Garden mixology: Incorporate fresh flavors into your drinks

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Alive and Alert drink made with ginger, kale, spinach, grapes and apples at t. Loft, 4801 Bauer Farm Drive.

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Mean and Clean drink with carrots, ginger, orange and apple from t. Loft.

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Kate Bubacher specializes in crafting drinks from scratch using her own garden plants, such as amaranth.

Try this fall cocktail

Kate Brubacher crafted a recipe (based on an adaptation from renowned mixologist Scott Beattie) for at-home mixologists to give a shot.

Russian Red Punch

Combine 1/2 ounce orange liqueur (like Grand Marnier), 1 ounce Most Wanted vodka, 1/2 ounce lime juice, 1/2 ounce house-made grenadine, 1/2 ounce pomegranate juice, tiny dash of Scrappy's Cardamom Bitters. Garnish with mint and heirloom amaranth bloom.

House-made grenadine and maraschino cherries

2 cups black cherry juice

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

2 whole pieces star anise

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 ounces lemon juice

1 pound frozen sweet cherries

Boil cherry juice, water, sugar, star anise and almond extract. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add cherries; turn heat to low and let water evaporate. Remove from heat when it reaches syrup consistency. Add lemon extract. Keep in air-tight container for a month.

As we think about incorporating good, healthy, local food into our lifestyles, it's easy to forget about the drinks we consume. Using a garden variety of ingredients, crafting a beverage from scratch is a simple and healthier alternative.

Skip the morning orange juice for a specialty creation of your own using fruits, vegetables and herbs. Tweak classic cocktails with seasonal fare straight from the garden.

To help get you started, here's some help from a local juicer and local bartenders who serve garden drinks at their own businesses.

Get to know the ingredients

It’s very different holding onto a small plastic container of tarragon from Dillon’s, and picking the fresh herb from your own garden, said Kenny Pingleton, bar manager at The Roost.

Pingleton had never thought to use tarragon until he and his girlfriend had a surplus in their herb garden. Now it’s featured in the restaurant's Lost Weekend cocktail, with gin, lemon, elderflower liqueur and club soda.

“Five years ago, I wouldn’t know what to do tarragon,” Pingleton said. “You just start using what’s at your disposal.”

The hands-on nature of gardening makes you familiar with the smells and tastes, Pingleton said, and from there it’s all about experimenting.

Fall flavor profiles

During the fall season, apples, leafy greens and root vegetables become drink staples, said Kate Brubacher, bar manager of John Brown Underground.

Juices

To make Brubacher’s favorite morning drink, blend kale, apples and diluted honey, and then strain it to get rid of pulp.

“I pour it into my French press and then I strain it because it has such a nice mesh filter,” Brubacher said.

Lisa Green, owner of t. Loft., said the tea and juice bar offers several juice options, all made from fresh produce, to provide drinks for people who strive to keep their bodies clean but don’t have the extra time to do it on their own.

“Juicing can be very messy and not very practical at home,” Green said.

Popular juices include the “Mean and Clean,” made with oranges, ginger, carrot, apples and lemon; and “Alive and Alert,” made with kale, spinach, grapes, oranges, apples and ginger.

Mocktails

Make a “green lemonade” for a fall transitional mocktail by making green juice using leafy vegetables and combining it with lemonade.

“You get the green, which is really savory and tart, and the lemon that brightens it up,” Brubacher said.

Cocktails

Get to know the nuances in your favorite liquors to experiment with flavor pairings, Brubacher said.

Cocktails are made from combining a powerful flavor with a nuanced flavor, determining the “mouth feel” — bubbly, on the rocks, hot — and topping with a garnish.

During the fall, we start to lean toward savory, vegetable-based cocktails, Brubacher said. She names a green-tomato bloody mary as a tasty option.

Play around with herbs you’d use to smoke meat, Brubacher said. Put a pan of simple syrup in a smoker while you’re smoking your meat and use in a savory cocktail.

It's about learning what you like, and what doesn't work, she said.

Use these tricks year-round

Infusions

Make your own infusions by combining a liquor and root vegetable in an air-tight container and letting it sit (out of the sun) for a week.

“715’s beet gin is one of the most delicious infusions I’ve ever had,” Brubacher said.

Pingleton suggests making vodka-pepper infusions.

Shrub

Combine fruit, sugar and vinegar to make shrubs. Pingleton has tried peaches and thyme, the fruit cutting the acidity of the vinegar. Mix half a shot of shrub, one shot of booze (of your choice) and club soda, and there’s a simple, tangy cocktail.

Preserves

Pingleton had a surplus of blackberries this year and plans to use the fruit through the fall and winter by turning them into berry preserves and canning them. While he still has cucumbers, he combines a scoop of preserved berries with cucumber, sage, sugar, vodka and a bit of soda water for a colorful, refreshing cocktail.

Dehydrate

If you don't want to go through the trouble of canning, Pingleton said, dehydrate peppers and grind them into a pepper powder to season drinks.

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