In the world of professional cooking, seasonal ingredients reign supreme, and as the craft cocktail movement continues to grow, bartenders are catching on. Where cocktails were once the realm of sticky liqueurs and tinned fruits, bars are increasingly using fresh ingredients, both for the sake of sustainability and because they taste better. Daily trips to the market, seasonal cocktail lists, and even growing their own ingredients has become de rigueur for Australia's top cocktail makers.
Bulletin Place in Sydney is a pioneer of this trend in the Australian bar scene, changing its cocktail list daily based on market-fresh ingredients. Owner Tim Philips says, "Ten years ago, strawberry daiquiris were made with frozen puree and strawberry liqueur, which resulted in a drink that tasted synthetic and confectionary. Now we use strawberries at the peak of their season. The fact I can only have that drink six weeks of the year makes me happy. It's something to look forward to."
In Melbourne, the crew at Eau De Vie have taken advantage of a pop-up vegie patch near Federation Square in the city, growing fresh herbs to use in their frequent cocktail degustation events. Owner Greg Sanderson says that while their chef was the instigator, the use of daily picked fresh herbs soon moved into the bar. "The smell and taste of fresh herbs just cannot be beat. There is a brightness that's just not there with herbs that have been sitting in a fridge for a few days."
Luckily for us, we live in a country where growing things is easy, so for the home bartender there's a wealth of fantastic cocktail ingredients right down your garden path. Now that the spring growing season is upon us, it's the perfect time to think about planting things you can drink later.
Our mild climate offers plenty of opportunities to experiment with things you can grow in your own garden. All of the fresh ingredients in these recipes are easy to grow; some are in season now, or available all year round.
Lavender and bitter lemon fizz
Citrus fruits are easy to grow and provide endless options for experimentation. This recipe balances sweet and sour with the bitterness of lemons juiced whole.
30ml whole lemon juice (run whole lemons through a home juicer)
20ml lavender syrup
piece of lemon peel
sprig of fresh lemon thyme
500g white sugar
handful of fresh lavender flowers
1. To make the lavender syrup, place all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on low until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup smells strongly of lavender, about 10 minutes. Strain through a tea strainer and cool.
2. Build all ingredients in a tall glass, fill with ice, top with a splash of soda water, and garnish with the lemon peel and thyme.
This modern variation on the classic Southside cocktail incorporates three of the cheapest and easiest things to grow; lime, mint and cucumber.
25ml freshly squeezed lime juice
15ml simple syrup (equal parts sugar and boiling water; stir to dissolve, then cool)
2 sprigs of fresh mint
⅛ of a medium cucumber, cut into chunks
1. Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake hard for 10 seconds.
2. Strain through a tea strainer into a martini glass and garnish with a slice of cucumber.
Strawberry and Thai basil mojito
Strawberries are in season for spring, the perfect time to add them to your favourite
cocktails. This mojito variation gets an extra kick from Thai basil.
60ml white rum
30ml fresh lime juice
2-3 fresh strawberries, cut in half
handful of fresh Thai basil leaves
1. To make crushed ice, wrap a handful of ice cubes in a tea towel, place on a solid surface and bash with a rolling pin or meat mallet.
2. Add strawberries to a tall glass and crush with a muddling stick or the handle of a wooden spoon.
3. Add all remaining ingredients.
4. Fill with crushed ice and churn with a spoon.
5. Top with a little soda water and garnish with a Thai basil flower and a whole strawberry.
Lemon verbena and ginger cooler
Ginger and honey is one of the best flavour combinations going, while locally sourced honey and homegrown lemon verbena give this easy cooler complexity and freshness.
30ml fresh lemon juice
20ml local honey water
Ginger beer (or try fresh ginger juice and soda for a spicy, low sugar option)
sprig of fresh lemon verbena
1. To make honey water, mix equal parts honey and hot water until completely incorporated. This allows the honey to mix easily into the drink.
2. Add the vodka, lemon and honey water to a tall glass. Fill with ice and top with ginger beer. Garnish with the verbena.
Whisky and apple highball
If you have access to a juicer, nothing goes better with whisky than fresh pressed juice, something bars all over Australia have cottoned onto recently. Add a touch of sage from the garden for a savoury kick.
30ml of your favourite whisky
90ml fresh pressed apple or pear juice
sprig of fresh sage
1. Build all ingredients in a tall glass, fill with ice and garnish with the sage.
Grapefruit is at the top of its game right now, and the Greyhound is one of the best simple ways to use this citrus. Garnish with a spicy, edible nasturtium flower from the garden to make a simple drink look amazing.
30ml vodka or gin
90ml fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice
1. Add vodka to a tall glass then fill with ice
2. Top the glass with grapefruit juice and garnish with a nasturtium flower