once!

Ingredients

3 ounces Lillet Blanc

2 ounces orange vodka (or regular vodka)

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

¼ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, plus sprigs for garnish

Splash of club soda

1 cucumber spear, for garnish

Instructions

Slap two basil leaves in the palm of your hand or with the back of a muddler to release the oils. Reserve one leaf for garnish. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine, Lillet, vodka, orange juice, basil; shake well. Fill a highball glass with crushed ice; strain mixture into glass. Fill remainder of glass with club soda. Garnish with cucumber spear and basil sprig.

RECIPE COURTESY OF VICKERS RESTAURANT

Saigon Sling

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Freshly grated orange zest tops a Saigon Sling. Photo courtesy of Paramour.

Ingredients

2 ounces London dry gin

1½ ounces melon-basil syrup (see below)

1 ounce orange juice

½ ounce lime juice

Honeydew “bubbles” (see below)

Orange zest

Instructions

For melon-basil syrup: Slice ½ honeydew melon into 1-inch cubes and rough chop 2 sprigs of fresh basil. Combine with 1 quart of warm water and 2 cups of granulated sugar. Refrigerate overnight.

To mix drink: Combine gin, melon-basil syrup, orange juice and lime juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a martini glass. Using a melon-baller, scoop four small pieces of honeydew and skewer onto a toothpick. Garnish rim of glass with these honeydew “bubbles” and grate orange zest on top.

RECIPE COURTESY OF PARAMOUR

Morey Melon Smash

Ingredients

1½ ounces Tito’s Handmade Vodka

½ ounce lime

¾ ounce of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)

¼ ounce ginger juice

1-inch cube of watermelon, muddled

Instructions

Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Pour over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with Thai basil.

RECIPE COURTESY OF 13TH STREET COCKTAIL CATERING

Marrakesh Express

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Fresh cucumber juice stars in a Marrakesh Express. PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL BARBARA

Ingredients

1½ ounces Tito’s Handmade Vodka

¾ ounce lemon juice

¾ ounce Moroccan mint tea syrup (substitute mint tea for water in simple syrup preparation)

1 ounce seedless cucumber juice (peel half of the skin)

1 dash grapefruit bitters

InSTRUCTIONS

Shake all ingredients and pour over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with shiso leaf or mint sprig.

RECIPE COURTESY OF 13TH STREET COCKTAIL CATERING

Categories: Beverages, Farms, Food, Garden, gardening, Recipes

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