It was just a matter of time before local farm-to-table ingredients hit the cocktail world. Now barkeeps are shaking wasabi into martinis and muddling beets into G&Ts. “Culinary cocktails mixing savory foods and spirits are a natural progression of how we eat today,” says Eat Your Drink author Matthew Biancaniello. They’re healthier, have fewer calories, and are easy to make, he says—like a chef, just pair flavors you already know work well on the plate. A few suggestions:
Really? “Avocado is the perfect cream or dairy replacement in a cocktail,” says Richard Wood, head of cocktail development for hot spots like London’s Duck & Waffle, NYC’s Sushisamba, and Miami’s Sugarcane. “The creamy texture’s perfect to churn through ice in a frozen drink,” he says. “Even a small slice gives it a nutty, buttery taste.”
HOW TO DO IT: Add a ripe avocado to your next pitcher of margaritas, daiquiris, or other frozen concoction. Use a quarter to a half of an avocado per drink, then add agave syrup to taste; dial back on the cream and mixers.
ONE TO TRY: Blend together 2 cups crushed ice, 6 oz tequila, 4 oz lime juice, 2 oz triple sec, 1 ripe avocado (peeled and pitted), and a sprig of fresh cilantro, and process until smooth.
The mushroom’s earthy, savory umami flavor is the secret here, says Aaron Melendrez, beverage director at new L.A. Mexican BBQ restaurant Salazar. “But the mushroom shouldn’t be the star of the drink,” he says. “Think of it as a side note that broadens flavors and really makes them shine.”
HOW TO DO IT: Don’t worry, you aren’t muddling fresh ’shrooms. Instead, you’re infusing the liquor. Fill a jar with mushrooms, add the spirit, and put it in the fridge for up to a week. Try pairing shiitakes with rum, chanterelles with vodka, candy caps with whiskey, or truffles with gin.
ONE TO TRY: Modify your Manhattan. Stir together 2 oz candy cap-infused whiskey, 1 oz vermouth, and a dash of bitters. Serve over ice with a twist and a cherry.
“Nutritional benefits aside, kale has a unique, amazing flavor—strong, bitter, and complex,” says Spencer Elliott, head mixologist at NYC’s Bounce Sporting Club. Pair it with something sweet, like pineapple, or spicy, like cayenne, for the foundation of an incredible drink.
(Tip: Rim a glass with smoked salt and cayenne for an earthy flavor.)
HOW TO DO IT: Char kale leaves on the grill or in a grill pan, then muddle them in a Bloody Mary, says Biancaniello; to amp up the smoky flavor, swap out the vodka for mezcal. In other drinks, replace standard mixers or juices with fresh kale juice: Just run kale through a juicer, pulverize it in a blender with water (make sure to strain out the lumps), or buy the fresh juice already cold-pressed.
ONE TO TRY: Make a kale and ginger margarita. Shake together 2 oz tequila, 1 oz lime juice, . oz agave nectar, and 2 oz each fresh ginger and fresh kale juice. Strain over ice into a salt-rimmed glass.