by Nancy Sweet, LLCC culinary operations manager
During the summer months, it gets much easier to “eat local.” Each week, Springfield plays host to no less than three different farmers markets, and the amount and variety of product being sold are outstanding. But it is possible to “drink local” too.
Both “old school” cocktails such as the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan, in addition to newer craft cocktails are having a real renaissance right now, and unique, creative, delicious drinks prepared with thought and care are being served in restaurants and bars. With just a little effort, these cocktails can be made at home also. When at the market, it is fun to think about what kinds of fresh fruits – and vegetables and herbs too – can be incorporated into cocktails. From peaches in a light daiquiri to cilantro and cucumbers with gin and tonic to fresh tomatoes and jalapenos for your next Bloody Mary, the possibilities are endless. So the next time you are at the market, grab a watermelon and some basil, add vodka, ice and some club soda, and sit back on your porch and relax.
At local Springfield restaurant American Harvest Eatery, general manager Aurora Coffey utilizes fresh product from the markets to drive their summer cocktail list. “I apply my kitchen knowledge with my fondness for craft cocktails. We are really trying to put more emphasis on local and in-house made goods,” says Aurora. Below are some of Aurora’s favorites so far this summer.
1 ounce Maker’s Mark Bourbon
2 heaping tablespoons of macerated strawberries
1 ounce thyme simple syrup
Dash of Peychaud’s Bitters
1 ounce grapefruit juice
In a glass, add bourbon and strawberries. Muddle. Add the thyme simple syrup, the bitters and grapefruit juice. Shake and pour over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with strawberries.
To make thyme simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water (for instance, two cups of water and two cups of sugar) in a small pot on the stove. Heat on medium and stir until sugar dissolves. Turn off heat and add a bundle of thyme to the syrup and let steep. Simple syrup can be stored in the refrigerator with the thyme bundle in it. For the macerated strawberries, slice strawberries and mix with a couple tablespoons of sugar and let them macerate until syrupy.
For the Café de American Harvest, Aurora uses Custom Cup coffee which is a local Springfield business that does small batch roast-to-order coffee. You can find their coffee at a stall on Saturday mornings at the downtown farmers market and on many area supermarket shelves. At American Harvest, they use leftover coffee to make ice cubes so when the ice cube melts, it gives more coffee flavor to the drink instead of watering it down. Custom Cup makes for American Harvest an iced coffee concentrate that allows them to bring more concentrated coffee flavors to the drink. This cocktail is a nod to the cafe Aurora worked at in Chicago, Xoco, which serves Chef Rick Bayless’s take on Mexican street food.
Café de American Harvest
1 ounce cachaça rum
2 jalapeno slices
2 tablespoons berry jam
2 ounces jalapeno simple syrup
1 ounce fresh lime juice
In a mixing glass, combine rum and jalapeno slices and muddle. Add the jam, jalapeno simple syrup and lime juice. Shake well to thoroughly incorporate jam. Pour into a snifter glass rimmed with raw sugar. Top with fresh ice.
For the jalapeno simple syrup, combine one sliced jalapeno with one cup sugar and one cup water in a small pot on the stove. Heat on medium until sugar dissolves. Let steep for at least one hour. Strain and store in the refrigerator.
Spring in the Garden
1 ounce infused vodka (see notes below)
1 ounce fennel simple syrup
1 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice
Tonic water to top
In a mixing glass, combine vodka, fennel simple syrup and orange juice. Shake well and pour into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Top with tonic water.
For the vodka, Aurora adds fresh fennel, orange peels and thyme to the liquor and lets it infuse for several days. For the simple syrup, she steeps fennel in the syrup.
American Harvest Eatery is located at 3421 W. Iles Ave. Custom Cup has a retail location at 321 E. Monroe St.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in culinary arts and hospitality management and academic credit certificates in culinary arts and baking/pastry. For more information, call 786.4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.
Cooking or food questions? Email email@example.com.