Herb cocktails: Go green with your drinks!

If you get out as much as we do, first of all no judgment and second: You may have noticed that fresh herbs are cropping up on cocktail menus throughout the city. What brings about this wave of greenery in our drinks, and how does it enhance spirit flavors? We spoke with mixologist Jen Gordon, who designs cocktails for Altamarea Group’s Ai Fiori (400 Fifth Ave.) in collaboration with director of bar operations Eben Freeman. Here’s what she has to tell us about this exciting trend.

Why are herbs in drinks making an appearance on cocktail menus?

Herbs are popping up in cocktails because, like in food, they add an element of freshness to drinks. They can be used in a variety of ways, from just shaking straight into a cocktail to infusing into syrups or the spirits themselves.

What kinds of drinks are best to support herb flavors?

This feels like a cop-out of an answer, but herbs are so versatile that they can go in any direction. Savory, sweet, classic, innovative, etc. However, if the goal is to highlight the flavor of the herb, simple is usually best. If you get too complex, it is easy to lose sight of the main ingredient.

What inspired the flavors in your cocktail (recipe below)?

All aspects of the Green Vespa are meant to scream fall. The base flavors are pear and sage. The color of the drink is balancing between green, yellow and burnt orange from the cayenne pepper. It is meant to be reminiscent of autumn leaves. That point is driven a little further by the garnish of a small sage leaf. It sits on top of the rock so that it is right in your nose when you take a sip. It’s autumn in a glass.

Are fresh herbs necessary?

Fresh herbs are usually preferred, but it really depends on what flavor you want in the drink. Dried herbs are typically used when fresh aren’t available, but in drying them, they can take on new flavor profiles of their own. In some cases, those subtle differences can benefit a drink. That said, I tend to lean toward fresh.

Is it typical for a bar to have fresh herbs on hand?

Serious cocktail bars and restaurants always seem to have fresh herbs available. I am fortunate to work in a restaurant with a very well-stocked kitchen so fresh herbs are always available to us. Unfortunately, your average dive-bar isn’t going to be garnishing your gin and tonic with a basil floret — yet.

Is this something our readers can do at home?

Absolutely! My favorite way to do it is through flavored simple syrups. Use 50/50 sugar to hot water, stirring until fully dissolved. While still hot, drop a bunch of whatever herb you have on hand — my favorites are thyme or lemon verbena. Let it steep for a couple of hours and you’re ready.

Herb cocktails around NYC

Green Vespa
Created by Jen Gordon, Ai Fiori

Ingredients:

½ oz. Fresh lemon juice
½ oz. Simple syrup
¾ oz. Pear puree
1 Pinch cayenne pepper
2 Large sage leaves, torn
1½ oz. Grey Goose Poire pear vodka

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a cobbler shaker. Shake and double strain into a chilled rocks glass over a large ice cube. Place a single small sage leaf in the center of the ice cube.

Shiso Gimlet
Created by Camille Austin, Hakkasan

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. NOLET’s Silver Dry Gin
3 Shiso leaves
.75 oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
1 oz. Fresh lime juice
.5 oz. Lychee juice
1 Bar spoon Yuzu Marmalade

Instructions:

Shake, strain into a martini glass and garnish with a shiso leaf.

Tequila Mockingbird
Pachanga Patterson

Ingredients:

2 oz. Tequila
1 oz. Simple syrup
1 oz. Fresh lime juice
2-3 Slices of cucumber
Fresh mint, to taste

Instructions:

Muddle cucumber and mint in cocktail shaker. Add tequila, simple syrup and lime juice. Shake; serve on ice.

Kentucky Ginger
Campbell Apartment

Ingredients:

2 oz. Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 oz. ginger liqueur
1 tsp. agave nectar
1 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 spring muddled rosemary

Instructions:

Shake in a glass and serve over ice.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Gunther from 'Friends' talks Central Perk

We spoke with Gunther (James Michael Tyler) at the preview for new pop-up Central Perk, based on the cafe in "Friends."

Local

Central Perk opens in SoHo

Central Perk, of "Friends" fame, is giving out free coffee in SoHo through Oct. 18.

National

Beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch reproaches NFL over domestic abuse

Anheuser-Busch chastised the NFL for its handling of domestic violence cases, making it the first major advertiser to put pressure on the league.

Local

Sen. Krueger dishes on prospect of legal marijuana…

New Yorkers may see the legalization of recreational marijuana use as early as 2015 if State Senator Liz Krueger (D) gets her way. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will…

Music

FREEMAN makes Freeman a free man from Ween

For nearly 30 years, Aaron Freeman was known endearingly to his listeners as Gene Ween. But with "FREEMAN," he makes it clear that he's gone somewhere else.

Television

'Outlander' recap: Season 1, Episode 6: 'The Garrison…

Whipping, punching, kicking and a marriage contract. "Outlander" is not for the faint of heart this week with "The Garrison Commander."

The Word

The Word: Hey girl, it's a girl for…

It's a girl for Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, who reportedly welcomed a daughter last Friday, according to Us Weekly. The super-private couple managed to…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 16: 'New Girl,'…

Check out the season premiere of "New Girl," as Jess competes with Jessica Biel for a guy's attentions.

MLB

5 top contenders for NL Rookie of the…

The outing rekindled award talk for deGrom, who appears to hold the top spot for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Metro breaks down a few other contenders.

College

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

Style

Rachel Zoe: New York Fashion Week Spring 15

Rachel Zoe goes 'Glam bohemia' for Spring.

Food

Where to find SweeTango apples

Introduced in 2009, SweeTango — a hybrid of Honeycrisp and Zestar — is a sweet apple with plenty of crunch.

Style

London Fashion Week recap

London Fashion week gets in on the action with politics, heritage and summertime living.

Food

Padma Lakshmi's recipe for green mango curry

Padma Lakshmi shares her recipe for green mango curry in UNICEF's new book, "UNICHEF."