Spring cocktail menus are starting to arrive, a little bit at a time (sort of like spring itself in some regions). In New York, tea and punch is playing a major role at 1534, which debuted signature punch service as part of the spring cocktail menu. The twist: punch recipes are derived from the French colonial experience in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Polynesia, and are served in vintage tea kettles in three sizes that can accommodate up to 10 people.
Some bartenders have been reluctant to develop punch service due to the potentially awkward bowl and cup system. But 1534 has done something wise: punches are being sold in multiple formats, including by the glass. And frankly, by reading the menu and ingredient list you can tell that, while these make perfectly good punch ideas, the drinks are cocktails, pure and simple, ready to be batched and probably benefiting from it.
Take a look at the contribution from the Americas (the Ponche de Xochiquetzal, made with reposado tequila, coffee liqueur, Combier orange liqueur, East India sherry, Benedictine, fresh lemon juice) and French Polynesia (the Society Island Cooler Punch, made with aged rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, Demerara syrup, ginger juice and grated nutmeg). They don’t meet the requirements of many classic punch recipes, but really, who cares? The true benefit to the bar and the bartender in developing a punch service is serving multiple quality drinks at one blow anyway.
As a spring menu, of course, there’s not a lot of fresh fruit showing up in the new menus crossing my desk. 1534 goes with syrups – lemongrass, ginger-agave and hibiscus, notably – but other bartenders brought in the fruit this past winter with preserves and that can be expected to continue: at the newly opened Public Kitchen and Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, apricot marmalade was joined with rye, lemon juice, simple syrup and peach bitters for the Kentucky Brunch. At the similarly new The Farmer’s Cabinet in Philly, barman Damon Dyer's opening menu included the Round Midnight (dark cherry jam shaken with rum and fresh lemon and topped with Champagne).
Not much fruit yet, but flowers are popping up at San Diego's speakeasy Grant Grill. Jeff Josenhans has turned out a spring cocktail menu set to roll out April 15 inspired by spring flowers. The menu consists of house-infused floral flavors including calendula, lilac, wildflower, dandelion and hibiscus. For the Libation Lilac, he used lilac-infused Tanqueray Sterling Vodka, parfait amour, fresh lime, lavender bitters and egg white. For his Wildflower Whiskey, he employed cornflower-infused white oat whiskey, muddled cornflowers, dandelion and burdock bitters with fresh Meyer lemon. Guess spring really is here.