Artesian in London recently hosted a trade session on seasonality presented by Lydia Reissmueller, formerly of PDT in New York and now globe-trotting farmer/mixologist.
She urged her audience to try and source more ingredients direct from farms, arguing that any fiddly admin was vastly outweighed by quality of ingredients, seasonality and the scope for more flexible pricing once a relationship was established.
‘Create a drink of the day, or week using a featured seasonal ingredient, and try and always have at least one thing on your menu where you know exactly where it comes from,’ she suggested. ‘If you know where it comes from it’s worth ten times more than a little organic symbol.’ She added: ‘Fresh ingredients help you to have a story which engages people.’
She recommended teaming up with other bars to make orders more cost-effective. She also showcased a trio of seasonal drinks including a rum cocktail using rhubarb ‘water’ and a gin fizz with fresh herbs and stevia-infused Bombay Sapphire.
Below are some tips, recipes and Lydia’s month-by-month guide to what’s in season.
Better Ingredients, Better Drinks
Freelance Bartendress Lydia Reissmueller, formerly of PDT, New York.
Sourcing Fresh Ingredients
Go direct to local farms, shop farmer’s markets, grow your own (herbs are easiest).
Work with kitchens, utilize weeds and forage.
Remember, the fresher the ingredients, the less you have to coax the flavour out of them, and the more clean and delicious your drinks will taste.
Using your less busy times of the year to prep your infusions and plan out how to utilize what will be in season will help you to implement better ingredients.
Syrups – add ingredients to warm syrup for maximum absorbtion, and let sit between 1 and 3 days. With fruit/herbs/spices/teas, and think of using honey or jaggury instead of white sugar.
Infusions – you can infuse just about anything including roots, barks, leaves, you name it. Infusion times vary based on the amount of water in the ingredient, and desired strength.
Vermouths – you can utilize oxidized wine by cooking it down for a few hours at a low temperature, then add sweetener, citrus peel, spices, and herbs. I tend to use no more than 3 ingredients so you can taste them all.
Bitters – the most pared-down recipe would be to make an infusion out of your ingredients for 1-2 weeks using 100 proof min (doesn’t have to be a neutral spirit either), stirring daily, then strain infusion & pour just enough boiling water to cover ingredient and let sit for a day. Strain & combine with infusion, and strain till no particles are left, and let rest for 2 weeks minimum. I prefer to make bitters out of ingredients with inherent bitterness like fruit skins & pits, teas, dried flowers, herbs, and nuts (with their shells).
Garnishes – this is where it gets very visual, and I prefer my garnishes edible when possible. Think about using creative ways of cutting fruit & arranging herbs, even using cookies and edible flowers to adorn your concoctions.
Purees – These are especially great if you can talk your kitchen into doing them for you… Make sure you blend really well, use ingredients that are not too fibrous (straining purees is a waste of time) and add a bit of brown sugar for shelf life.
Juices – I love to add unexpected juices like carrot, beet, & fresh ginger to drinks.
Ice – If you are lucky enough to have control over your big ice, think about adding fruit, a flower, or even a sprig of herbs to create a visual treat, and even a bit of flavored syrup.
Application of fresher drinks
Truly Seasonal Menu
Drink of the Day/Week with featured ingredient(s)
Special Events, Catering, Welcome Drink (use like Amuse Bouche)
Cocktails with food, using balance and flavours to heighten dishes
Seasonal Inspiration Calendar
Preserved fruit- think jams, pickled fruit (wonderful for garnishes- you can make them yourself, and store on shelves in the bar for presentation).
Flavoured oils- use like bitters to add texture/flavour/aroma, make your own!
Honey- raw honey’s best, you’ll be shocked how many different honeys are available…
Champagne Rhubarb- use raw for a fantastic consommé, puree, muddled, garnish, etc..
Tail-end of apples – apples are one of the UK’s best fruits. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone that doesn’t like apples. There are many varieties available within their own seasons, Bramley being a great cocktail variety for their inherent tartness that goes wonderfully with honey. Here’s an example:
Jersey Apple Punch
2 Laird’s Apple Jack (bottled in bond 100 proof is best)
1 milk (the freshest whole milk you can find)
1 Bramley apple honey syrup (lightly roasted apple slices pureed with honey)
2 dashes Angostura bitter
Shake & Strain into an ice filled rocks glass Roasted apple slice(s) and nutmeg
Spring herbs – chive blossoms (the cylindrical purple flowers of chives great for garnishes), thyme, parsley, are great for combining into a lightly sweetened house-made tonic-type syrup (with dried lavender & chamomile)
Radishes – easy to grow yourself… the Easter Egg variety looks as it sounds, pretty pastels that are great for garnishes, or muddled into gin for a snappy dry martini.
Shiso – is great bruised into brown spirit sours, or in a long drinks with ginger
Sorrel – (a lovely weed-like green that taste like lemonade has tons of uses
Dandelion greens & Flowers- I love to pick this weed and throw it into my tonic syrup instead of cinchona bark. The flowers make a lovely wine by covering them with water and adding honey, let sit out for a few days, then strain well, bottle and let sit refrigerated for a few days before enjoying this gold-colored tonic.
