Your Vodka Cranberry, Updated Farm-to-Bar Style
It’s safe to say that the "farm-to-table" mentality has permeated almost every aspect of the food world; chefs are consistently spotted at farmers’ markets, and seasonal rotating menus are almost expected from the best restaurants in the country.
The same goes for high-end cocktail bars. Liquor.com named the farm-to-glass movement as a top trend in 2013, as mixologists have emerged as farmers’ market customers and rooftop farmers. At the same time, bartenders have become improvisers of sorts, using the day’s seasonal produce and the customer’s taste preferences to whip up cocktails on the fly.
This "farm-to-bar" trend is spreading across the country; Brian Felley and the team behind BIG in San Francisco (which opened last April) will whip up improvised cocktails based on a customer’s flavor preference. In Boulder, Colo., Riffs Urban Fare recreates classics with a local spin, serving up seasonal cocktails with the idea of farm-to-table mixology. And in New York, just-opened The LCL Bar & Kitchen at the Westin takes the idea mainstream, with produce-infused cocktails from Andres Santillana of The Darby. Not to mention Blue Hill New York, which has been serving farm-to-glass tipples since its inception.
We spoke to Felley, Santillana, and Blue Hill New York's Katie Bell to see how farmers’ market produce can make it into our poor man’s cocktails at home. Their tips? Start with buying local base spirits: "To use the term farm-to-table mixology, you have to know where your base spirit is from," Sarah Moore, Riffs Urban Fare general manager, tells us over the phone. "Starting with something that you get locally is the best way to start."
Then go to the farmers’ market to see what strikes your fancy. "One of the beauties of using ingredients from farmers' market is that fresh is always best," Santillana says. "Keep the drinks very, very simple; you can take a Rickey and incorporate a berry into that, or any kind of lavish garnish." And just because there’s snow on the ground in some parts of the country doesn’t mean farmers’ markets are bare; experiment with lesser-known citruses like kumquats, or flash-freeze produce from the fall to save into winter.
Click through our slideshow to see how you can use this winter's produce to riff on your favorite cocktails at home, from vodka cranberries to gin and tonics, with bonus recipes from Felley’s team at BIG.