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Local chefs have been singing the praises of farm-to-fork for a decade. Now bartenders are getting into the act, squeezing their own juices, making their own syrups and tinctures and creating their own infused spirits—all with local products.
This story appears in the September 2013 issue of SACRAMENTO. Sign up for a subscription to SACRAMENTO magazine here.
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MEAT . . . IN YOUR DRINK?
At Hock Farm, Randy Paragary’s new ag-centric restaurant, a board in the bar lists the day’s farmto- glass cocktail special: It could be cherry apricot rum daiquiri one day, peach cinnamon bourbon buck the next. Bar manager Brad Peters is a DIY expert, making his own grenadine and flavoring his housemade tonic water with fresh botanicals. If he can’t make something himself, he sources from someone who does. All of Hock Farms’ spirits are produced in California, and even the mixers are local: cucumber mint soda from Roseville’s Silk Road Soda for the Pimm’s Cup, and orgeat, a French almond syrup made by Berkeleybased Small Hands Foods, for the house Mai Tai. “Helping local purveyors is all part of the farmto- glass movement,” Peters explains.
Local meats serve a purpose, too. Using a process called fat washing, Peters can infuse spirits with the flavor of bacon, smoked brisket or duck confit. The process is simple: Add liquid-rendered fat to alcohol, refrigerate until the fat rises to the top, scrape off the fat, strain the liquid and you’ve got meat-flavored booze. For a brunch cocktail called The Pork Barrel, he combines bacon-flavored whiskey, coffee extract, orange bitters and maple syrup, barrel ages the mixture in white oak for a month, then serves it over ice, garnished with an orange twist and a slice of candied bacon. “It’s like a breakfast Old- Fashioned,” he says.
Farm-to-glass cocktail: GOLDEN GATE SOUR
Made with:Bourbon, pear liqueur, local clover honey, lemon juice, organic Chinese bitters, Vega Farm egg yolk, Asian pear garnish
Brad Peters says: “The inspiration for this cocktail comes from my desire to work with the Iwasaki family of Twin Peaks Orchard, who my wife has known since she was a little girl growing up in Loomis.”
LETTING INGREDIENTS SHINE
“We look at craft cocktails the way we look at food,” says Matt Nurge, a managing partner at The Red Rabbit and overseer of the midtown restaurant’s bar program. “We use the highest quality ingredients— you absolutely can taste it in the glass.”
Because Nurge’s cocktails often feature only three or four ingredients, every one has to shine. So he flavors simple syrups with aromatic rosemary or lemon verbena and uses ripe Yolo County figs to create fig-infused bourbon. There’s Lienert’s wildflower honey in the Gold Rush cocktail, housemade jam in the Buck Hunter and Vega Farm egg whites in the Amaretto Sour. With the region’s bounty at his fingertips, Nurge recently experimented with local black cherries to make a Colonial-era mixer called a shrub, and he’s been working to perfect an heirloom-tomato consommé for a white Bloody Mary.
Farm-to-glass cocktail: BUCK HUNTER
Made with: Bourbon, lemon, housemade seasonal jam, vanilla-infused angostura bitters, ginger beer
Matt Nurge says: “The jam rotates. In summer, we make apricot jam with fruit from Del Rio Botanical. In the fall, we’ll use local plums, peaches or pluots.”
SINGLING OUT THE FARMER
At upscale Hawks in Granite Bay, half the bar menu is devoted to seasonal cocktails, all made with fresh produce from the same farms that supply the kitchen. “We want the seasonal ingredient to be the star,” says bar manager Jordan Anderson, who makes all his juices and syrups daily, using local rhubarb, apricots, watermelons and other fruits. Often, he’ll credit the farm or farmer by name on the menu. Case in point: Strawberry Fields Forever, a gin-based cocktail that gets a double dose of fresh berries— both puréed and in housemade simple syrup—from nearby Saeng’s Strawberry Stand. Anderson also makes his own Meyer lemoncello and—get this—grapefruitcello. He even pickles vegetables for garnishes, such as asparagus spears (for the Bloody Mary) and Fresno chilies (for the tequila-based Sweet Heat cocktail).
Farm-to-glass cocktail: AGUA FRESCA
Made with: House-infused watermelon tequila, house-pickled Fresno chilies, fresh watermelon juice, lime, Calabrian chili sea salt
Jordan Anderson says: “This drink has a warm spice and a refreshing watermelon flavor.”