Savory Cocktail Twists
May 13, 2013 11:05AM ● Published by Brian O
WRITTEN BY KIM COOPER
Sweet flavors often take the lead when it comes to cocktails— whether it’s through liqueurs, simple syrups, or fruit purees and blends. But there seems to be room at the bar for a quirkier cocktail, these days. Savory undertones are the newest trend when it comes to mixed drinks. A slight punch of saltiness or a kick of spice can liven up even the most timid of drinks.
The important thing to note when it comes to savory elements is subtlety. The flavors can’t be a smack in the face. Instead, allow them to be a delicate undertone, giving an unexpected twist. Cocktails with a savory edge can be split into the following categories: nuts, salt, vegetables, and herbs.
Nut-based cocktails, such as Frangelico and amaretto, were absent from bar menus for many years. Often thought of as either too unsubtle or too overtly feminine, people seemed to avoid them like the plague. But nutty libations seem to be taking back cocktail menus by storm. Flavors of pistachio, walnut, peanut, and even acorn are finding their way into a range of mixed drinks, adding richness, depth, and complexity.
For an excellent pairing, try a nut-based cocktail alongside bittersweet chocolates. The flavors of the nuts balance out the chocolate, making for an exciting combination.
Salt is commonly considered a cocktail afterthought, simply rimming the glass of a margarita, for instance. While using salt in unexpected ways isn’t a new idea—think salted caramel—when added directly to cocktails, it can add just the right amount of kick. Oversalting, however, can be the ruination of an otherwise perfect drink. The trick is to use a careful hand. Remember: salt can always be added, but once in, it can’t be taken away.
Vegetables are showing up in more places than your standard Bloody Mary. Stalks, tubers, and edible plants are being pureed, muddled, and mixed into all kinds of different cocktails. Options are limitless when it comes to vegetable-laden cocktails, but it’s best to think in terms of seasonality. In the summertime, you can combine bright, colorful heirloom tomatoes into your drinks, or for a zesty wallup, add chopped jalapeños to simple syrup and mix them with an acidic cocktail. The spice will cut through the acidity and leave you with a burst of bold flavors.
Herbs are no stranger to libations of all varieties, but they give an unexpected twist to cocktails. Mint, for example, is cool and astringent, playing well against a range of fruit flavors, including those in the classic mojito. Meanwhile, rosemary lends itself well to gin, basil pairs well with cherries, and thyme tends to complement blackberries, adding layers of dimension with each sip.
Two to Try
1 oz. St. Germain
1/2 oz. tequila
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. pink grapefruit juice
2 oz. sparkling wine
2 pinches salt
Combine all of the ingredients except wine in a shaker with ice. Shake well for 15 seconds. Pour into a glass. Top with sparkling wine.
Makes 1 cocktail
PINEAPPLE BASIL SPARKLER
3 medium basil leaves, rolled and chiffonade cut
half a lime
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 1/2 oz. gin
Put the basil and lime in a glass and muddle. Add pineapple juice, gin, and some ice cubes. Top with club soda. Garnish with some sprigs of fresh basil.
Makes 1 cocktail