Differentiating your bar program can be as simple as chatting with your local farmers or planting some herbs in a rooftop garden. Incorporating fresh produce in a wide variety of ways elevates cocktails and can transform even mainstay drinks into signature, buzzworthy creations.
The addition of fresh produce can also boost holiday cocktail menus, when consumers tend to both imbibe more often and seek unique options. Here’s some mixologist advice for infusing cocktail menus with seasonal appeal:
Be a mandolin maven
Super-thin-cut fruits and vegetables, such as cucumber, don’t even need to be muddled. Simply place the paper-thin slices in a cocktail shaker and agitate vigorously, says bar manager Chris Cheng of barleymash in San Diego.
Be a syrup superstar
There’s a reason it’s called simple syrup: It couldn’t be easier to infuse housemade syrups with virtually any type of fresh produce, from sweet to spicy. At Mexicue in Manhattan, the Mexicue Mule gets a hefty dose of heat from a signature syrup crafted with fresh chilies and ginger.
Beyond syrups, consider creating on-trend shrubs, made with vinegar-based syrups, or kombucha with seasonal produce. The Cedars Social of Dallas makes a golden beet-parsnip shrub.
Think of texture
Don’t strain out all of the pulp when mixing drinks with fresh fruits and vegetables. “The pulp from the freshly squeezed juice creates a wonderful layer of froth and brightness to the drink,” says Natasha Torres, bar manager at Lantern’s Keep in New York City. “Tiny ice crystals attach to the pulp making each sip vibrant and cold. It brings a wonderful roundness to the palate.”
Look to the kitchen for flavor inspiration
Put down the cocktail book, says bar owner and manager Rob McShea, who has worked with several cocktail programs around San Diego, Calif. Instead, consult the kitchen, or even a good farm-to-table cookbook, for advice on combining produce with the flavor notes of different alcohols.
Be mindful of balance
Some fruits and vegetables are sweeter than others, of course. Add acid, in the form of fresh lemon or lime juice, to tone down sweetness. Neutral berries, such as blackberries and blueberries, require supplementing with acid and simple syrup to bring out their vibrancy, McShea says.
Here are a few cocktails incorporating fresh produce that are popping up on seasonal menus today:
Shicigosan with salted banana puree, chrysanthemum-infused tea and lime juice mixed with fat-washed buttered popcorn Brugal Anejo rum and Shochu
Old Man Clanton with barrel-finished double rye, housemade persimmon shrub, egg white and citrus
Knee High with gin, tri-colored carrots, lemon and mint
This post is sponsored by The Blueberry Council