We Asked 14 Bartenders: What’s the Best Spring Cocktail?VinePair
With the arrival of spring, things begin to stir: The bright blooming of tulips and daffodils; the festive atmosphere of farmers’ markets; the exposure of bare skin to the elements. A specific kind of progress can be felt with the return of warmer weather. It raises the spirit, reawakening a confident hopefulness that hibernates all winter.
Spring also welcomes a roster of dependably refreshing drinks that express the season’s sprightliness. They are lighter and brighter tasting, and make the most of fresh ingredients, seeking to capture and celebrate the moment’s flavors. (Spring does have its fair share of cold days, though, and thus some creations will be sturdier and warming, incorporating components prevalent in winter cocktails.)
To ensure we imbibe appropriately through the season, we turned to the experts and asked 14 bartenders across the country to spotlight their favorite seasonal tipples that say, “Spring is here!”
The Best Spring Cocktails Recommended By Bartenders:
- Fiero Spritz
- Mai Tai
- Pimm’s Cup
- Suffering Bastard
- Bee’s Knees
- Rock, Salt & Nails
- Tom Collins
- The Horse’s Neck
- Mango Collins
- Esteban’s Sangria
- Skeleton Key
- St-Germain Spritz
Keep reading for details about all of the recommended drinks!
“My current favorite spring drink is definitely the spritz. I love being able to sip on several of these refreshing, low-alcohol beverages as the weather warms up and we can finally spend some time outside. This cocktail is so dynamic in that you can make it with many different ingredients. The classic Aperol spritz is a wonderful option, but I also like to get creative with it, subbing in different aperitifs and sparkling wines. My current favorite patio crusher is Martini & Rossi Fiero with a splash of blood-orange juice and some Mionetto Prosecco. Adding to the list of benefits for this drink is that it’s easily built in the glass. Bring your ingredients outside to the table and mix away at your leisure — no need to head back inside to make another round!” —Miranda Breedlove, National Director of Bars, Hyatt Lifestyle, Chicago
“By the time spring rolls around each year, I find myself extremely eager to move away from the cold and darkness of winter. I look for a cocktail that, in my mind, seems to jumpstart the warm weather, and helps me cruise into spring with an eye on plans for summer. A well-made Mai Tai is one of the most transportive cocktails I know. When I taste one for the first time each year I know I’m on my way to sunnier days. The complexities of that strong, refreshing, and nutty rum sour (probably chewing on some good pebble ice as well) embody spring in a glass to me. It’s probably my favorite way to follow up my first lawn-mowing of the year.“ —Mattias Hagglund, Owner and Bartender, The Jasper, Richmond, Va.
“One of my favorite spring cocktails is the Bamboo. It was created in the 1890s by a bartender named Louis Eppinger. He was a German working at the Royal Hotel in Japan. It’s a very simple combination of vermouth and sherry, along with bitters. The opportunities for variations are nearly endless because of the diverse styles and types of sherry and vermouth one can employ. A nutty oloroso or amontillado sherry works for me in the cooler months. But as the weather warms, I prefer a more dry sherry like a fino or manzanilla. The bracing salinity that switch gives makes for a very crisp cocktail that still has great depth and nuance. The other half of the cocktail is vermouth. I use Dolin dry but supplement it with a small bit of blanc vermouth as well. The sweetness this adds is subtle but effective. Rounds out the drink and makes it feel more full. Gives it a little dramatic tension. The first Bamboo I tried was made for me by the amazing Abigail Gullo at the Beagle, a wonderful bar that used to be in the East Village. Was immediately smitten! I’d love to batch them on nice days and stroll around our old neighborhood — Red Hook in Brooklyn — with my wife and friends, sipping them from coffee cups.” —Evan Bulchoz, Owner, Brix & Rye, Greenport, N.Y.
“One of my favorite drinks whenever the weather turns warmer is a Pimm’s Cup. I’m a fan of bitter and earthy spirits, and the herbaceous notes of Pimm’s makes for a refreshingly delicious lower-ABV cocktail. I grew up right outside of New Orleans and before moving to Portland, lived in the city for 16 years. A favorite destination for drinks was always the Napoleon House. In fact, my wedding was held at the Pharmacy Museum right by the Napoleon House. We had people running over to bring us Pimm’s Cups during the reception, so they definitely have a special place in my heart!” —Sierra Kirk-Luebke, Co-owner, Cliff’s PDX, Portland, Ore.
