The holidays are around the corner and if your home is anything like ours, that means we open the liquor cabinet and libations we have not sipped for nearly a year are brought out to sample. One daughter has become an unofficial bartender because she likes to try new mixology ideas. So, she hands you a drink with, “Try this. What do you think?”.
Foraging for new drink ideas is as old as alcohol itself. In the 1600s, a German law decreed that in order to marry, gentlemen first needed to plant six oak trees and six fruit trees. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/velvet-bar With that planning, they could make oak barrels and firment fruit for future drinking. Remnants of forgotten fruit orchans still dot the German countryside. Stashes of Kräuterlikor, homemade hooch, is foraged from wild ingredients in the area and is a practice on the rise in Berlin.
Seasons factor heavily into the menu but winter staples such as kale and potatoes remain avoided for their cocktail recipes. Instead, you may find pickles or preserves on their ingredient list. “One winter, we made cocktails out of an organic Christmas tree that one of our guests donated. It tasted fantastic.” Velvet – Berlin, Germany – Gastro Obscura (atlasobscura.com)
In the US, the foraging craze has not necessarily caught on like that of Berlin but there are pockets of enthusiasts out there. California mixologist Matthew Biancaniello demonstrated his foraging skills at a cultural expo Outpost LA. Biancaniello draws from tiny pots of rosemary, strawberries, flowers, and green herbs, to blend in a shaker. He adds borage, garlic, calendula, cornflowers and mini marigolds that become tiny drinks for his audience soaked in unaged whiskey for the base. Make the Wildest Foraged Cocktails Ever with Matthew Biancaniello (sunset.com)
Other places may not have the foraging background but they do have a cocktail history. In San Francisco, is a Chinese nightclub that dates back to the 1930s called Li Po. It attracted white Americans who thought the place exotic and during WWII, the GIs stationed in San Francisco caused a surge in popularity. By the mid-1960s, the cocktail lounge remained an example of the early Chinese nightlife even after others closed down. Although somewhat updated, Li Po still is a sought after cocktail lounge. Li Po Cocktail Lounge – San Francisco, California – Gastro Obscura (atlasobscura.com)
Another hip cocktail lounge the grew up in the 1960s is The Shelter, Tucson, AZ. They offer 13 signature martinis ranging from traditional (vodka, dirty) to odd (cucumber vodka, melon, cream, or cayenne). The red light ambiance adds to the vintage appeal where you can stare at the plastic visage of JFK or martini-shaped bike racks outside. The time warp may want you to dig up old go-go boots before heading inside for a stiff cheap drink. The Shelter Cocktail Lounge – Tucson, Arizona – Gastro Obscura (atlasobscura.com)
If you are staying home or spending time with the in-laws, you may want to shake up a new concoction for the holidays. Recipes abound online and you may have ingredients outside your own door. Cheers!