“Smell is the most important sense in hospitality,” declared Adam Seger, corporate sommelier and executive barman for IPic Entertainment.
Our sense of smell is ridiculously powerful. According to a study conducted by researchers at Rockefeller University, humans can detect at least one trillion different separate scents. Women, every scent study finds, have a superior sense of smell than men. We know that our sense of taste is strongly tied to our sense of smell, and anyone who has inhaled a scent and been transported to special moment in their life knows that smell is connected to our memories. This powerful sense also helps to keep us alive. Our ability to detect rotting or poison through our sense of smell helps us to consuming items that will make us sick, or worse.
Bearing the above in mind, it makes sense that the leveraging of the human sense of smell can elevate any cocktail program. Fresh herbs allow us to do just that while appealing to our sense of vision when used as garnishes. Sure, you can purchase herbs for use at your bar, but Adam is all about bars, restaurants and nightclubs growing their own in their own gardens. Not only does a garden (or gardens if you have the space) save you money over time, it serves only to benefit your cocktail program, is an excellent marketing tool, attracts health-conscious, sophisticated and trendy guests, and is an excellent conversation piece.
We’ve spoken before about Temple Nightclub and the venue’s owner, Paul Hemming. His eco-friendly approach to nightclub operations includes utilizing his space for a rooftop garden, allowing his bar staff to use what is grown for cocktail ingredients and garnishes. There’s also Citrus at the Grand Pool Deck, located at the Downtown Grand in Las Vegas. When creating their truly impressive garden-to-glass program they partnered with Desert Urban Homesteading, a small urban homestead that produces quality, organic food for the community. The partnership has resulted in 12 poolside gardens that produce the ingredients for Citrus’ food, cocktail and non-alcohol beverage menus while operating as a unique design feature.
Obviously Temple and Citrus are two large-scale examples of on-premise gardens. Your bar’s garden doesn’t need to be large to be effective. Partnering with local gardeners can help you to design a productive, profitable and smaller-scale garden. With a little bit of knowledge and some labor, you can get your garden-to-glass program up and running. Adam focused on an herb that is vigorous, easy to grow, versatile, and familiar to most people: mint. There are literally hundreds of types of this aromatic plant. It may surprise you to learn that some are sweet and some taste like chocolate, pineapple and even grapefruit. Another surprise for some people is that basil is a member of the mint family. Consider your concept, partner with your bartenders (and kitchen staff if you have one), and decide on the plants you’d like to grow.
After planning comes execution, so let’s skip ahead to your bar’s garden being planted, cared for properly, and producing herbs. Adam made sure to mention that it’s best to pick herbs when they start to flower. Not only does this keep the plant from going to seed and dying, a flowered herb can serve as a stunning garnish. So, pick those flowers! It’s also important to rotate fresh herbs according to growth stage. When using your new herbs to create amazing cocktails there are a few directions you can go. There’s the obvious – ingredients and garnishes – and the slightly more complicated, such as simple syrups and spirit infusions. When using fresh herbs to create simple syrups Adam and Jair Bustillos of Southern Wine & Spirits in Nevada recommend utilizing liquid nitrogen muddling. This will prevent the enzymatic reaction that turns syrups black. Simple introduce the liquid nitrogen to the herbs, muddle until the aromatics are released, and stop. Add to simple syrup and you’re on your way.
Today’s informed, health-conscious, trendy, sophisticated consumer expects an elevated experience. It’s up to you to utilize your space properly but a glass-to-garden program really isn’t as difficult to plan and execute, particularly if you partner with the right people.