“Springtime in Mississippi is short and sudden, so it’s like flipping a light switch from off to on but then somehow the switch breaks on the on position and then comes intense humidity and heat, otherwise known as summer. Since it’s so short, I treat spring almost like a holiday, so that means shorts, sandals, Hawaiian shirts, and tiki drinks. Lots of tiki drinks. My go-to is an easy one that has its roots at the Shepheard Hotel in Cairo, way back during the Second World War. The Suffering Bastard, created by Joe Scialom, calls for brandy and gin, but I typically have more bourbon laying around so the recipe I use is: 1 ounce bourbon, 1 ounce gin, 1/2 ounce lime juice, 1/4 ounce simple syrup, 4 dashes of Angostura bitters, and then topped off with a nice ginger ale, like Boylan’s. To make: Shake everything but the ginger ale in a shaker with ice. Then strain into a Collins glass, add ice, top with ginger ale, and garnish with a mint sprig.“ —Derek Baker, Bartender, Snackbar, Oxford, Miss.
“A classic Bee’s Knees is the perfect blueprint for a spring cocktail. The honey syrup is a great backdrop for cycling in seasonal ingredients (strawberry and rhubarb-infused honey, anyone?), and swapping out the base spirit, gin, for rum or whiskey is a pretty simple way to jazz it up. Now, on colder spring days, there’s nothing like a reposado tequila (I love Teremana for this) with hibiscus, honey, and lemon; the vanilla and caramel notes are just cozy enough, but the hibiscus and citrus hint at warmer days to come. Last, when you get one of those warm sundress days, a navy-strength gin in the classic build is the perfect way to celebrate the season!” —Resa Mueller, Bartender, R&D, Philadelphia
“As a lover of all things vegetal, stirred, and boozy, the new springtime Martini by Stuart Jensen of Brass Tacks, my favorite bar in Denver, really blew my socks off. It’s like a 50/50 Martini amplified with manzanilla sherry, herbal wine and celery-root liqueur. I truly can’t get enough. It’s called Rock, Salt & Nails and features: 1 1/2 ounces of Botanist Gin, 3/4 ounce of both manzanilla sherry and Absentroux, 1/2 ounce of Apologue celery root liqueur, a dash saline, and two dashes Strongwater floral bitters. Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.” —Alex Jump, Head Bartender, Death & Co., Denver
“Tom Collins! It’s my partner’s favorite cocktail, and I’m addicted to sparkling water, so we almost always have gin and soda laying around. She prefers them as is, but sometimes I’ll add a dash of Angostura bitters or absinthe to mine to spice things up a bit. Or if I’m feeling lazy, gin and soda with a squeeze of citrus does the trick just fine, too. It’s a template that allows for easy tinkering, depending on your mood. Spring and gin go hand in hand as far as I’m concerned. Here’s how we make Tom Collins’ at the bar: 2 ounces of gin — preferably London Dry but Old Tom is great, too — and 3/4 ounce of both lemon juice and simple syrup. Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake briefly but firmly. Double strain into a chilled Collins glass and top with 2 ounces of soda water. Fill with ice. Garnish with a cherry and orange twist.” —Carlo Caroscio, Bar Manager, Backbar, Somerville, Mass.
