Like a sprig of bamboo in the cold mountains, the farm to table concept continues to grow exponentially.
While new restaurants pop up, old restaurants revamp their menus. In the home cooking scene, farm shares are also increasingly popular, bringing the benefits of rural produce to the urban kitchen. But one more frontier is being conquered by the farmer: the cocktail.
Often called the “garden to glass” concept, mixologists are turning to fresher, tastier, and healthier ingredients for their concoctions. The results have been met with soaring approval, and have altered the course of recipes while raising imbibers’ expectations. Cocktails now use fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, often picked from the garden next door or nearby.
Here are 5 bars and one roaming mixologist that are helming the garden to glass scene.
New York City, NY
The Westin’s NYC restaurant is famous for its seasonal menu and commitment to healthy and organic ingredients. Their bar sources herbs from the Rooftop Garden, located on the Westin’s 41st floor, 384 feet above Manhattan on the hotel’s rooftop. Managed by Executive Chef and Chief Gardener Brian Wieler, the garden currently grows various herbs and veggies. Head bartender Nico Szymanski says of the concept, “It goes without saying that the best part of using our garden herbs is the ‘wow’ factor when you tell guests that they were grown in house. The time Chef brought me a handful of mint he had just cut, while still holding the garden clippers – my bar guests were beside themselves with glee.”
Courtesy of Nico Szymanski, The LCL: Bar and Kitchen
- 12 Fresh Spearmint Leaves (9 for Muddling, 3 for Garnish)
- 2 oz. Bacardi Light Rum
- 1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
- 3/4 oz. Simple Syrup
- 1 dash Angostura Bitters
- 2 dashes Peychaud Bitters
Muddle nine spearmint leaves. Swizzle with crushed ice in a collins glass. Light soda float. Three spearmint leaves for garnish.
2. Willie Jane
Over at Willie Jane in Venice, CA, head bartender Derrick Bass has recently revamped the drinks program, turning it “into a whiskey bar, with garden to glass influences.” Working with Geri Miller, the owner of Cook’s Garden next door, he picked out a plot for his produce and laid it out.
“The way the garden works is that you really have to plan about a season ahead, but practically anything can be propagated from seed and then planted in the plot. We started experimenting with various herbs like lavender, sage, basil, and then worked towards more obscure like citron geranium, mugwort, yarrow, and horehound. It has now evolved from infusions and shrubs to tinctures of various herbs that are now incorporated into the cocktails.”
Swizzle Me Timbers
Courtesy of Derrick Bass, Willie Jane
- 1/2 oz. Lemon Verbena Infused Rum*
- 1/2 Lemon
- 1 oz. Pineapple
- 2 dashes Angostura
- 1/2 oz. Numi Hibiscus Tea
- Club Soda, for Garnish
- Lemon Verbena, for Garnish
Preparation: Add all ingredients into a shaker, shake, pour into a collins glass and top with soda. Garnish with slapped lemon verbena.
*Lemon Verbena Infused Rum
Take a 750 ml of Selvarey white rum. Fill an air-tight mason jar half full of lemon verbena, then fill to the top with rum, making sure there is not much space for air (which can create bacteria). Let sit for at least two days but up to a week in a cool dry place, giving it a light shake only once a day.
Owned by Chef Jason Bond, Bondir Concord is located in Concord, MA. Chef Jason’s personal background is key to his commitment to farm fresh ingredients, as he comes from a family of farmers. Located four miles from the restaurant are his very own Bondir Gardens, where Bondir bar manager Tatiana Ciccone pulls inspiration and ingredients for her farm-to-glass cocktail program.
As she explains, “I see what Chef Jason Bond is using in the kitchen, and reinvent cocktails using those ingredients. Fresher produce makes a fresher cocktail.”
Back Porch Cocktail
Courtesy of Tatiana Ciccone, Bondir Concord
- 1 1/2 oz. Cucumber-Infused Vodka*
- 3/4 oz. Watermelon Syrup**
- 3/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
- 1 bar spoon Green Chartreuse
- 1 pinch Kosher Salt
- Fresh Cucumber, for Garnish
Preparation: Build in tin or pint glass. Shake and strain into martini glass. Garnish with fresh cucumber (Boothby cucumber from Bondir Gardens).
