End in the glass, but start in the garden: your guide to greening up the summer cocktail scene.
Thanks to the juicing craze -- catapulting vegetables from the garden into the blender at lightening speed -- drinking a fresh vegetable juice in the name of a healthy cleanse is just as commonplace as consuming a glass of orange juice at breakfast. These ghoulishly green juices have found their way into our everyday diet with nonchalant acceptance.
Couple that with the growing popularity of the elitist cocktail, where the bartender is out and the mixologist in to embark on a crafty, competitive race for the ultimate work of drinkable art. Oozing secrecy and surprise, its sophistication is measured by use of obscure ingredients -- and audible "wow" factor.
It was only a matter of time before these two liquid behemoths would eventually cross paths, and this trend is heating up right on pace with the summer weather. Reviving yet brisk, enter the vegetable cocktail: creeping onto the mixology scene with the same sly presence as a cucumber or pea plant vining quietly around its post.
Dressed to impress in a fancy glass, salted rim, and giant ice cube; garden-grown vegetables are making their way into your hand whether you recognize it or not. No, not the commonplace cucumber slice or infused jalapeño. I'm talking about those nutrient-filled, scrunched-up-nose-as-a-kid classics -- peas, peppers, kale -- basking in all their dirty, leafy, rooted glory as they stride confidently onto the cocktail scene.
The temperament of the garden vegetable is really the perfect solution for all that ails a cocktail. Too strong, and the pulpy juice absorbs the puckered punch. Too sweet, and the earthy undertone mellows it out. Citrus, bitter, or spicy; this garden-grown remedy is truly complimentary to all drink dispositions it may encounter.
Take The Wayland's Garden Variety Margarita, a perfect harmony of a margarita and Liquiteria. Channeling all the hallmarks of a traditional margarita -- tequila, limejuice, agave nectar, and a salted rim -- the Garden Variety Margarita also includes fresh ginger and kale juice; creating a robust body that feels juicily nutritious with every sip.
If it's similar flavors but smokier piquancy you're seeking, try (from across the street) Summit Bar's Ground to Glass, where muddled cucumber, orange bitters, tequila and hickory salt live congruously thanks to the drink's star ingredient, red pepper puree. Organically sweet, the red pepper tempers the bitters and smoky salt, and the novel taste -- tangy and smoky in it's own right -- propels this cocktail a cut above the rest.
If your craving is sweet and simple, try Bon Appetit's The Sweet Pea, where dulcet peas are muddled amongst fresh lemon juice and cold vodka with a touch of sugar. Complete the cool, crisp beverage by serving in a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with a seasonal pea tendril -- an aesthetic salute to the pea's garden home.
The Garden Variety Margarita; The Wayland
Makes 1 drink
1 cup ginger juice (homemade or from a juice bar)
½ cup kale juice (homemade or from a juice bar)
2 oz. blanco tequila
1 oz. lime juice
¾ oz. agave nectar
Salt, for rimming the glass
Rim a rocks glass with salt, set aside. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour in ½ oz. ginger-kale juice, tequila, lime juice and agave nectar. Shake well, and pour over ice into your salt-rimmed glass.
Ground to Glass; Summit Bar
Makes 1 drink
1 cucumber slice, muddled
2 oz. Corralejo Tequila
¾ oz. red pepper puree
1 oz. lime juice
¾ oz. agave
2 dashes orange bitters
Hicory salt, for the rim*
*Can substitute with salt & lime zest, or spicy paprika.
Rim a double old fashioned glass with hickory salt. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake, double strain and serve.
The Sweet Pea; Bon Appetit
Makes 1 drink
2 tablespoons fresh (or frozen, thawed) peas
1 lemon wedge
2 oz. vodka
1 teaspoon sugar
Pea tendril (for garnish; optional)
Muddle peas, lemon wedge, and sugar in a cocktail shaker until peas are completely mashed. Add vodka; fill shaker with ice. Cover and shake until outside of shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a pea tendril (optional).
Summit Bar's Ground to Glass. Photo credit: Konstantino Hatzisarros