CASTING A SHADOW
In “The Wasteland,” T.S. Elliot famously decried April as the cruelest month. Often, spring tends to resemble both winter and summer: sometimes in the same week. St. Patrick’s Day is the most boisterous day of a rather solemn month of restrained behavior. Some diet to trim winter weight before summer, in anticipation of one of the most metaphorical feasts of spring renewal, Easter.
* 2 oz. Karlsson’s Gold Vodka
* ½ oz. Carlshamns Flaggpunsch
* 1 pinch of Fresh Dill
Add the dill and Flaggpunsch to a mixing glass and muddle. Add vodka and ice, then stir and fine strain over one large cube into a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with two spritzes of Diluted Aftel Black Pepper Essence.
If you’re a publican attempting to prepare your spring cocktail menu, or a principled imbiber who doesn’t require a holiday as an excuse to prepare a drink, spring is complicated. Cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, Sidecar and Bobby Burns, which one can count on through the winter, don’t taste the same when the sun shines in the spring. Like wearing white after Labor Day, Margaritas and Mojitos seem out of place in the spring (unless you’re vacationing in Havana).
I’m no gambler, but every spring I hedge my menu with lighter aged spirits such as Irish Whiskey and Reposado Tequila, to wean guests off peated Scotch and spicy Rye. I favor spirits like aquavit and dill, cucumber and cardamom to prepare the palate for summer’s return. As the media clamors for ramps, rhubarb and strawberries like children spying for a robin, I cheat nature with rhubarb accented Aperol, botanically balanced Punt e Mes, and spicy Swedish Punsch.
Golden Star Fizz
* 3 oz. Golden Star Sparkling White Jasmine Tea
* 2 oz. Krogstad Aquavit
* St. George Absinthe (for rinse)
* ¾ oz. Lemon Juice
* ¾ oz. Pineapple Juice
* 3 Slices of Cucumber (plus 1 for garnish)
* 1 Sprig of Dill
Add the cucumber, dill and juice to a mixing glass and muddle. Add the aquavit and ice, then shake with ice and fine strain into a chilled fizz glass rinsed with St. George Absinthe. Top with sparkling jasmine tea. Garnish with a slice of cucumber.
Before bees buzz and buds bloom, I brew tea-like tisanes of dried chamomile and jasmine flowers to mimic the heady aromas of spring, and supplement floral liqueurs such as St. Germain (elderflowers) and Crème Yvette (violets and citrus), to foreshadow the real thing. Granted, global-shipping and well-stocked greenhouses provide spring produce year-round, as if strawberries ripened in the snow, but just like our ancestors I prefer to use dried, canned and distilled preparations of the fresh ingredients when I can’t get the real thing.
Venus and Cupid
* 1½ oz. Siembra Azul Reposado Tequila
* ¾oz. Aperol
* ¾ oz. Punt e Mes
* ½ oz. Grapefruit Juice
* 1 Egg White
* 1 Green Cardamom Pod
Muddle the cardamom pod, then add the rest of the ingredients. Dry shake, then shake with ice and fine strain into a chilled egg coupe. Garnish with grated cinnamon.
Lacking the mythical powers of Punxsutawney, cast spring’s shadow in cocktails like shedding a trench coat when the sun comes out in March. Irish Whiskey around St. Patrick’s Day in the Wicked Witch, cheekily named after Strega’s Italian translation of “witch,” Tequila in an airy sour that evokes Valentine’s Day, but is actually named after a reproduction of Diego Velasquez’s painting that hangs in my bar, aquavit in a fruity fizz named after a brand of sparkling jasmine tea, and peppery potato vodka in an old fashioned cocktail which is anything but.
The timelessness of iconic cocktails like the Martini, Negroni and Manhattan transcends the seasons, but I think you’ll find these drinks will be appreciated between March and May. A pinch of dill, a dash of savory bitters, or a splash of soda in your sour provide that extra spring in your step.
* 1Barspoon of Chamomile Syrup
* 2 oz. Jameson Irish Whiskey
* ¾ oz. Lustau Manzanilla Sherry
*¼ oz. Strega
* 4 Dashes of Bittermen’s Boston Bitters
Chamomile Syrup – Add 10g of dried chamomile bulbs to 16 of boiling water. Turn off heat, let steep for 5 minutes and strain. Yields 12 oz. Add 12 oz. granulated sugar. Total yield is 20 oz. Stir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe
As Harry Craddock, the legendary bartender and author of the 1930 “Savoy Cocktail Book” says in the introduction to his book: “The way to drink a cocktail is quickly, while it’s still laughing at you.” The best cocktails, however, laugh with you.