Spring has officially arrived, and it’s brought warmer temperatures, blooming gardens and plenty of opportunities to imbibe in the sun. Why not keep things on theme by mixing up a cocktail that captures the season?
When it comes to building the perfect spring drink, go ‘as fresh as you can’, says Liana Oster, bar director at hotel NoMad London. ‘Spring is traditionally quite vegetal and herbal, which is really fun to play with.’
At NoMad’s subterranean bar Common Decency, the team craft new drinks each quarter highlighting different in-season produce. For spring, they’ve chosen rhubarb and peas – two ingredients that also shine in at-home serves.
To use rhubarb in your drinks, Oster suggests making a syrup, as in the Rhubarb Paloma below, because ‘you have the ability to brighten and concentrate the flavours’. For snap peas, she recommends combining the skins with vinegar and sugar to make a shrub.
Choosing the right spirit can also give your cocktails a spring-ready profile. Think gins with floral and herbaceous botanicals, vegetal blanco tequilas and even vodkas made with peas and asparagus (see below). Dark spirits needn’t languish at the back of your booze shelf either. Pair them with fresh, bright ingredients, and they’ll lend depth and complexity to sunny serves.
Easy spring cocktails to make at home
Photos: Kate Malczewski
This riff on the Paloma gets a breezy spring vibe from homemade rhubarb syrup. To let the rhubarb flavour take centre stage, use soda water to lengthen the drink rather than grapefruit soda. Play around with this syrup in other cocktails too – it’s delicious in a Margarita.
Garnish: Rhubarb ribbon and grapefruit twist
Method: Add all ingredients except the soda water to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake until your hands are cold, then strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with soda water and garnish.
50ml blanco tequila
25ml fresh grapefruit juice
20ml rhubarb syrup*
10ml fresh lime juice
50ml soda water
*You can buy rhubarb syrup online, but it’s easy to make your own. To make the rhubarb syrup, combine 200g chopped rhubarb, 200g sugar and 200g water in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the fruit is jammy and falling apart. Strain the syrup into a jar, pressing on the solids to extract all the liquid. The leftover rhubarb solids can be used as a jam. Store leftovers in the fridge.
Created by American bartender Audrey Saunders in 2001, this modern classic is the lovechild of the minty Mojito and the crisp French 75 – refreshing, playful and elegant. A non-vintage Champagne works nicely here.
Garnish: Mint leaf
Method: Add all ingredients except the Champagne to an ice-filled shaker. Shake until your hands are cold, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Top with the Champagne and garnish.
6 mint leaves
45ml dark rum
20ml lime juice
15ml sugar syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Champagne to top
Gardener’s 50/50 Martini
Embracing lighter serves as the days get warmer? This lower-alcohol, equal-parts Martini fits the bill. Using a vodka with vegetal notes, such as the new Pod Vodka made from British peas, amps up the springtime profile. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try Portobello Road Distillery’s British Asparagus Vodka (yes, it really does taste like asparagus!).
Glass: Coupe or Martini
Garnish: Snap pea
Method: Add the vodka and vermouth to an ice-filled mixing glass and stir. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish.
50ml Pod Pea Vodka
50ml dry vermouth
Elderflower Mint Julep
The classic Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby – a whopping 120,000 of them are served over the course of two days at the famous horse race each May! Swapping the cocktail’s traditional sweetener – sugar syrup – for elderflower cordial lends the whole thing a lovely floral top note. A high-quality bourbon is key; Eagle Rare 10 Year Old from Buffalo Trace Distillery is an excellent choice.
Glass: Rocks or julep cup
Garnish: Sprig of mint
Method: In a rocks glass, muddle the mint and the cordial. Add the bourbon and fill the glass halfway with crushed ice. Stir, then top with more crushed ice and garnish.
8 fresh mint leaves
15ml elderflower cordial
The Spritz may have given Aperol its breakout role, but I’m a particular fan of using this sunny orange aperitivo in a frothy Sour, where it adds a pleasant bitter note to the mix. For even stronger spring energy, try it with Hendrick’s Gin, which has botanicals of cucumber and rose.
Garnish: Lemon twist
Method: Add all ingredients to a shaker without ice. Dry shake, then add ice and shake again until your hands are cold. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish.
20ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
1 egg white
Give a seasonal twist to the Negroni, a classic Italian aperitivo, with some simple swaps. Replacing the sweet vermouth with a rosé expression lightens the drink and adds florality. I like Cocchi Rosa here (it’s delicious on its own over ice, too). You can also try switching the traditional Campari for rhubarb-forward red bitter Amaro Santoni.
Method: Add all ingredients to an ice-filled rocks glass and stir. Garnish.
Garnish: Grapefruit twist
35ml red bitter liqueur
35ml rosé vermouth