My furtive steps in bartending began in the mid-nineties, a decade before classic cocktails began to enjoy their splendid resurgence. Back then, cocktails tasted more of preservatives and dyes than of any actual natural substance in their recipes. It was a lazy generation of saloons serving sauce without substance, and patrons were prone to purchase by colour rather than flavour. A change back to nature was necessary.
Our region is blessed with a bountiful variety of produce in each of its four seasons, which has caused an infectious interest in the seasonality of ingredients to blossom amongst bartenders. The trickle-down from kitchen to bar had clever cocktailers reaping the benefits; the bartender’s whole approach changed as seasonal substance began taking the spotlight. The schooners of syrupy slush we used to schlep have now been replaced by fresh purées of pristine produce. Seasonality in bartending has grown to become a permanent and indispensable identity. Craft bartending was in fact founded on classic recipes, but our local flavour of it will be foraged from homegrown harvests.
Our love of market-fresh ingredients provides great fuel for cocktail creativity—and there is no season more vivid than summer. Prolific and perennial berries, tree fruits and grapes provide an abundance from which to render flavourful nectars and brilliant hues. The finest fruit for cocktails are those with mouth-watering tartness and sweetness—raspberries and peaches are essentials in a summer cocktail repertoire. These softer fruits feed our passion by releasing their gorgeous juice and vibrant colour with the slightest muddle.
When considering which spirit to select for a sunny summer cocktail, the same personality of bright, fresh flavour should resound. An understated gin may be the perfect partner—it sings the sumptuousness of summer. Refined gins are themselves built with lively botanicals, then distilled to a clean, bright disposition, exalting and lengthening the natural profusion of a palate built from the season’s finest.
This is a special time of year, so enjoy it while you can. So many cocktails; so little summer.