NEW YORK CITY — As creating cocktails continues to be treated more as an art form, bartenders are pushing boundaries of what can be considered an ingredient.
Here are six unusual cocktail ingredients and where to try them:
Head bartender Chris Marshall likes to include sentimental touches to all the cocktails he creates. And it doesn’t get closer to home than the “Northwest Negroni” cocktail, which uses spruce needles harvested by Marshall’s mother at their family home in Spokane, WA. Gin is then infused with the spruce for several days before being mixed with red vermouth and aperol, and topped with a sprig of spruce for decoration.
The chili oil in the “Mango Chili Martini” serves two purposes, according to to TAO’s beverage director Keith Nelson. Visually, the ingredient provides a contrast in the bright orange drink that is made with Maestro Dobel Tequila and a spiced mango puree. The second purpose is to give it a spicy kick, Nelson said.
Epazote is the name of the restaurant and the cocktail, and it is also the name of a herb that resembles basil and cilantro. For the drink, Epazote is infused into mezcal, a distilled spirit traditional in Mexico, for about five days, according to Manuel Zaras, the restaurant’s general manager. This creates an earthy flavor, he said. The herb Epazote is most often used as a savory ingredient in food dishes, but in the cocktail it is sweetened with agave nectar and mixed with lime juice.
In the “What’s Up Doc” cocktail it is carrot juice that brings body and sweetness with savory notes, according to Tom Macy, Clover Club’s head bartender. The drink has the carrot juice mixed with dried currant-infused dark rum, and allspice bitters from Dale Degroff’s Aromatic Bitters, as well as lemon and maple and ginger syrup. Everything is poured over crushed ice for a tropical feel, Macy said.
While the old-fashioned medicine bottle that the “Brazilian Magic Punch” cocktail comes in might be unique enough for one drink, the combination of rosebuds, black and white pepper and chili adds a twist to the taste. The flavors of the rosebuds, peppers and chilies are infused into the cachaca Brazilian rum for five days before being stained, according to Damien Aries, the general manage of the Experiential Cocktail Club. The drink is mixed with sour grapefruit and sweetened with pineapple syrup, and then pre-bottled ahead of service, he said.
The mole bitters in the “Plantain Old Fashion” bring notes of cocoa, cinnamon and spice as well as chili peppers, according to Drew Sweeney, the director of beverage at Bodega Negra. It also takes the rough edges off the cocktail’s other ingredients of Ron Zacapa Aged Rum and banana liqueur.