Supreme Cocktails—the Organic Way
02 Aug, 2010
Much like gourmet cooking, fine cocktails can be a pleasurable adventure into incredible flavors. Just ask anyone who had “that one killer margarita” at a remote bar on a Mexican beach or a mojito in its native Havana, or talk to an old-timer who remembers the original highball served at an exclusive New York club. Now that flavor experience is being taken to a whole new level—with organic ingredients.
Tasty cocktails are an adventure that organic cocktail author and blogger Paul Abercrombie happened upon quite by accident. “Some years ago, my then girlfriend—now wife—and I were over in Italy,” Abercrombie told Organic Connections. “While we were tromping around, we wound up going to the Grand Hotel in Florence and asked the bartender there to just make us something good. He mixed us a drink called a Negroni.”
It didn’t hurt that Paul was ordering the Negroni at its source. Consisting of one part gin, one part sweet vermouth and one part bitters—traditionally Campari—the Negroni was invented right there in Florence in 1919. “It was probably the first time I’d ever had a really grown-up cocktail that wasn’t basically like a depth charge with beer and vodka or something horrible,” Abercrombie related. “It was a revelation; I had no idea a cocktail could actually taste that good.”
When Abercrombie returned home, he became a self-described “cocktail nerd” and learned the basics of this and other interesting mixed drinks. In his day job, he is a public relations consultant and freelance writer, and a couple of the areas he became involved with were food and travel. In that work, he came across an increasing number of bartenders around the US who were making cocktails using fresh organic ingredients. He began writing about this in articles contributed to publications such as the Washington Post, Wine Enthusiast Magazine and Gourmet.
With the growth in organic ingredients being served in restaurants, Abercrombie didn’t understand why cocktails wouldn’t also be organic. “You go out to meals and get great artisanal fresh vegetables and organic beef, but if you ask for a cocktail before this meal, you are given some weird concoction made with day-glo cherries and some weird syrup that wasn’t found in nature,” he said. “I just couldn’t understand the disconnect between those two. That’s why I started tracking down people who were into this stuff, who couldn’t see why you wouldn’t put in your glass what you were putting on your plate.”
After numerous articles, Paul thought that organic cocktails would be a good subject for a book. He ran the idea by his agent, and the final result was Organic, Shaken and Stirred: Hip Highballs, Modern Martinis, and Other Totally Green Cocktails from Harvard Common Press. Since the publication of his book, Paul has also created a blog called The Green Bar, through which he communicates the latest on ingredients, organic liquors, creators, and where organic cocktails are being served.
As with organic food, Paul sees the reason for much of the continuing growth in popularity of organic cocktails being the superior flavor of the ingredients. “With certain organic fruits and fresh vegetables you can really discern the difference in taste,” he remarked. “For example, an organic banana tastes more banana-y. Things taste like you’d expect, instead of these flavorless kinds of fruits, vegetables and herbs. This stuff just tastes a hell of a lot better than the traditional ingredients.”
And in the end, Abercrombie thinks it is that taste that wins people over. “You know, it’s funny—some people still can’t quite get their heads around it,” he said. “They think I’m kidding. Their first thought is, ‘Oh, so, will it be better for me?’ It’s a difficult thing to say with a straight face that if you have eleven organic gimlets you’re going to be healthier. That’s sort of insane. It’s a cocktail for God’s sake; it’s actually supposed to be a little naughty. It’s really more a function of the production: they don’t use chemicals, production is natural, and it just tends to taste better. In actual fact, it’s simply a matter of, do you want a cocktail that’s truly fantastic, tasting like it should?”
Paul’s book Organic, Shaken and Stirred: Hip Highballs, Modern Martinis, and Other Totally Green Cocktails is available through the Organic Connections bookstore.
Visit Paul’s blog at www.organicshakenandstirred.com.