August 15, 2012 -
Farm to Bar
When the Spice trucks return from the farmers’ markets, it’s all hands on deck. Helping hands unload the burrito stands. Chef hands pull provisions for daily dinner specials. And bar hands seek out inspiration for a few new crafty cocktails. Dave Hridel, Spice Bar Manager, discusses how our love for all things local finds its way into your glass.
What happens behind the bar on market day?
It’s game on. We get together with the kitchen to see what’s in the market basket, then we’ll puree the sh*t out of it. Once we’re all prepped, that’s when the fun begins, experimenting with different flavors in search of the perfectly balanced seasonal cocktail.
Is there a method to this madness?
Sometimes. We’ve taken the classics and twisted the mix to work with the harvest. We did a julep series this summer that was a huge hit.
…but I like to get creative with it. We’ve got a lot of kitchen herbs coming out of Spice Acres every week. I look for herb/fruit combinations that accent each other to give the cocktail a lot of depth. Think thyme and lemon…
…Or rosemary and citrus. You take a sip, your eyes light up, and you dive right back in for more. It’s a beautiful thing.
What’s the easiest way to make some of these ingredients drinkable?
We’ve been making shrubs with whatever comes through the door. Last week, we had these watermelons in the cooler that I gutted, added sugar and apple cider vinegar, and cooked down into a syrup. Pair a shot of that with just the right rum, mint and a great patio…and there it is – vacation in a glass.
What ingredients really get the creative juices flowing?
Berry season has been phenomenal. We’ve had an influx of berries – blueberries, strawberries, black currents, cherries, blackberries…
Anything else you’ll miss as we roll into fall?
Peaches. Talk about a taste that pops. Mags did this incredible peach cocktail, Peter Piper’s Peachy Pickled Pepper, with our peach habanero hot sauce that placed 4th at the Cleveland Independents Bartender Competition last month. I wish peach season were a little longer because we’ve only just started exploring the potential there.
At the same time, I’m thrilled that we get a little longevity out of these foods since Ben’s really into canning and freezing in volume, so summer might make a guest appearance this fall. And wait till you see what we’ll be cooking up then!
Editor’s Note: All of the cocktails in this rainbow of fruit flavors are available at select times. Catch them if you can!