Last week I got a crash course in this technique when I attended a workshop in the "Slow U" series at the Astor Center, where I enjoyed an evening of sustainable, greenmarket-inspired mixology led by Slow Food USA's chairman, Allen Katz.
Flanked by baskets heaped with produce plucked from the Union Square Greenmarket just hours ago, Allen rolled up his sleeves and proceeded to guide the class through a collection of delicious cocktails full of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Allen stressed that making cocktails the Slow Food way isn't just about sustainability - it's also about flavor. "Slow cocktails" must be delicious cocktails, prepared in a thoughtful way. No prefab mixers, just freshly squeezed juices and homemade syrups.
It's an idea whose time has come. This old-fashioned, craft-oriented approach to mixing drinks is very much in line with current trends: both in the recent revival of classic cocktails, and the more modern movement towards "culinary cocktails" using ingredients and techniques lifted straight from the kitchen.
But for me, the take-home lesson lay in Allen's choice of spirits. There were some surprises. Organic was preferable, but didn't always come out the winner. For instance, Maker's Mark bourbon is made from conventional grain (organic is difficult to source in such large quantities), but is nevertheless a Slow Food pick because of the exceptional sustainability of the facilities in which it's manufactured - the distillery sits on a nature preserve and uses renewable resources in its operation.
These were Allen's Slow Spirit picks:
- Square One Cucumber Vodka (organic)
- 4Copas Reposado Tequilla (organic)
- Plymouth Sloe Gin (not organic, but made from berries using an old-fashioned process)
- Maker's Mark Bourbon (not organic, but sustainably produced)
makes one cocktail
10 fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 ounces 4Copas Reposado Tequilla
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce Long Island lavender syrup (Heat 6 ounces simple syrup in a saucepan. Remove from heat and add 2 tbs dried lavender. Allow to cool. Strain and refrigerate until ready to use.)
Muddle blackberries in a mixing glass. Add remaining ingredients and shake over ice. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with two additional blackberries.
(Images: Nora Maynard)