The phrase ‘spring cleaning’ doesn’t solely refer to your home. It’s about a season of transformation. Temperatures are on the rise, nature is in bloom, and people start to move around again. The world around us feels rejuvenated and so should your cocktail menu. Move over, cozy winter cocktails. With these 2018 spring cocktail trends, we’ll get a taste of patio-worthy drinks and a revival of some classics.
It’s the end of hibernation season. Parkas are being reacquainted with closets and people are choosing to spend their free time outdoors again. It’s the perfect time to gather friends for drinks. Low-ABV cocktails are becoming a staple on bar menus for just that occasion. They allow us to knock back a few while still being able to carry on a coherent conversation.
Aside from being practical, low-ABV cocktails are also delicious and pack a lot of flavor complexity. Vermouths, liqueurs, infused-syrups, and wines take center stage over the spirit. Bartenders are getting crafty with low-proof twists on old favorites. We all know the Negroni as a syrupy, booze-forward gin cocktail. Chicago’s Longman & Eagle has created a more sessionable version that includes replacing the spirit with Prosecco and putting it on ice.
Springtime gives us all a revitalized feeling and there’s no reason we shouldn’t toss a little bit of that sunshine into our cocktail recipes. Refreshing cocktails share common characteristics of being cold, light, and hydrating, often topped with sparkling water or wine. Stick to the spritz, punch, fizz, or cooler for the most effervescent experiences.
For the Whiskey-Soda Fiend
Have you ever tried a Japanese whiskey highball? It’s a more carbonated, less whiskey-by-volume version of the classic. With just two ingredients of whiskey and soda, you still get that booze-forward flavor while actually hydrating yourself. Bars across America are investing in the trend by installing Japanese-made highball machines. It’s definitely worth a try the next time you find yourself at Manhattan’s Ippudo, Los Angeles’s Faith & Flower, or Chicago’s Prairie School. Don’t have a few thousand dollars to drop on flashy bar tools? This recipe should give you a taste of what the Japanese highball is all about:
- 1.5oz Japanese whiskey, chilled
- 3-4oz club soda, chilled
- clear cubed ice
- Place ice in a tall Collins glass.
- Pour in whiskey, trying to not touch the ice to avoid dilution.
- Slowly pour club soda similarly to not touch the ice and preserve carbonation.
- Using a bar spoon, stir several times to create a fizz on top of the drink.
Spring flowers aren’t only pretty to look at. They can also be deliciously mimicked in your drink. Floral components, like infused gin and hibiscus, add a ton of flavor without being overly sweet.
Flowers as Ingredients
It’s not a rule that pink drinks need to be sugary and fruity. Hibiscus flower is an ingredient with intense coloring that won’t necessarily dominate the flavor of a cocktail. This slightly tart flower pairs great with gin, rum, citrus, liqueurs, and bitters. Try incorporating other blossoms like elderflower (a commonly found liqueur being St. Germain) and rose water. Better yet, natural flowers boast some health benefits so we won’t feel so bad about having that second cocktail, right?
Craft gins are increasingly gaining in popularity. As said by Danny Shapiro, owner and head bartender at Chicago’s Scofflaw, “As long as your product has some juniper component and a neutral base, you can call it gin [and] this lends itself to much experimentation.” The days of all gins tasting pine-y are over. Cocktails, cuisine, and locations often serve as inspiration for craft gin distillers like Letherbee and Glendalough. They’ve used a variety of flowers including daisies, chamomile, chrysanthemum, arnica, and jasmine in seasonal releases. Small batch gins like these offer a bouquet for the senses and will breathe life into a gin and tonic or add a surprising complexity to your next gimlet.