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09.22.10 by  

Farm to Glass Cocktails

Locavores unite at happy hour with fresh, seasonal ingredients plucked straight from the garden.

Add a little creativity to your cocktail glass with farm-fresh ingredients a la Aaron Smith, owner and barman of San Francisco’s 15 Romolo.

Greens in a glass a la San Francisco Cocktail Week Farmer's Market Happy Hour. Photo: Jenn Farrington

served raw: farm-to-glass cocktails … fad or here to stay?
Aaron Smith: Bartenders, like chefs, take inspiration from the seasons and incorporating farm fresh produce into a cocktail will always have a place on drink menus. A well-balanced cocktail program will have some seasonal cocktails but will also have a good mix of other drink styles so that patrons know what the place can do by taking a quick survey of the menu.

what off-the-radar seasonal ingredients are you working with?
We’re so lucky to have the farmers market that we have in San Francisco because our farmers grow some of the coolest things. At some of our previous market events, the bartenders and I have come up with some creative ingredients like smoked blackberries. We also love the cool mint varieties, like pineapple, bergamot and chocolate mints from Marin Roots Farm, all of which are very interesting in cocktails. The juices of different vegetables can also create some interesting textures and flavors, like fennel juice, celery or the juice from pea shoots.

grape-based spirits … any underground bottles we need to try?
For this year’s San Francisco Cocktail Week Farmer’s Market event, we’re focusing on grape-based spirits. Some of the exciting products we will be mixing with are Encanto Pisco, Benedictine, Chartreuse, and vermouth. Pisco is an excellent vehicle for market-driven drinks because it lends great clean, but earthy flavors to a cocktail, which builds a great foundation for market ingredients to springboard from. Benedictine and Chartreuse are both herbal liqueurs that also lend themselves well to cocktails that incorporate summer produce like berries and stone fruit. Vermouths are great for light summer cocktails and also pair well with market-driven flavors.

how can home bartenders incorporate their farmer’s market finds into cocktails?
The easiest thing to do is take a fairly traditional recipe — like a collins, gimlet or something along those lines — and then start making substitutions. If you’re using a sweeter fruit in the drink, you may not want to use all of the sweetener from the full recipe. If you are using a special herb, you may keep the recipe the same or even add a little more. For making drinks at home, I always like punches … my business partner and I did one a few years ago for a party with Elephant Heart Plums infused with white rum, and then made a jasmine tea syrup, added some lime and it was good to go!

Sleepy Jean

15 Romolo’s Aaron Scott shares a cocktail recipe born from a farmer’s market excursion with his bar manager, Brandon Josie where they saw fresh chamomile flowers and were inspired by the little daisies.

  • 2 ounces chamomile-infused Four Roses bourbon
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 heaping barspoon nectarine jam
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
  1. Shake, double strain over ice into a rocks glass, and garnish with a nectarine slice.