Fruits and vegetables have been served with drinks for as long as we can remember. Think celery in a bloody mary or limes in a mojito. But many bars, nightclubs and restaurants are letting their imagination run wild with produce. They’re using it in very creative ways, to produce unusual drinks and flourishes with their cocktails.
Here are a few ideas that run beyond the ho-hum:
(Looking for inspiration on cocktails containing fruits and vegetables? Then click HERE.)
Juice It Up, Dry It Out
Patrons drinking at Tini Bigs in Seattle, Wash., can count on getting some nutrition from their drinks. Last year the cocktail bar started juicing fruits and vegetables to use in cocktails.
These juices can also be served straight up or on the rocks with the liquor of a customer’s choice, or even as a non-alcoholic beverage. But general manager Joe Zara says mostly they’re served in cocktails, especially tiki drinks on Tiki Tuesdays.
Strawberry Colada from 1886 cocktail bar in Pasadena, California
The juices change regularly and reflect the season as much as possible (which also keeps the costs down, Zara explains), but the most popular has been watermelon. “It always turns out well and mixes nicely with flavors like ginger and cucumber. And it’s unusual so it jumps out because it’s not something you drink all the time.”
Other fruit juices have included honeydew, kiwi, pineapple, strawberries and combinations of fruits. In fact, the only thing that’s not turned out well is beets, Zara says, because they’re too earthy.
Tini Bigs hasn’t juiced vegetables for a while, though, since fruit is so abundant in the Pacific Northwest in the summer, but spinach, carrots and asparagus have all worked well. An asparagus margarita was popular, containing just asparagus and lime juice, tequila and simple syrup.
“People like the fresh flavors and knowing their drink is fresh,” Zara says.
A couple of popular cocktails are: The Zombie tiki drink with watermelon, grapefruit and lime juices, spiced rum, platino rum and falernum; the Carrot Apocalypse with carrot juice, bourbon, Domaine de Canton (ginger liquor) and chocolate bitters; and Pisco Sour, using spinach and carrot juice, honey water and egg.
The drinks cost $10 for a mixed drink; $11 for a cocktail; $7 for a juice. Costs on the juicer cocktails range from 22 to 25 percent, though less when the juice is mixed with a spirit, Zara says, ranging from 18 to 22 percent, since the liquor is a little less expensive. And the drinks are popular—probably one out of every seven cocktails ordered, Zara says.
There’s very little waste at Tini Bigs with the fruits, for the cocktail bar even uses the leftover pulp from the produce.
The bartender spreads it on a baking sheet, leaves it to dry for around four hours, then puts it into the food processor to create a powder. This is then used on the rims of the cocktail glasses—either to match the beverage or provide a contrasting flavor and color.
“The pulp is like the thrift store of garnishes,” Zara says. “It's stuff that most people would have probably thrown away. You just repurpose it and use it in a tasty, stylish way."
Oak at Fourteenth, a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, is carbonating many of its fruity cocktails then serving them up in individual bottles in front of guests.
Having tried doing this the old-fashioned way—muddling the fruit and alcohol, then adding soda water—was fun but a lot of work, says beverage director Bryan Dayton.
Therefore, he started playing around with carbonation. Now he muddles the fruits, fine strains them, then uses a double carbonation system to pressurize them for 48 hours so the drinks are very cold—and fizzy.
The biggest difficulty he now has is getting enough CO2 (and thus pressure) into the drink so when he pops open a bottle for a guest, it still fizzes, Dayton explains. To help things along, he makes the beverages in champagne bottles, which can withstand the carbonation pressure.
The alcoholic beverage bottles (and sometimes there are non-alcoholic ones, too) are opened tableside. “There's always a wow factor when the bottles are opened and drinks poured,” says Dayton.
At any given time there are six carbonated beverages at Oak at Fourteenth—a keg of adult soda; two adult sodas in bottles; and three non-alcoholic sodas in bottles—ginger beer, root beer and passion fruit-lemongrass. The cocktails cost $7 to $9 and the non-alcoholic sodas cost $4. The restaurant’s costs on them run around 22 percent.
Popular cocktails are the Strawberry Thyme (strawberries, thyme, pomegranate, molasses and Pimms) with a non-alcoholic version also available; a traditional Moscow Mule; 14th Street Soda (Old Grand-Dad whiskey, blood orange liquor, orange juice, Nardini Amaro liquor and lemon); and the Venetian Cup (Pimms, Campari and ginger beer)
Even with this new process, the drinks are a lot of work, says Dayton, and the kegs take five days to carbonate. “But we love it,” he says, “and it definitely differentiates us.”
Fire and Ice
1886 cocktail bar in Pasadena, California is making heads turn with its $15 fruity cocktails: It’s setting them alight.
Its Strawberry Colada is made with a fresh fruit reduction of strawberry and pineapple, with coconut reduction (purchased from a supplier) and rum. On top is a hollowed out strawberry, filled with Bacardi 151 and this is set on fire. “The flame is blue and there’s the pink underground from the strawberry,” says bartender Brady Weise. “It’s a show stopper.”
Then there’s the bar’s Scorpion Bowl, which is served punch-style in a scorpion bowl with a flaming center. It’s made with aged rum, pisco, fresh-squeezed lemon and orange juices, and orgeade. “This is the quintessential tiki drink,” Weise says.
Beyond delighting customer’s taste buds, there’s another benefit of serving flaming drinks, he adds. “If you want to entice people to drink something, you set it on fire. Everyone’s going to be looking at it and want one. When you make a proper cocktail with a little bit of show, all of a sudden, the room starts to buzz. That’s the purpose of the Scorpion Bowl.”
In a complete contrast, 1886 also serves a Sex on the Beach Popsicle, for $8.
“It is entirely possible that no two bars in the world have ever made their Sex on the Beach the same way, so why not put a truly memorable spin on it?” says Weise. This frozen popsicle uses white rum with fresh pineapple juice, and chunks of fresh cranberry suspended in the top of the popsicle.
“People don’t know what to make of this, but once we introduce them to it, they have it as an amuse-bouche and as an appetizer,” Weise says. “It’s another show stopper since it’s actually served on a stick.” The bar even bought some neon colored old-fashioned molds, just for the purpose.
Fruit doesn’t have to be a second thought in beverages. In these drinks it’s the focal point, and can help put any nightclub or bar into the center point of a customer’s thoughts.
Looking for inspiration on cocktails containing fruits and vegetables? Then click HERE.