Eat Drink Local Profile #42: Farm-Stand Cocktails

City mixologist St. John Frizell builds a Corpse Reviver No. 2 with Farmer’s Gin at his Brooklyn bar.

The Drink:

Farm-stand cocktails, our eighth of the 11 Ingredients of the Day and a perfect partner for a rainy (or stellar) Sunday afternoon.

Why They’re Important:

For starters, see our ode to city-made brews and all they bring a community from last Tuesday. But we’re lucky to be in a local beverage boom in terms of both mixers (made fresh, bought fresher, supporting seasonal eating as well as our local farms) and spirits (distilled here, in some cases).

Why We Love Them

Mix a rise in seasonally inspired and DIY everything with a rise in barkeep innovation nationwide, and you get Greenmarket mixology, or cocktails that mirror the flavors of your farm stand. Cheap juices and pre-made mixers have happily dropped by the wayside for reinstatement of, in many cases, stand-bys of yore. For example: G&Ts no longer made with HFCS-laden syrups and tonics but instead with agave nectar and real Peruvian quinine, originally used to stave off malaria, then added to gin to make the Brits happy. Not only are these offerings innately healthier, they tend to spruce up the monotony of year-round tipples when married with seasonal herbs and spices. A standard Collins literally turns green with an infusion of puréed cucumbers (at Franny’s) and a fruity “Warwick Bramble” from Fort Defiance comes especially invigorating and pulpy with freshly mashed blackberries.

Even ubiquitous partygoer Patrón is getting in on the farm-stand cocktail action, introducing seasonal, Greenmarket-inspired cocktails designed by three highly sought-after mixologists — including NYC’s own Greg Seider (Summit Bar) and Rick Hickman (The Green Table). In the company’s second installment of “The Art of the Drink,” Hickman made a “Green Market Cooler” with fresh cucumbers, mint and ginger syrup (and Patrón tequilla, of course), as well as a “Patrón Pimento” with bell peppers, jalapeños, fresh lime and cilantro.

What’s more, as our Edible Institute revealed, artisanal, city-made craft spirits are here and more are coming — while many of these are still being developed underground (yes, right under our noses in someone’s brownstone basement). For now, you can pick up Crop Vodka, a clean tasting, USDA-approved vodka distilled from certified organic grains (it also won Gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this year). There’s also Farmer’s Gin, small-batch organic gin (also USDA-approved), with natural botanicals like juniper, elderflower, lemon grass, coriander and angelica root. You might remember it from our cocktail demo with St. John Frizell — he used it in his “Corpse Reviver No. 2” (gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, lemon juice and absinthe) — watch how it’s done right here.

Which brings us to another point made during our Edible Institute panel on drinks, made by Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver. (P.S. If you haven’t seen this guy in person yet, get on it, and also read our profile of him from earlier this year.) The point: As opposed to wine, which is deeply rooted in agriculture and science and viticultural know-how, Oliver sees beer-making as more like cooking; it’s about mixing ingredients and sticking with a recipe that works — and we’d add spirits and cocktail-making to that, too. So the trick to good farm-stand cocktails is trying ’em out, seeing what you like, and writing it down. Mix up an organic spirit, fresh juices, and a muddling of some fresh in-season goods.

Last August, Slow Food NYC hosted a class on Greenmarket-inspired mixology led by Alan Katz at the Astor Center, where participants used Fuji apple juice from Red Jacket Orchards, fresh cilantro and lavender from a neighbor’s backyard, and other local ingredients from the Union Square Greenmarket. Once you’ve mastered the shakes, some bars will even give you a try behind the bar as a guest bartender. We’ve already given you a couple drinks to get you started (see: The Fresh Basil Smash, The Greenmarket Cucumber Cooler and the Corpse Reviver No. 2 as previously featured Eat Drink Local Week profiles), so get out your glasses and give ’em a go.

Where to Find Them:

Before you pick up your own artisanal spirits, why not try them out at some of our Eat Drink Local Week featured restaurants and bars? Head to Five Leaves for a Green Garden (Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka, fresh arugula, cucumber, kaffir lime-infused agave and fresh lime juice) or a Harvest Moon (Farmer’s Gin, organic apple cider, fresh lemon juice, vanilla-thyme syrup and fernet branca). Hecho en Dumbo will have a special cocktail named Esmeralda (Organic Crop Gin, Organic Single Village Mezcal Del Maguay, cucumber, basil, cane sugar and fresh lime), and they’ll also be switching up some existing cocktails with Crop Vodka. L’Ecole has a Johnny Apple-Fizz (McKenzie rye, applejack, lemon, egg white, cinnamon), The Dupree (Seneca Drums gin, Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur, Velvet Falernum, Thai basil, grapefuit) and a Fire and Ice (Vintner’s vodka, litchi purée, ginger, lime).

Look to Radish for a Virgin Sangria (with apples and anjou pears); Scrimshaw for a Crop Cucumber Vodka and basil martini. Toqueville will have an Apricot Rose Saketini with Crop Organic, Greenmarket apricots, rosewater and Otokoyama Junmai sake; a Cucumber Crush, Crop Tomato Vodka Gelee, and a Marconi (Farmer’s Gin, fresh lemon). And on the menu at Wallsé, find a bunch of cocktails with Crop Vodka, including a Vegan Martini (with dry vermouth), a Churchhill Downs (with elderflower liquer, cucumber, soda and lemon served on the rocks), and an Organic Tomato Vodka Martini (with dry vermouth, tomato water and mulled fresh basil).

Also find Farmer’s Gin at Belleville Bistro, Cheryl’s Global Soul and Superfine; Crop Vodka at Telepan, Inside Park, Blue Hill, Almond, 15 East and Il Buco. And for an under-one-roof demonstration of such drinks, hit the fabulous fundraiser Taste of Greenmarket–tickets still available–where Employees Only, Clover Club, Eleven Madison Park, Bar Pleiades and The Green Table, will all be seasonal sippers.

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