Even though it’s barely daylight, Kim Haasarud, founder of Liquid Architecture LLC, a beverage consultancy firm based in Phoenix, heads straight from her hotel room for the farmers’ market in New York City’s Union Square in search of inspiration for the late-morning cocktails she will invent at the Omni Hotel bar.
Like many mixologists and bartenders these days, Haasarud loves to improvise with fresh ingredients.
“I don’t really start with a shopping list,” she says. “I like for the produce to speak to me.
“In the spring and summer, I use a lot more gin and other white spirits, because they go so well with berries and young vegetables,” Haasarud says. “And tomatoes! I love to muddle up a cocktail with tomatoes and fresh herbs like cilantro and dill, and maybe some jalapeños and Tequila.”
She buys a small jug of pear cider and stuffs it into a shopping bag. Next, we find an Amish farmer who swears his chickens’ eggs “were laid fresh yesterday.”
The sage, basil and lavender she buys at different stands are all locally grown. We raid a booth for some dark amber maple syrup, and Haasarud won’t leave until she has scored some fresh goat cheese from the next stall. Cheese for cocktails? Turns out, it’s just for eating.
Back at the Omni, Haasarud checks out the bar equipment, sends the lavender back to the kitchen to incorporate into a simple syrup, washes the fresh herbs and pulls two squat bottles from a bag.
Both are from New York’s Tuthilltown Spirits, the distillery’s Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey and Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey.
She pulls out a blunt implement she uses for muddling, or crushing, ingredients. “I’m more of a culinary mixologist,” Haasarud says. “I like to start with an ingredient and build a drink around it.”
She begins her first drink by muddling some sage leaves with lemon juice and maple syrup in a shaker. Then she adds an egg white, shakes and strains the mixture. Next comes the Bourbon and some ice cubes. She shakes the concoction again, and finally strains it into a cocktail glass over fresh ice.
Haasarud likes to name her drinks in a straightforward fashion, to explain what’s in them. “I’ll call this one Maple Sage Bourbon,” she says.
Mixologist Adam Seger, founder of HUM Botanical Spirit Company, says he became interested in market cocktails a few years ago while working at Nacional 27, a restaurant in Chicago.
“Chef and I would go to Green City Market together,” Seger says. “He would buy produce for the menu, and I would buy produce for the bar.”
“As I travel, I see more and more bartenders shopping for or growing their own fresh ingredients,” Seger says. “Because it’s seasonal, some customers are disappointed when they don’t see a favorite drink on the menu next time they come in. But they don’t get bored drinking the same thing.”
Doug Frost, the Kansas City-based drinks consultant, Master Sommelier and Master of Wine, applauds the garden-to-glass movement.
“For me, these are all good developments, even if sometimes they can verge on preciousness,” he says. “For my part, I just think that ingredients, whether for use in food or in drinks, should be seasonal at a minimum, and local when possible.”
DOUBLE BERRY BELLINI
¼ ounce lemon juice
¾ ounce simple syrup
2 dashes of Peychaud Bitters
Moët & Chandon NV Rosé
Imperial Champagne, or other rosé sparkling wine, to top
In a mixing glas
Strawberries: Versatile, use to add subtle flavor to clear vodka and gin drinks.s, muddle the berries with the lemon juice and simple syrup. Add the bitters. Top with ice and shake vigorously. Double strain the mixture into chilled stemware and top with the Champagne.
Cherries: Ripe, juicy cherries were seemingly made to pair with rye whiskey.
MEYER LOOKING GOOD
2 ounces Meyer lemon juice
¾ ounce lemon juice (regular)
1½ ounces grapefruit juice
2 thyme sprigs, plus 1 sprig for garnish
¾ ounce simple syrup
Dash of Angostura Bitters
1½ ounces Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey
1½ ounces sparkling water
Combine juices, thyme sprigs, simple syrup, bitters and whiskey in a cocktail shaker. Top with ice, shake vigorously. Strain into an iced highball glass. Top with sparkling water and stir. Garnish with the remaining thyme sprig.
Melons: Muddle melons, especially watermelon, to create innovative mojitos.
MAPLE SAGE BOURBON
2 sage leaves, plus additional for garnish
¾ ounce dark amber maple syrup
¾ ounce lemon juice
1 egg white
2½ ounces Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey
Muddle the two sage leaves with the maple syrup and lemon juice. Add the egg white. Dry shake (without ice) until the egg white is emulsified. Add the Bourbon. Top with ice and shake hard for 10 seconds. Strain the cocktail into a lowball glass filled with new ice. Garnish with the remaining sage.
Flowers: Muddled, some flower petals—like nasturtiums—can impart delicate flavors to sparkling wine cocktails.
Tomatoes: Great for savory drinks, mixed with spicy peppers and Tequila.