Juice 2 large (or 4 small) cucumbers, saving the extracted pulp. Take the pulp and add into large container. Pour vodka over cucumber pulp. Stir. Cover and let sit in fridge for 24 hours. Strain with mesh cloth. Keep refrigerated.
Juice 1/2 large watermelon to yield 8 cups juice. Strain juice. Put on stove over med-high heat until juice comes to a boil. Add 2 cups sugar, whisk, reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer for an hour. Remove from heat, allow to cool. Strain. Keeps for weeks!
Prospect restaurant and bar in Brooklyn has a particularly interesting setup up. The increasingly popular organic spirit, Prairie held an event at a local herb garden in New York City, showcasing their “seed to glass philosophy”. The event featured a variety of cocktails created by Alan Cooper of Prospect that were inspired by the herb garden. “We always want to serve the best quality products to our guests and knowing the origin ensures our ability to do this,” said Cooper.
“With Prairie Organic vodka and gin, we know that from the farmer’s hands to the bottle, the products are created with the utmost care and the result is an outstanding quality spirit that also comes at an affordable price, allowing us to utilize Prairie in many of our signature cocktails.”
Courtesy of Alan Cooper, Prospect Restaurant and Bar
- 3/4 oz. Prairie Organic Gin
- 3/4 oz. Prairie Organic Vodka
- 3/4 oz. Simple Syrup
- 3/4 oz. Lemon Juice
- 6 Rosemary Stalks
- 1/2 oz. Contratto Bitter Rosemary Prosecco
- Rosemary Sprig, for Garnish
Preparation: Put simple syrup in shaker with six rosemary stalks and muddle. Add all other ingredients except Prosecco into shaker. Shake, then double strain into a collins glass with ice. Top with Prosecco. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
New Orleans, LA
Even traditional establishments are catching on to the trend. New Orleans’ famous Sazerac Bar and the Fountain Lounge (both in The Roosevelt Hotel) use fruit and herbs grown on their rooftop garden. Russ Bergeron, the beverage manager and sommelier, says that the draw of the garden to glass concept is, “a natural evolution of the times we are in now and the care in which bartenders across the planet are taking in the production of modern libations. This is a draw for guests as they are attracted to establishments that take the time to use the best products. The Sazerac Bar and The Fountain Lounge in The Roosevelt have an incredibly historic tie to the city of New Orleans, but it is also important to us that we stay in tune with what guests are looking for today, not just pointing to our history.”
Courtesy of The Fountain Lounge and the Sazerac Bar
- 1 1/2 oz. Basil Hayden Bourbon
- 4 Basil Leaves
- 2 Lemon Wedges
- 1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
- 1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
Preparation: In a collins glass, add basil, lemon, and simple syrup. Muddle. Add ice, bourbon, and lemon juice. Stir. Garnish with basil leaves and a lemon wedge.
Popping Up Everywhere
Matthew Biancaniello is one of those mixologists whose reputation precedes him. Well known in the bar world, he creates cutting edge cocktails. Popping up in different locales, he is an avid garden to glass recipe creator, and will be mixing at the soon-to-open Maru on Wilshire in Santa Monica. He sources ingredients from various gardens, including the Santa Monica Farmers Market, has a plot at the Cook’s Garden, and, when he gets a chance, forages in The Malibu Mountains.
When asked about the allure of the garden ingredients, he simply answers,
“The benefit of garden and ground to glass is that the ingredients are at their optimal and peak of flavor and therefore are unparalleled.”
Tomato and Lovage
Courtesy of Matthew Biancaniello
- 2 oz. White Fir Infused 123 Tequila Blanco
- 3/4 Lime Juice
- 3/4 oz. Agave Syrup*
- 4 Cherry Tomatoes
- 5 Lovage Leaves
- Pinch of Hepps Ghost Pepper Salt
- Cuban Oregano Leaf and Small Vine of Cherry Tomatoes for Garnish
Preparation: Infuse the white fir or pine into a bottle of tequila for 2 weeks. Add everything but tequila in a tin and muddle. Then add infused tequila and ice and shake and strain into a rocks glass with ice and garnish with Cuban oregano leaf and cherry tomatoes.
Made with a 1:1 ratio of agave nectar to water