Pea Shoots – little curly baby shoot are tasty and make a gorgeous garnish
Edible flowers – Although there are hundreds of varieties of edible flowers (all herbs produce edible flowers) available throughout spring and summer, May flowers get their name for a reason. Look for borage flowers (electric bluish-violet and taste like cucumbers), jasmine (makes a breath-taking syrup and aromatic garnish),
Micro-greens – these are basically small sprouts of different kinds of plants. You can grow these beautiful little sprouts easily yourself with grow lights and a little research. They make edible garnishes, flavorful infusions, and look cool while they are growing.
Cherries – fresh or preserved, they are perfect for drinks with brown spirits. You should be able to find these easily at the farmer’s markets while they are in season.
Strawberries – I don’t need to tell you how to use these, but I would highly recommend making infusions while they’re in season, and storing them for the colder months.
Cucumbers – Great muddled into drinks, pickled with sweet spices, or in infusions/purees.
Lavender – One of my favorite cocktail toys, it makes a brilliant syrup/infusion/bitters/garnish
Water herbs – The more delicate ones like salad burnet (tastes like cucumbers & melons) and hot weather ones like cilantro and basil will make sours sing.
Currants – perfect for syrups and infusions, or you can pack them with sugar & let sit for a few months until you use them in place of cherries for a preserved garnish.
Fennel – make your own anisette with this crunchy bulb, just infuse & add sweetner.
Tomatoes – a consommé makes an incredible clear bloody mary (served like a Martini).
Blackberries – Great to decorate a summer julep with fruit brandies.
Melons – indulge in one of natures most perfect summer fruits, syrups, purees
Milk – high in nutrition this time of year, think milk punch with fresh fruit & spices
Stone fruits (Apricots, Plums, Peaches etc…) Muddle the best, Preserve the 2nd best, and make bitters with the stones skins and 3rd best of the fruit.
Blueberries – great with brown spirits, and with anything fizzy, and if you have enough, perfect for bitters (as the color/flavour is really fun to dash into drinks)
Oil herbs – Rosemary & Sage should be super fresh now, very versatile and they have a longer shelf life than water herbs.
Apples – Again, one of the UK’s strong suits, utilize all the different varieties while fresh for maximum impact… apples love spices and a little salt never hurts either.
Grapes – Wherever your getting your grapes from, this is their peak season, so you won’t need to add so much sugar, and you’ll notice they are less watery during this time. If you can get your hands on varieties like Muscat(white) or Concord(red) you’ll wow your customers with their addictive flavor. Don’t bother with seedless grapes. Ever. They will never have the flavor that the less commercial types will.
Root vegetables – May sound strange, but roasted turnips are wonderful for syrups, carrots for juicing or syrups, and pickled turnips for garnishes.
Pumpkin – incredibly inexpensive and versatile, and goes well with brown spirits and spices. Spices & seeds – yes, they too will most likely be freshest this time of year…
Dried herbs – Most herb companies are picking at peak season and curing putting them on the market right about now.
Baked goods – Perfect time of year for baked garnishes & toasty infusions.
Evergreen needles – yep, Christmas trees are tasty for muddling/infusions/garnishes
Citrus – Ok, so now is the beginning of the freshest time to be buying this impervious cocktail import. Go beyond the usual by sourcing Blood oranges & Meyer lemons for a real treat.
Linking the People to the Seasons…
1. Buying local doesn’t have to be an immediate change in philosophy for a business or an individual, but will probably be a journey of many small steps. Often taken by one product at a time, resulting in a project with a sustainable supply, initially no changes need to be made. Providing a list of available information allows people to make a decision be it on price of provenance.
2. Once you’ve started you can make further steps, to make it more strategic – measure where you’re up to, set targets for a range of products
3. If you want local, ask for it, let your supplier know you want more info.
4. Establish what you are already doing, and decide how you will portray this information – by country, region, area or even down to the farm.
5. Often the information is available with minimal research, gained by asking for provenance one step back at a time.
6. Make the locality visible by putting a face or name to the product.
7. Communicate your good work; tell people about the changes you are making, and why it is important
8. Use seasonality charts: SEFGP; Eat the Seasons etc
9. Advertise use of local ingredients
10. Commit to using seasonal when possible, including meat, fish and fresh produce, as this is often when local and regional food is at the best price
11. Identify what is easily available. EX: Cox apples in September, etc…
12. Communicate your actions to other businesses as well, to gain support, and work with others to create more demand for better ingredients.
14. Favour suppliers with sustainability standards. EX: transport & energy use.
15. Meal times are an important part of daily social life and are part of all our cultures, and whatever the situation is an opportunity to make a statement about your attitude. A shared culture of enjoying good local food is beneficial to all.
16. Find out, or create opportunities for visits to your suppliers. They will appreciate it as much as you will, and you will have more info for your customers.
18. Public sector projects are already up and running to help, and include:
18.1.Sustains, Good Food on the Public Plate www.gfpp.org.uk; looks to help implement sustainability into practice
18.2.Food for Life; led by the Soil Association with Big Lottery funding aims to transform food culture in schools.
18.3.Defra’s Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative
If you are interested in sourcing ingredients directly from a farm, please email me with some details about your company, volume, and hopefully a copy of your menu. I will gladly do the research for you, and put you in touch with farms that I believe are suitable for you. I can be reached via Facebook (Lydia Reissmueller), or at [email protected]
To find a real farmer’s market near you go to London Farmers’ Market.
To find out more about seasonal availability, you can check out seasonal charts at: