What it takes to make your favorite cocktails.
Summer is here — it’s the golden age of beautiful seasonal cocktails. All around the country and the Reno-Tahoe area are passionate and excited beverage professionals who want you to dive head first into their summer menus.
However, you may not realize that behind each menu are hours of research and development. I talked to two bar owners who work year round to make sure what you’re drinking reflects the season in more ways than one.
Jeremy Johnson, owner of Meta in Louisville, Ky., is no stranger to seasonality in cocktails. Meta has one of the most ambitious and creative cocktail menus from which I have ever had the pleasure of ordering.
“It’s important to designate what your personal definition of seasonal is,” Johnson says. “For us, even though the concept is fairly trendy and frequently incorrectly or inaccurately applied, it’s important to start local. Particularly in the spring, summer, and fall when there’s an abundance of fresh produce.”
Johnson, like many other bartenders, spends time at his local co-op or farmers’ markets to make sure the best flavors of that season are translated to his menus. Some of the best ingredients for cocktails can even be grown in your backyard; herbs such as mint and rosemary can take that home cocktail from flat to fantastic.
Inspiration for seasonal cocktails can come from anywhere. Sometimes it’s not so much the ingredients speaking to a bartender, but rather a feeling.
“Seasonal menus can be very emotion driven, particularly around the holidays,” Johnson says. “And I think if something grabs your senses and makes you feel something, that is also worth spending significant time on.”
Capturing the feeling of a season is no easy task, but it’s worth the time. If you find that perfect balance of nostalgia and quality, you can pour your way into the cocktail hall of fame.
As much as we want certain ingredients or bottles year round, most things in the bar world are seasonal. We may want mojitos in the dead of winter, but the difference between fresh mint and winter-grown mint is massive. Ty Martin, owner of Craft Wine & Beer in Midtown Reno, lets the product — whose market availability may not always line up with the season — speak for itself.
“Most of (the beverage products) we work with are made in a slower fashion that doesn’t respect market deadlines, and we buy the good stuff as soon as the producer has it ready, even if it’s not the most seasonally appropriate. We drink rosé at Christmas and Châteauneuf at summer barbecues, so what do we know?”
The whole idea behind creating seasonal cocktails or menus is to respect the ingredients in the glass as well as to root the drink in a time and place. My advice for enjoying seasonal drinks is to ask the people behind the bar what they are excited about today. I promise they will have something you can only get now that will put a smile on your face.
Craft Wine & Beer
22 Martin St., Reno
775-622-4333 • Craftreno.net