According to the website of Tales of the Cocktail – the world’s premiere cocktail festival – one of the most significant bar movements is creating cocktails that use ingredients with a backstory. More specifically, they note how bartenders are increasingly respecting fresh produce like chefs do, and are learning how to use those ingredients. Comments from top industry professionals about this movement include the importance of:
“Sustainability and transparency of ingredients”
For the Roots 2016 culinary conference, we were very fortunate to have Charlotte Voisey, the director of brand advocacy for William Grant & Sons, Inc., demonstrate how to put these cocktail trends and concepts into practice. The result was a marvelous cocktail pairing for attendees. The cocktail she created was to complement a puffed carrot prepared by the Culinary Vegetable Institute’s Executive Chef Jamie Simpson and his team. The dish began with an overharvested carrot that was ground down into a paste, dried and then fried, with ginger, juniper and carrot tops added.
Charlotte’s cocktail was a Carrot Collins, a play on the traditional Tom Collins. She added juiced carrot to gin, along with fresh lemon juice and soda water, then added strawberry to bind the flavors, garnishing all with a begonia petal and fresh fennel.
Cocktails, she explained, need a “wow factor” obtained by the addition of “magic dust.” Elements of magic dust include:
Use of applicable techniques
Garnish to add aroma (which is 70% of flavor)
Restaurants can feel “bound by the bottle,” feeling obligated to serve wine with dinner. But, wonderful as wine is, it is simple, fresh and exciting to customize cocktails to either complement or contrast with a specific dish to create a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. And, while it’s important for the food to be delicious on its own, and for the cocktail to be, as well, “true magic happens when you combine the flavors.” So, a sip of the Carrot Collins, for example, should be perfect with a bite of the carrot puff – and, according to attendees, it was.
Charlotte points out that every meal doesn’t need to be perfectly paired, but it just makes good sense to make cocktails more food friendly. And here she is in action, making that happen:
2016 was actually the second year she participated in Roots and, when asked about her experience, she said that it was “fantastic with lovely people and great conversation, so inspirational. The food was fresh and amazing, and I was blessed to be part of this wonderful experience.”
She considers Roots to be a unique food conference. “That’s because,” Charlotte explains, “we’re right by the farm where all begins. The Chef’s Garden take such a level of care with what it grows, and the event reminded me of both the brilliance of chefs and that the true hero is Mother Nature. The event therefore reminded me how we need to cherish what is literally all around us.”
Although this idea of cocktail pairings has been around for ten to twelve years, it’s growing very slowly, Charlotte says, and has often needed explanation, even justification. But, the good news is that people are increasingly understanding how natural ingredients bring a “fantastic presence to the cocktail, and how flowers are more than garnish, how you can pair beautiful things to make the cocktail taste better.”
On Tuesday, May 9th, you can watch Charlotte (and Jamie) in action with Summer Spirits in The Garden: A Mixology Workshop. Think of it as the garden, kitchen and bar joining forces to explore the mixology potential of herbs, edible flowers, roots and other ingredients sustainably grown at The Chef’s Garden. The event goes from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., staring with a farmhouse lunch, a farm tour and a presentation, The Creative Process, by Jamie. A hands-on workshop will focus on cocktail techniques and fresh ingredient preparation – and you’ll be able to make your own cocktails using ingredients and spirits from the portfolio of William Grant & Sons.
The workshop will focus on:
Reconsidering the classics
Crafting every element of the cocktail
Dinner will be four course, vegetable driven.
“This day will be great for professionals and for people who simply love cocktails,” Charlotte says. “You can relax and be inspired by nature.”