AS WOOLEN LAYERS are slowly coaxed from our shoulders, flowers bloom in neighborhoods across the city. Fixie riders seem to smile more, strollers cram the sidewalks, and the parks are littered with prone white bodies desperate for a little sun.
Gardens are planted; early spring crops are harvested. Chefs consider rhubarb and baby artichokes. Restaurant managers calculate how many tables they can fit on the sidewalk outside their businesses. And the best bartenders in town put a shine on seasonal cocktail menus, using the brightness of gins and grappas to sweep away winter's whiskey smoke.
Here are a few spring libations to look forward to.
EARLY BLOOMS on his morning walk for coffee helped inspire Timothy Davey of Beaker and Flask (727 SE Washington) to create the Triple Lindy.
"The idea of this spring cocktail is to reflect the joy of winter's passing," he says.
Davey's cocktail combines a local grappa with lemon, lime, lavender bitters, and Riesling syrup in a floral take on the classic Collins.
The Triple Lindy
1 1/2 ounces Clear Creek Muscat grappa
3/4 ounce Riesling syrup
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce demerara syrup (2 parts demerara syrup to 1 part water)
1 dash Scrappy's lavender bitters
top with cold club soda
Combine ingredients (except soda) in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain over ice into a Collins or double rocks glass. Top with cold club soda and garnish with a sugar-encrusted lime wedge if you like.
MIXOLOGIST JESSIE MATTHEWS of the Country Cat (7937 SE Stark) looked to Lillet Blanc and kumquats to create a spring zinger called the Fine and Dandy.
"The star of the show is the local Aviation gin," she says. "Its notes of anise seed, coriander, and orange peel give the drink herbaceous zip."
Fine and Dandy
1 3/4 ounces Aviation gin
1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
1 small squirt honey simple syrup
2-3 fresh kumquats
In a mixing glass combine kumquats and a small squirt of honey simple syrup, fill half full of ice, and muddle. Fill glass with ice. Add Aviation and Lillet Blanc. Shake well. Strain cocktail into martini glass using a fine screen strainer, and garnish with a single star anise pod.
PONDERING their springtime cocktail, the Monk's Path, bar manager Shane Feirstein and chef/owner Chris Israel of Grüner (537 SW 12th) created a refreshing drink reminiscent of alpine meadows.
Starting with Old Tom Gin, Feirstein adds a "just slightly luxurious" touch with yellow chartreuse.
"Chris and I envisioned a monk out in the spring meadows gathering herbs and flowers to make his secret elixir," Feirstein explains.
1 1/2 ounces of Hayman's Old Tom Gin
1/2 ounce yellow chartreuse
1/4 ounce pastis (Feirstein recommends Granier pastis, but notes Pernod or Ricard will work great)
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/4 ounce fresh orange juice
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass in the order they're listed. Add ice. Shake well for 10 seconds. Pour from the shaker through a small wire strainer held over a chilled glass. Serve.
"MIXING HONEY with fresh lemon and good spirits make for an easy-drinking alcoholic patio sipper," says Kelley Swenson of Ten 01 (1001 NW Couch).
The proof is in his Chamomile Sour. Inspired by the basic sour (like the margarita) and augmented by a traditional Italian grappa, this London dry gin cocktail promises spring in a glass.
1 1/2 ounces London dry gin
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce local honey
1/2 ounce chamomile grappa
Combine ingredients in mixing glass. Add ice. Shake and strain over fresh ice in a cocktail glass. Garnish with a white rose petal or lemon twist.
IT'S GOOD TO NOTE that even old-school cocktails can be modified to fit your favorite season. Justin Akins, owner of Vintage Cocktail Lounge (7907 SE Stark), recommends the classic gin-forward Pegu Club Cocktail.
"Gin has a fresh and refreshing impact on our senses," he explains. "So it's great for warmer days."
And they'll only be getting warmer.
Pegu Club Cocktail
1 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice. Shake and strain over fresh ice into a cocktail glass.