Delicious Living Blog

Farm to bar, for a splash of health at happy hour

With ingredient rundowns that read more like a farmers-market shopping list, today’s drink menus are increasingly being spiked with fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs.

With ingredient rundowns that read more like a farmers market shopping list, today’s drink menus are increasingly being spiked with your daily servings of fruits and veggies. Akin to the farm- and field-to trends reaching more and more tables and grocery shelves, the clock struck happy hour, and locality and seasonality bellied up to the bar.

Move over cocktails from concentrate, I’ll take mine with real orange, alongside lime, egg white, house made bitters and red beet purée to detoxify my liver of the accompanying bourbon, as served at Riffs Urban Fare on Boulder, Colorado's illustrious Pearl Street Mall. Don’t let the egg white freak you out, no matter how much it populates your mind with images of Rocky—it actually lends a nice froth to the body of this beverage.

Inventively blended

Riffs’ manager and barkeep, Greg Kostuk concocted the restaurant’s entire farm-to-bar menu with his former home, New York City—a hot spot for such sippers—as muse. Apothéke is one of those Big Apple watering holes that’s on trend, so much so that it doesn’t even refer to itself as a bar, but a "stage," "chemistry lab," and "theater," where "A unique-shaped Austrian crystal glass is carefully selected for each cocktail," into which is poured "a beautiful, jewel-colored liquid."

Labeled prescriptions, all libations are prepared with local and organic produce sourced from as near as its own rooftop herb garden to organic produce venders and greenmarkets in proximity. Apothéke adheres to a strict "farm-to-bar" ideology, taking pride in showcasing fresh, top-quality ingredients in a way that supports local farmers and sustainability, according to its website. In doing so, the mixologists are able to serve up exotic elixirs from the likes of its Harvest of Mexico, made with roasted corn, herba sainte, Mezcal, agave, lime, habanero infused bitters; to the Cherry Licorice—tart cherries, single malt scotch, absinthe essence, house-made cherry bitters, cherry licorice garnish.

Bars in Baltimore are offering up an array superfood cocktails, and The Baltimore Sun asked dietitians—including Anna-Lisa Finger, the nutritionist at the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center—to break down the benefits of a few local beverages.

Clear 'cross country, Michael’s Santa Monica offers a farm-to-glass mixology program featuring fresh seasonal herbs and fruits grown, you guessed it, on the rooftop garden, in addition to fresh produce from the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Cocktails by acclaimed mixologist, Jason Robey include one with Star of Africa Infused Tito’s Vodka, Meyer lemon, kumquat-thyme simple, and smoked strawberry-chili flake-lemon soda, as well as the $20 O.M.G., made from Clase Azul Reposado Tequila, applewood-smoked salt, agave/lime/Meyer lemon ice cube, smoked glass and 150-year Grand Marnier.

A growing trend

Back on Pearl Street, farm-to-bar pioneer, Eric Skokan holds the reputation of restaurateur and chef at Black Cat Farm Table Bistro and newer next-door sister spot, Bramble and Hare. With two farm-to-table style eateries under his belt, drinks with a fresh facelift were a natural next frontier.

"It started with these wonderful fennel flowers I grew for garnishing a tuna dish," explains Skokan. "While tasting them out in the field, it occurred to me that they would make a stunning fennel liqueur. Our fennel flower liqueur is a tradition now and the rest of the program has been a search for similar discoveries."

Further liquid inspiration occasionally comes from the field in this way, where Skokan tries to highlight a particular flavor of plant and transport that directly into the bar. When he’s not out on his organic 120-acre Black Cat Farm, dreaming up the next great gulp, the chef is recreating classic cocktails with handmade liqueurs to lend a distinct authenticity.

"For whatever reason, most spirits are made with chemical flavorings and colorings," reports Skokan, who’s unwilling to sell drinks made that way. "Just because it is a cocktail doesn't excuse it from using unhealthy chemicals and additives. So, part of the farm-to-bar movement is to leave that behind and opt instead for spirits flavored by real plants that we nourished from our farm."

Clearly, Skokan's not alone in this sentiment, as there are full Pinterest pages and even books being devoted to the topic. As if you needed another reason to tip a bountiful glass, more than 100 long-term studies indicate that moderate alcohol intake—one drink per day for women, two for men—can actually do some good in the form of reducing heart attack and stroke risk by 25 percent to 40 percent. So go ahead, have your drink(s) and check off a portion of fruit and veggie intake, too.

Where are they mixing up farm-to-bar beverages in your hometown, and what’s your favorite one to knock back?

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