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Drink Thu Dec 03 2009

What's This Organic Doing In My Drink?

organicsands_lo-res_large-178x300.jpgMy work as a chef has incorporated the latest industry buzzwords -- i.e. local, sustainable, organic -- for many years. On a project in Dublin we tried to not use any food product sourced from more than 100km away, quite a task for a 15 million Euro-a-year five-star hotel food program.

Sometimes our demands far outstripped the supply. The amount needed just wasn't available locally, but we at least tried.

It's with some interest then that I view the same values being embraced on the other side of the kitchen -- at the bar.

It's only been within the last few years that my bar managers have asked to join me on my frequent farmer's market pilgrimages, or wanted some quality one on one time with my turbo Vita-mix blender or candy stove.

No longer content to have me supply simple syrup, now they want to cook down and puree seasonal fruits and vegetables for mixers or incorporate other herbs than mint into their personal concoctions. For instance, a typical bitters recipe is complex and high maintenance, combining multiple roots, herbs and infusions over a period of weeks.

Farm to glass is a logical extension of farm to table. Some local venues embracing this in Chicago include the Violet Hour, Bar De Ville and National 27.

Enter author Paul Abercrombie, who wrote a book about organic cocktails called Organic, Shaken and Stirred. He compiled the recipes from a cast of respected mixologists like Tony Abou-Gamin and Chicago's own Adam Seger.

Besides the use of organic spirits the recipes site ingredients that are more typically found in the back of the house rather than at the bar such as snap peas, agave nectar and all types of spices and herbs.

At Monday night's event, National 27 mixologist Adam Seger teamed with Abercrombie for some unique liquid libations.

Seger's Snap-pea-irinha, with Bluecoat gin, lime and black pepper in addition to the muddled snap peas, had herbal notes and contrasted nicely with the gin's botanicals. Now you can drink your vegetables.

The Pineapple Caipirinha with sweet lime espuma had notes of nutmeg and clove from the oak aged organic cachaca made by Cuca Fresca. Cachaca is the traditional sugarcane brandy used in making caipirinhas. Agave nectar, from the same plant tequila is made from, was used as a sweetener. Known as honey water, it's slightly less viscous and dissolves quickly in iced beverages making it perfect for this application.

I welcome this commitment to quality. Not being much of a drinker but ever the critic, I enjoy these well crafted cocktails with pristine ingredients more than I ever enjoyed a pour from a bottle or three. It seems this trend has found a home in green bars and restaurants alike.



Brad / December 3, 2009 4:01 PM

I have this book and the drinks rock. I am giving it to a bunch of friends for the holidays. Now that is getting into the spirit!

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