Green apple, as a purée in fruit martinis, is so 2003 . . . Rainlove Lampariello, who creates cocktails for Lure Fishbar and Lever House Restaurant, reported depression and tantrums at one bar because blood orange cosmos had disappeared . . . —The New York Times, April 10, 2005
Hmm. Despite the Times’ scintillating coverage of this year’s trends in spring drinks, we’re not sure if anyone but food critics and the unbelievably bored really care to follow the minute-by-minute vicissitudes of cocktail couture with such bated breath. We always found it a little sad that just like Uggs and Kobe beef, even your martini and mojito are subject to the stresses of peer pressure. Beyond the Dos Caminos-type restaurants, most places where the plebes drink don’t seem to come up with a brand new fruit every other week. “Everybody still seems to be hung up on pomegranates,” says Vicki Freeman, manager at Five Points. “Somewhere somebody said they’re antioxidants, so people think you can have a martini and still be healthy at the same time.”
“The fruits are the same,” confirms David Wondrich, writer and mastermind behind 5 Ninth‘s drink menu. “You see a lot of passion fruit, guava, and tamarind.” Of course, everybody prefers drinks with actual fruit, not like when the bartender went apeshit with the Stoli Raspberry again. Yet unless you have a kitchen on hand, most bars will take the easier and cheaper route, letting flavored rums and vodkas do the work of purées and real fruit juices. Bembe in Williamsburg is particularly great for the fruity warm-weather drink, with their host of reasonably-priced island refreshers: Try the fresh watermelon and vodka served in a hollowed out rind for $6, and watch them split a coconut right in front of you using the juice and meat to make a rum-spiked Coco Loco ($10).
Some classic mixologists would prefer to steer away from the hyper fruity. “I’m pretty conservative because I feel like a lot of modern drinks have tipped over into the Hawaiian Punch category,” says Wondrich. Fresh citrus is always a good thing for this cocktail connoisseur, who uses it in their Hüsker Mule (Linie Aquavit, lime juice and shell, ginger beer, Angostura bitters, $10) and the always-popular Paloma (tequila, lime juice, grapefruit soda, and a pinch of salt, $12). “It’s what they drink in Mexico instead of margaritas,” he says.
Admittedly, it’s hard to ignore the increasing emphasis on herbs in the springtime. “I see a lot of lavender and rosemary,” says Wondrich, “people doing infusions.” At Five Points, where drinks run for $8-$10, Freeman uses basil, tarragon, and oregano in addition to mint—the herbal standby—in their Herbal Lemonade Spritzer; in their Blackberry Bay Leaf, she boils down blackberries with fresh bay leaf and rosemary, then adds simple syrup, water, and Prosecco.
As a rule, lighter liquors such as vodka, gin, and tequila replace whiskies and ports in the summertime—except for those who want to distinguish themselves by steering away from the expected. At Brandy Library, “We try not to use vodka in every cocktail, just because everyone does in the spring and summer,” says Flavien Desoblin, Director of Operations. Bartender Vito Dieterle created their spring drink menu, which includes the Pom Pom Pie ($13), a Calvados-based cocktail with apple purée, served in a cinnamon-rimmed glass.
Though many bars—
Schiller’s is one—are still in the process of formulating new cocktails for the spring and summer, we offer a few more here, in addition to the aforementioned. Whatever your preference—fruity, citrusy, herbal-based, pomegranate, lavender, or elderflower—we maintain that despite the trend of the minute, it’s all summer when consumed outdoors. Drink up.