The West Coast style of cocktail in which bartenders muddle a cornucopia of fruits and herbs in their drinks has long been known as a "salad in a glass," but that term is taking on a whole new meaning as mixologists move to mashing leafy greens like spinach, kale, and arugula into drinks this spring.
Timothy Zohn of AQ in San Francisco (spring cocktails pictured below) says, "My cocktail list for spring is everything New York bartenders poke fun at us West Coast bartenders about. It's all about the vegetables at AQ." To prove his point, Zohn serves a drink called American Pastoral, with gin, snap-pea syrup, lemon, champagne, and Swedish herb bitters, in addition to his other concoctions that include ingredients like celery juice, rhubarb syrup, and orange-carrot soda. If you're drinking at this restaurant, you can guiltlessly skip the side salad and order the fries instead.
Across town, the Moroccan restaurant Aziza has been muddling vegetables in cocktails for so long it should change its name to Salad Bar. The drinks list usually includes some combination of peas, fennel, and wild arugula, an ingredient we've noticed has made the leap from the salad bowl to the bar in a big way.
The Living Room Bar & Terrace in downtown New York City, for example, offers a drink called the 5 Points—think Pisco Punch with added arugula. And AOC in Los Angeles serves the Green Goddess cocktail (pictured below) with chamomile-infused vodka, lime juice, cucumber juice, jalapeno, and wild arugula syrup, which is made by blending simple syrup and arugula and straining the pulp.
Lucy Restaurant & Bar in California's wine country serves up a cucumber and arugula gimlet made with (you guessed it) muddled arugula from its garden, plus lemon, simple syrup, and organic cucumber vodka. East Coasters can find a similar concoction at The Ryland Inn in central New Jersey, where the Rocket Man (for those who didn't get the pun, rocket is another word for the spicy green) is made with the restaurant's own hydroponically grown plants.
Not to be outdone, the almighty kale (a.k.a. every green-juice lover's BFF) is making an appearance on its fair share of bar menus. The Napa Valley Grille (located nowhere near Napa Valley but in Los Angeles) uses fresh kale juice in its Jolly Green Machine, as well as gin, elderflower liqueur, agave syrup, and soda water.
Both The Wayland in New York (margarita pictured at top) and Tortilla Republic in Los Angeles have decided to add kale to their margaritas, because nothing screams healthy lifestyle like tequila and a salted rim. The Wayland's Garden Variety margarita adds ginger, lime, and smoked sea salt to the mix, while Tortilla Republic's kale margarita adds a splash of OJ to the standard formula.
And, finally, Chicago's Filini Bar & Restaurant serves a cocktail that sounds more like a cleanse. The spinach and cucumber martini also includes apple-cider vinegar and lime vodka. Is it just a matter of time before someone adds Metamucil to the mix?
Spring is the best time to take advantage of these leafy-green drinks, but remember: If you're trying to drink healthy, make sure to ask for the ranch dressing on the side.
—Camper English is an international cocktails and spirits writer and the publisher of alcademics.com.
Lead photo by Jessica Leibowitz.
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