The Local Buzz
Farm-to-table is passé for forward-thinking foodies. The latest locavore movement takes the seasonal farm grown ingredients off your plate and plops them into your Martini glass.
The next time you visit a farmer's market, don't think salad, think cocktails and enter the refreshing sibling of the farm-to-table movement: farm-to-drink. And with its unbeatable selection of fruits and veggies, Central Florida is the best place to embrace the trend.
Having originated at pioneering spots like Cure in New Orleans and the Clover Club in Brooklyn, this latest foodie trend has expanded to Florida, shaking up Orlando's craft cocktail scene. While classic cocktails will never die, more and more bartenders are pouring drinks powered by seasonal fruit, herbs and specialty elixirs, most of which grew only a few miles from where the drink is being mixed, muddled, shaken and stirred.
At the Ravenous Pig (www.theravenouspig.com), bartender Larry Foor is making divine libations using housemade sour mix from local citrus, rosemary and lavender. The heirloom tomatoes, which are the foundation of their signature Bloody Mary, were picked from family-owned Waterkist Farm, 20 miles from the restaurant. "We can get tomatoes almost year round," Foor said. "Our talented chefs work with me on all sorts of purees, syrups and infusions that change throughout the year." Not far from the restaurant's downtown location, an urban apiary supplies organic honey for a cocktail called the Bee's Knees, a shake of Hendricks's gin, local honey syrup and housemade sour.
The Rusty Spoon's (www.therustyspoon.com) Chef Kathleen Blake uses fresh, seasonal ingredients as the base for her cooking. Those same specialty ingredients, Plant City strawberries, Waterkist Farm heirloom tomatoes, Hammock Hollow micro herbs — none of which traveled further than 20 miles — show up on the cocktail menu. "What's in season drives all of our menus," she said. "If one of my farmers has a ton of lemon verbena or chocolate mint, that's what shows up in our drinks. We'll make a syrup and put our heads together to create a fun specialty cocktail around it. If we're going to spend the time and effort we do on sourcing ingredients for our food, why wouldn't we do the same thing for the bar? The difference in flavor is just night and day."
At sister restaurants Luma on Park (www.lumaonpark.com) and Prato (www.prato-wp.com), senior bartender Jeremy Crittenden insists on local and fresh ingredients on his bar rail and sources these at farms like Rabbit Run (25 miles away) and Waterkist (35 miles away). In fact, the Meyer lemons in a recent special lavender Collins were grown in the family — by one of his bartender's grandmothers. "She told me her grandmother had a big crop, so we took them all," he said. "Seasonal ingredients give us inspiration and direction. It's a no-brainer really." When a run of gorgeous Rabbit Run Farms strawberries threatened to overwhelm the pastry kitchen, Crittenden and his crew concocted the strawberry martini, muddling the fruit with organic basil-infused vodka and Cointreau, finishing it off with a drizzle of Balsamic reduction. "You can't compare the flavor. It's like cooking, If you pick a tomato out of your garden, it beats the canned product every day. Use that same tomato to make a Bloody Mary and you get something really special."