Here’s another entry for your locavore lexicon: “bar garden.”
Across the country, bartenders are following chefs out into the field (or at least the backyard) to cultivate and harvest their own ingredients, including everything from cucumbers to limes. Perhaps it was inevitable, the result of an increasing focus on fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs as well as the DIY culture that prevails in barrooms these days. If you’re going to bother making your own vermouth, you might as well start by growing your own herbs.
In fact, that’s exactly what San Francisco bartender Thad Vogler plans to do. This summer, Vogler, who opened the bar at Camino and the J Lounge at Jardinière, will open Bar Agricole. The centerpiece of his new establishment will be a 500-square-foot biodynamic garden planted with citrus fruit trees and herbs like hyssop and savory. The urban oasis will help Vogler offer cocktails composed completely of artisanal and, when possible, biodynamic ingredients.
The garden at Bar Agricole will stand out even in San Francisco, where a mild climate and the popularity of farm-to-table dining has encouraged a number of bartenders to take up gardening. But the grow-your-own trend is also moving east, to, of all places, New York’s chicly gritty East Village. This spring, Greg Seider and Hamid Rashidzada, co-owners of The Summit Bar, staked out a plot in a local community garden to grow ingredients for their fresh herb- and vegetable-heavy cocktails. The bar is even building a greenhouse to extend the growing season.
“We wanted to be more sustainable,” Seider explained recently as he shook up an Off to the Races, a Julep-like drink with muddled shiso leaves. (Pictured above.) Passion for top quality ingredients is in The Summit Bar’s DNA: Seider honed his culinary approach at Minetta Tavern and Mercer Kitchen, and Rashidzada worked for years at restaurants like Matsugen and Mercer Kitchen. “This is pretty much where all this stuff comes from: the kitchen,” Seider says.