“The Horse’s Neck is a thing of beauty for its simplicity, but as with all things simple it’s easy to spoil if the ingredients aren’t selected wisely and the drink is executed carelessly. Born in the late 19th century and often forgotten, this drink is essentially a basic Highball whose name refers to the long, curly strip of lemon peel twisting between ice and glass. In theory, it simply calls for bourbon or brandy and ginger ale with bitters, which no doubt makes for a refreshing spring cocktail. But employing some of that aforementioned care with a few tweaks can make it even more appropriate for the season. Namely, splitting its base with equal parts brandy and bourbon to give more complexity, while subbing a spicy ginger beer for the often-too-sweet ginger ale to make it both a great cooler for warmer days and a more comforting sipper during the season’s chillier times.” —Guiseppe Santochirico, Head Bartender, Halftone Spirits, Brooklyn
“I tend to crave anything sparkling during springtime. Therefore, the mixed drink I find myself enjoying the most this season is a classic Tom Collins made with Absolut Mango Vodka in place of gin. You can also easily swap out the mango vodka for any other flavor you prefer. This drink was introduced to me by one of my respected mentors, Andrew Willett, who taught me to keep an open mind and helped me realize there is a place for flavored vodka. My preferred recipe is: 2 ounces of Absolut Mango Vodka, an ounce of lemon juice, and 3/4 ounce of simple syrup. Shake with ice, strain into a Collins glass with ice, and top with about 2 ounces of soda water.” —Harry Chin, Lead Bartender, MW Restaurant, Honolulu
“My go-to spring fling patio-pounder is called Esteban’s Sangria. It’s inspired by a tremendously talented artist named Esteban Ramon Perez, who is going to blow up for his work with the medium of textiles. A refreshing Provence rosé sangria made with blanco tequila, pamplemousse liqueur, and freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice. Sangria is a punch, so I use a pink grapefruit oleo-saccharum as a secret weapon so the citrus really pops. The layers of refreshing flavor flow effortlessly like the waves of fabric or leather in his pieces. Artistically speaking, the two mediums are intertwined as there’s more depth to the final products than meets the eye.” —Roger Gross, Bar Curator, Sherkaan, New Haven, Conn.
“If you’re a cocktail aficionado and have spent any amount of time in and out of the fine drinking establishments around Detroit over the past 10 years, then you will have likely heard of or enjoyed a Skeleton Key. I would say this cocktail is a modern classic, but one that is regionally specific to Detroit. It was created by local bartender Brian Vollmer sometime between 2008 and 2010 while he was working at Roast, a Michael Symon steakhouse in the city’s downtown. I was hired into the bar in the fall of 2011 and immediately became very familiar with this drink; I would go on to make thousands of these during my tenure there. My specs are different from the original, which features bourbon, Fever Tree ginger beer, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, and Angostura bitters. Instead of ginger beer, I rely on ginger syrup and Topo Chico. And I use a slightly smaller portion of elderflower liqueur. Add 1 1/2 ounces of bourbon, 1/2 ounce of both ginger syrup and elderflower liqueur, and 3/4 ounce of lemon juice to a cocktail shaker with a few ice cubes, and shake well. Strain it into a Collins glass with ice, add Topo Chico, and top with bitters. No doubt, the Skeleton Key is a drink that tells the story of transition. It embraces winter flavors like cinnamon, clove, and ginger — and, of course, whiskey — and brightens them up with spring ingredients like lemon juice and floral liqueur. The initial look and aroma of the drink captures the vestiges of a fading winter but the flavor ignites the palate with a fresh, floral, zippy, and refreshing note, bringing life to the drink and completing the transition of the seasons. It also draws from the foundation of a Kentucky Mule, which is a cocktail I always enjoy during the onset of spring.” —Drew Pompa, Beverage Director, Takoi, Detroit
“Call me basic but I love a good spritz in the shade, with that cool spring breeze hitting with every sip. A beautiful liqueur, sparkling wine, and soda is so simple yet so decadent and refreshing. Aperol spritz is the famous one, and I do prefer a Campari spritz. But a St-Germain spritz has had my attention the last couple years. That combo of elderflower and sparkling wine is the earthy sweetness we all deserve. I’ll gladly have the bubble guts (see what I did there?) after crushing three or four.” —Teddy Martinez, Bartender, Mezcalero LBC, Long Beach, Calif.
“It’s Siesta season for me as soon as the weather warms up. Katie Stipe’s modern classic from Flatiron Lounge is delightfully bright, and I love the touch of bitter. For my personal serve, I love to put it on crushed ice and add a pinch of salt. I’ll build 1/2 ounce of lime, grapefruit juice, simple syrup, and Campari, and 1 1/2 ounces of blanco tequila (I believe the original is up and has 2 ounces of tequila). Give a quick shake with some crushed ice, serve in a rocks glass filled with crushed ice, and garnish with grapefruit slice.” —Meaghan Dorman, Bar Director, Raines Law Room and Dear Irving, New York
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