By now most of us understand the benefits—and pleasures—of eating food that's in season and locally grown. Yet somehow that doesn't often translate from the plate to the glass. We'll hunt for, say, the perfect spring asparagus at a farmstand but pour the same processed apple juice year round. We might be supping on the season's best foods, but we're missing opportunities to sip them.
"Real, fresh, seasonal ingredients make better drinks," says Scott Beattie of Cyrus restaurant in Healdsburg, California, where he creates juices and culinary cocktails from such ingredients as Thai basil, watermelon, green zebra tomatoes, spearmint, raspberries, peaches, chilies, and more. People are starting to realize this and to apply the ideals of cuisine to beverages.
It's easy to try this in your own kitchen, using a few simple items: a blender, a juicer, and a mortar and pestle (to crush fruit). Or try Beattie's frequent tool of choice, a fine mesh strainer called a chinois—"If you push fruit through it, you get a purée without seeds or the fibrous material that's often in wild berries," he says. Beattie suggests experimenting with flavor combinations using whatever ingredients are in season, local and organic if possible. "Good drinks have a happy balance between acidity and sweetness—and when fruits are riper, they have more sugar and less acid," he says. He likes to use grapefruits, Meyer lemons, rhubarb, lavender, peaches, melons, and even spring garlic—which he says is fabulous in a virgin Bloody Mary.