Floral Sips in Bloom

Essential

Essential pollen cocktail photo credit Rey Lopez

‘Tis the season when everything is sprouting, blossoming and turning green. Bartenders with a focus on garden-to-glass are using petals and plants to elixirs to enhance their fragrance and flavor. “Spring & Summer are all about freshness and flowers,” notes ThinkFoodGroup beverage director Juan Coronado. “Floral elements play so well with citrus to create refreshing and bright cocktails.”

At Washington, D.C.’s barmini, the bar and cocktail lab adjacent to José Andrés’ molecular gastronomy restaurant minibar, Coronado’s cocktails blend flowers and citrus fruits with spirits (typically gin or vodka) to evoke the blooming-nature of the season. Take chamomile, for instance, which adds a natural honey characteristic, perception of sweetness and the fragrance of tea to libations like the Essential Pollen, where it mixes with honey vodka, lemon and egg white.

Lavender is another ingredient that can deliver perfumed notes to cocktails, but its overtly heady nature is best in small doses. “Lavender can bring beautiful notes of both purple flowers and bitter rose with a woodsy structure akin to rosemary,” Coronado explains. His Aroma Therapy shakes St. George Terroir Gin—a woodsy, forest-driven spirit from California—with lemon, simple syrup, Dolin Blanc Vermouth and lavender bitters, topped with soda and garnished with a sprig of fresh lavender. The drink’s name is a nod to the therapeutic benefits and calming aroma for which the purple Provence flower is touted.

Orange blossom lends a delicate flavor that can be very different from the fruit’s juice or peel; Coronado especially likes to add it to creamy cocktails like Flips and variations on the Ramos Gin Fizz, where its zesty nature can offset richness. He uses orange blossom in the Juana Giallo, where egg, cream, saffron, Galliano and green and yellow Chartreuses combine to create a sip with multi-dimensional vegetal and floral notes.

Perhaps the most eclectic spring sprout at barmini is made by dehydrating hay and citrus peel until it literally turns to ash. “Since we do such a slow process, we retain the brightness of the citrus as well as some of the earthiness of the hay, and the finished product is bitter, bright and floral.” Hay ash is added to Dark Side of the Moon with Old Tom Gin, Crème de Violette, lemon, egg white and citrus.

A flora fixation can spark interest in a seasonal beverage menu, but the key to adding these types of ingredients in the glass is restraint, according to Coronado. Measuring—rather than eye-balling—is the key. “One extra dash of lavender bitters or one drop too many of rose water can be the difference between something that is beautiful and delicate, like a flower, and a completely unbalanced and overdone cocktail.”

Aroma TherapyAroma Therapy Cocktail
 

Recipe courtesy of Juan Coronado, Beverage Director, ThinkFoodGroup

1 ½ oz. St. George Spirits Terroir Gin

¾ oz. lemon juice

¾ oz. simple syrup

¾ oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth

Dash lavender bitters

1 oz. soda water

Lavender flowers, for garnish

Add all ingredients except soda water and garnish to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and shake until chilled. Strain it into a cocktail glass, top with soda and garnish with lavender flowers.


Starkling
 

Recipe courtesy of Juan Coronado, Beverage Director, ThinkFoodGroup

1 oz. Absolut Elyx Vodka

½ oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

½ oz. lemon juice

2 slices fresh star fruit

3 oz. chilled Champagne

Muddle star fruit in a cocktail shaker. Add the vodka, elderflower liqueur and lemon juice, add ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled Champagne flute, top it with chilled Champagne and garnish it with the star fruit.