The sights and scents of spring can inspire cerebral bartenders to create new cocktails. Whether it’s childhood memories of rhubarb sweets, seasonal ingredients, that first warm day or just plain tradition, here are the secret prompts to creativity.
Sean Thibodeaux, Loa, New Orleans As winter gives way to spring, Thibodeaux finds Louisiana-grown satsumas make a nice sweet and tart twist on limoncello. In his hand, satsuma rind is soaked in high-proof vodka and sweetened with an infused syrup to the right viscosity and sweetness. ihhotel.com
Richard Bocatto, Weather Up, New York City Bocatto’s philosophy is to focus on the classics, so he turns to The Savoy Cocktail Book for the admittedly literal “Spring Feeling,” which gets its bright pea-green tint from a simple mix of ¾ ounce of lemon juice, ¾ ounce of Chartreuse and two ounces of gin.
Brooke Arthur, Prospect, San Francisco Spring means the first of the strawberries are in bloom, and for Arthur there is no other spring fruit that better lends itself to just about any spirit. She particularly likes it in a drink she calls Mr. White, a “margarita riff” in which strawberries are aged in a shrub (a Champagne vinegar-based syrup) and mixed with blanco Tequila, lime juice and St-Germain. prospectsf.com
Todd Maul, Clio, Boston In anticipation of that first warm day, “when you want to rush the season,” Maul turns to his version of a classic El Diablo, substituting sharper ginger beer for more mellow ginger ale in a mix that also includes lime juice, crème de cassis and Tequila. cliorestaurant.com
Todd Thrasher, PX Lounge, Alexandria, VA. For Thrasher, spring unearths childhood memories of rhubarb desserts. Luckily, the earthy vegetable grows like a weed in the backyard garden from March to late June and finds its way into cocktails like the Ebbets Field Cooler, a mix of rhubarb juice, gin and Averna amaro for a “funky savory characteristic that tastes like the earth.” restauranteve.com
2 ounces Blanco Tequila
½ ounce strawberry-mint shrubb (see below)
½ ounce St.-Germain elderflower liqueur
1 ounce lime juice
Splash orange juice
To make the strawberry-mint shrubb: Combine equal parts cut strawberries, sugar and Champagne vinegar. Add a fair amount of black peppercorns, mint to taste and a pinch of salt. Stir until sugar dissolves, cover and let sit for a minimum of two weeks. Fine strain and bottle. Needs no refrigeration.
To make Mr. White: In a cocktail shaker, combine the ingredients and fill with ice. Shake, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a mint leaf.
2 ounces Lillet Blanc
1 ounce Hendricks Gin
½ ounce lemon juice
4 ounces strawberry basil rhubarb mixture (see below)
For the strawberry basil rhubarb mixture:
1 pint of strawberries
6 stalks of rhubarb
15 purple basil leaves (can substitute Italian basil)
1½ cups of sugar
2 ounces lemon juice
To make the rhubarb mixture: Combine all the ingredients in a large container and smash with your hands (Don’t purée: The seeds will get blended and the mixture will take on a bitter taste.). Refrigerate for three hours. When the pulp rises to the top and the juice is on the bottom, strain the mixture via a large metal sieve, letting just the juice come out. Gently stir. Makes 5 cocktails.
To make the Strawberry Smash: In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients and stir. Strain into a martini glass.