What doesn’t inspire cocktail creativity these days? No ingredient goes uninspected for its adaptability, it seems. In Napa, Calif., drink wiz Scott Beattie, whose work at Cyrus and other restaurants broke new ground for the inclusion of such ingredients as the shiso leaf, now heads up the Goose & Gander, which recently opened with a “rustic American ingredient-driven” food menu. Beattie, along with bartender Michael Jack Pazdon, includes hard-to-source ingredients, such as the Japanese lime-like citrus sudachi in drinks — notably, the Moroccan Night (Hangar One Mandarin Orange Blossom Vodka, lime, sudachi, pomegranate and cardamom). The current menu requirement for at least one strongly bittered drink shows up in the Leatherman (Eagle Rare 10 Year Bourbon, Carpano Antica, Qi Black Tea Liqueur and bitters).
In New York, Foragers City Table, known for its emphasis on locavore ingredients, has debuted its cocktail list, designed by head bartender Aaron Polsky. The menu, influenced by the market’s locally foraged produce and seasonally inspired housemade syrups and infusions, also takes a lesson from traditional drinks; Polsky finds multiple uses for oleo saccharum, the housemade mix of citrus oils and sugar that gives such a rich backbone to punches. In his Gordon’s Healthy Lunch, he adds locally made Dorothy Parker Gin, Foragers Farm spicy baby lettuce juice and lime to Meyer lemon oleo saccharum; for the Wisconsinite, he adds Johnny Drum Bourbon and Bittercube Cherry Bark bitters to blood orange oleo saccharum. Rhubarb, now coming into season, also shows up here.
Ingredients don’t need to be traditional or even seasonal to make sense in a cocktail menu; also in New York, Bistro The Tea Set is steeping its organic teas in more than water, having just received its liquor license. The new cocktail menu is filled with tea-infused cocktails, including the Summer Village Martini (made with restaurant’s own red peach vanilla tea syrup, Grey Goose, soda and mint leaves) and a number of “bubbly teas,” featuring Champagne cocktails the Big Apple Mate and the Earl Grey Tea.
And while the shape, temperature and melting rate of ice has become a hot topic in mixology in the last few years, there’s still something to be said for ice’s use in decor, like in Atlanta, where the Czar Ice Bar has just opened with a 27-foot bar made entirely of the frozen stuff. Numerous bars across the country — most notably the Las Vegas Minus5 Ice Bar — have tried such a concept, and the Atlanta effort started off with promise: 300-plus vodkas from 23 countries, seasonal house-infused vodkas (lemon thyme, spicy pepper, lemongrass) and a $400 Martini made with CLIX and caviar-stuffed olives in a Swarovski crystal glass (the glass is yours to take). Guests still choose their vodkas from Kindle menu devices containing descriptions of the 300 choices.
But the kick-off went awry: Originally, Czar intended to serve vodka chilled with liquid nitrogen. This plan changed after an incident sent one guest to the hospital. It's not clear what happened, but Czar has decided to scrap liquid nitrogen in favor of serving vodka in blocks of ice. Goes to show you can never be too careful when trying something new.