You plan to stack your plate high with organic fruits and veggies all season but have you considered what will fill your glass?
Until recently organic spirits were a rare find, but growing demand means large companies like Anheuser-Busch are showing interest in the organic market and your local wine and spirits stores are now offering organic ways to imbibe. “Not a month goes by that I don’t discover something new [in the organic spirits market],” says Paul Abercrombie, author of Organic, Shaken and Stirred (2009, The Harvard Common Press). According to Abercrombie, the most widely available organic spirits are crowd favorites like vodka and tequila, from brands like Square One and Casa Noble, with gin close behind. Organic bourbon is by far the most elusive spirit, though Abercrombie says that too may change soon.
Why reach for organic spirits for your summer cocktail parties? Make no mistake, organic cocktails aren’t health drinks. But organically grown ingredients do their share of good for the earth and produce spirits that are free of lingering pesticides. “It’s supposed to be a little sinful, because it’s a cocktail,” says Abercrombie. “The benefit [of organic spirits]is more about the production of the grains, vegetables and fruits before distilling and their effect on the climate and the soil. Also, if you’re going through the trouble to make a spirit organically, you’re likely to really care about how it’s done.” As any bartender knows, the end result is only as good as the original ingredients. Start with organic ingredients and end with a cocktail likely to impress even the most discerning drink connoisseur.
Of course, organic spirits aren’t the only element of a green bar. As you might expect, the easiest way to transition your summer bar into a green cocktail oasis is with an abundance of organic fruits, vegetables and herbs. “Organic food tastes so great on your plate, and it can taste equally as fantastic in a cocktail. There’s just no reason not to use it,” adds Abercrombie. To create a killer organic cocktail, start with the freshest organic offerings at your market and experiment. Abercrombie recommends tweaking your current cocktail standbys by muddling in organic herbs, especially mint, basil and sage. These additions omit any need for a “day-glo cherry that doesn’t taste like anything found in nature,” as Abercrombie puts it. A few of his favorite summer cocktail recipes involve vegetables, including a surprising crowd-pleaser called a Snap-Pea-Irinha, with organic gin, snap peas and black pepper, and the Jessica Rabbit, a blend of organic vodka, carrot juice and ginger. Abercrombie names organic watermelon as one of summer’s best cocktail ingredients, ideal for creating refreshing drinks like a Watermelon Cooler (recipe below). With the union of mindful production and unmatched taste, it’s time to give organic spirits a place at your summer table. You’ll find that there are abundant reasons to toast to your health!
Watermelon Cooler (via Organic, Shaken and Stirred)
20 ounces organic watermelon juice (about half of a large watermelon, seeded, pureed and pushed through a strainer)
10 ounces organic vodka
10 ounces pomegranate liqueur (organic, if you can find it)
40 quarter-size organic watermelon or honeydew melon balls
6 ounces sparkling water
Combine the watermelon juice, gin and pomegranate liqueur in a large pitcher and stir. Add the watermelon balls, then top with sparkling water. Serve on the rocks in Collins glasses. Makes about 10 drinks.
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