We all have a few memories of family dinners spent pushing mushy peas around the plate, right? And will we ever recover from the horror we felt at school when we pulled a soggy banana from our brown lunch bag while every other kid, it seemed, had cookies?
Thankfully we’ve matured. We’re grown-ups now and we can have our fruits and vegetables when and how we want them — like in our cocktails — especially in San Francisco where fresh ingredients are ripe for the picking.
“We are blessed in Northern California to have so much available to us year round,” said Jeff Burkhart, a bartender, cocktail historian and author of “Twenty Years Behind Bars.” “We have farmers markets, Asian markets, Indian markets… the list goes on and on, which means so do our choices for ingredients.”
Bay Area mixers and shakers have gone beyond the standard stalk of celery in the Bloody Mary or fresh-squeezed orange juice in the mimosa, some preferring to defy the humdrum by concocting elixirs of their own sourcing from California’s orchards and gardens to create eclectic menus that toast to the Golden State’s cornucopia.
Over at Alembic (http://alembicbar.com) in the Haight, Larry Piaskowy serves up Southern Exposure ($11), a cocktail plucked straight from the garden using gin, fresh mint, lime juice, a touch of sugar and a shot of fresh celery juice that’s “loaded with antioxidants to help deal with the Haight’s population of free ‘radicals,’” says its menu.
Maven’s (www.maven-sf.com) mixologists Ryan Linden and Kate Bolton have curated a cocktail menu inspiring why-didn’t-I-think-of-that sips that keep you coming back for drinks like the 5 Spot ($11), which deliciously blends aged rum, with ginger, lime, maple, Thai basil and five spices for a nice little end-of–the-night kicker.
Christopher Robin (remember him from those Winnie the Pooh days?) ($12) is all grown up at Novela (http://novelasf.com), where cocktails are characters in your evening’s story. This one combines carrot juice with lemon, bitter lemon soda, gin, and ginger for a refreshing and surprising literary libation.
A Chemistry of the Cocktail event, sponsored by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture at the Ferry Plaza, showcased the mad-scientist skills of 13 of San Francisco’s finest bartenders who created cocktails using ingredients sourced from farmers markets.
If you’d like to try making cocktails at home using ingredients from your local farmers market or treasures from your own backyard, Burkhart advises to start thinking of combinations that work well with cooking and applying them to cocktail making.
“Almost all cocktails are a blend of sweet and sour, and vegetables typically don’t have the sour. Remember, even the classic Bloody Mary has lime or lemon juice in it, (although technically the tomato is a fruit),” he said. “And adding cucumber to a gimlet gives it an interesting take, like adding jalapeno to a margarita.”
These aren’t new ideas, he said, but add some creativity to the plentiful ingredients found in Northern California and are enough to keep our fruits and vegetables, as well as our cocktails, interesting for many happy hours to come.
Kimberley Lovato has been writing about travel, food and drink for the last 20 years and, from Alabama to Tanzania, has never met a happy hour she didn’t like; www.kimberleylovato.com
Farmer markets in S.F.
Here are some favorites among dozens of farmers markets in The City.
7 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays; 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Wednesdays, year-round
United Nations Plaza, Market and Seventh streets, Civic Center
8 a.m -1 p.m. Saturdays, year-round
3861 24th St.
9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays, year-round
Clement Street between Second and Fourh avenues
9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays, year-round
Eight Avenue, between Judah and Irving streets