Bar stars are looking to the wilderness for some of their most innovative new cocktail flavors. They are using a variety of tree components – from wood and bark to flowers and branches. Here are 7 flavors of the forest cocktails branching out from tradition to offer tipplers a taste of the trees.
Betony, New York, New York
Juniper berries have long been used as an accenting component, spicing up brines, providing a botanical backbone to gins, and adding a forest-y flair to game dishes. However, it’s unusual for the coniferous tree to provide the focus flavor. The Grand Cru Cobbler defies convention by featuring it three ways: juniper needle-infused gin, juniper oil, and juniper berries. Make a reservation at Betony.
Cucina Enoteca, Newport Beach, California
These days, inspired bar types are infusing everything into bourbon – from bacon and tobacco to espresso and basil. Bartender Tucky Dias roots his Arbor Manhattan in tree bark bourbon. He rounds out the woodsy concoction with Amaro Averna, Antica sweet vermouth, and a few dashes of Angostura bitters. Make a reservation at Cucina Enoteca.
American Cut, New York, New York
Order the Plank Smoked Old Fashioned and you’ll get a show, too. After mixing together bitters, simple syrup, and Bulleit bourbon, the bartender quickly torches a maple plank. As the wood smolders, a glass is turned upside down over it. With the smoke still lingering, a large ice cube is added to the glass and the cocktail is poured in with a showy flourish. Make a reservation at American Cut.
Sable Kitchen & Bar, Chicago, Illinois
Spruce up your G&T routine. The Spanish-style gin and tonic – served in a goblet, of course – features Beefeater 24 gin, Q tonic, and fresh cranberries. The cocktail is completed with a few small boughs of spruce tips to reinforce its herbaceous tones. Make a reservation at Sable Kitchen & Bar.
Annex at GreenRiver, Chicago, Illinois
Look into the bottom of the Delicate Refusal and you’ll see a pickled sakura blossom. Over the pink cherry tree blossom, mixologist Julia Momose pours a complex mixture of sotol, tequila blanco, fino sherry, pamplemousse, apricot, verjus blanc, and Peychaud’s Bitters. The resulting cocktail finely balances saline, smoke, acid, fruit, and herb notes. Make a reservation at Annex at GreenRiver.
Rich Table, San Francisco, California
The Runaway is built with bourbon and Gentian Amaro, while Douglas fir adds a touch of the backwoods. It’s finished off with a citrus peel-wrapped cherry. If you’re not in the mood for a cocktail, the bar also offers a non-alcoholic Douglas fir, lemon, and lime soda. Make a reservation at Rich Table.
Aretsky’s Patroon, New York, New York
Bar manager Dean Blockey conceived the Beyond the Pine, which features Blue Plum brandy, Nolet’s gin, Douglas fir-infused brandy, fresh lime juice, honey, ginger beer, and jalapeño. Not included: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, or Eva Mendes. Sorry, y’all! Guess you’ll have to order another one to drown your sorrows. Make a reservation at Aretsky’s Patroon.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Kailley Lindman (Annex); Signe Birck (Betony); Urban Kitchen Group (Cucina Enoteca).