After months and months of Hot Toddy weather, spring finally starts today! It’s time to break out of your winter rut by fixing a new set of cocktails featuring a range of delicious seasonal ingredients.
We can’t think of a more beautiful place to be than in Washington, D.C., with its famous cherry blossoms in bloom. So we turned to one of the city’s finest bartenders, Todd Thrasher, who runs the drinks programs at six different establishments in nearby Alexandria, Va., including PX, Restaurant Eve and the new rock-‘n-roll-inspired TNT, for his secrets to creating spring concoctions.
Think Produce, Not Spirits:
Many mixologists talk about putting away the brown spirits and switching to the clear ones in warm weather, but the fact is that both Scotch and gin taste the same in December as they do in July. Instead, focus on what’s truly in season: fruits and vegetables like grapefruits, pomelos, strawberries and rhubarb. “Once it’s really coming out of the ground and not [from] hydroponic farms or hothouses, it’s so much better,” Thrasher says.
Fresh Herbs are Better:
While you can certainly get fresh herbs year-round, Thrasher says they’re at their most flavorful right now. He particularly likes featuring different basil and thyme varieties in his creations. Try his savory Thymes Like These recipe that calls for gin, sweet vermouth and a house-made thyme-lime mixture.
Strawberries are some of the season’s first fruits and are often turned into shrubs and syrups for drinks. Just be careful: “Cooking changes their flavor,” Thrasher says. His Strawberry Smash (pictured above) incorporates a mix of strawberries, basil, sugar and lemon juice that he crushes with his hands and allows to macerate, drawing out its essence into a tasty liquid that doesn’t require heat.
Use Your Blender:
Raw rhubarb juice is a fantastic cocktail ingredient, but the stalk’s fibrous texture wreaks havoc on electric juicers. Thrasher’s solution is to puree it in a blender with water, lemon and sugar, and then strain. Inspired by a Restaurant Eve dish combining rhubarb and olives, he uses this mixture in a clever take on the Dirty Martini that he calls the I Have an Idea, Let Me Make You a Cocktail.
Try Valencia Oranges:
Most citrus varieties peak in the winter, but these sweet and juicy specimens are at their best in late spring. Thrasher likes to roast both peel and fruit until caramelized to form a burnt-orange syrup that pairs beautifully with bourbon, as in his Oh My God Maria’s Leg is on Fire.
- 2 cups Sugar
- .5 cup Sauvignon blanc wine
- 1 cup Fresh thyme
- .5 cup Lime juice
Add the sugar and wine to a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the thyme, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain, and stir in the lime juice. Let cool completely before using.