Forget winter's heavy cocktails. Summer is the perfect time of year to sip a drink as fresh as it looks. Botanical flavors, derived from plants, can include citrus (lemon, grapefruit), herbs and vegetables (cucumber, mint) and flowers (hibiscus, chamomile). These local spots are taking housemade botanical simple syrups, fresh fruit and flowers to the next level.
For Stacy Shinn of Lifted Spirits, a small-batch distillery and bar in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, the best way to lighten up cocktails is seasonal produce. The Crossroads Sour uses fresh blackberries for blackberry simple syrup, which is then combined with Lifted Spirits Bright Gin, lime, Cointreau, and orange and Angostura bitters. “Another way to work with summertime fruits is to muddle them into a cocktail," she says. The Maid cocktail, for example, with simple syrup, fresh lime juice and Bright Gin, has a cool, crisp flavor thanks to muddled cucumber and mint. Shinn says she uses as much local farmers’ market produce as possible.
Lifted Spirits Distillery, 1734 Cherry St., Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.866.1734, liftedspiritskc.com
Café Osage, a restaurant and bar in St. Louis' Central West End, is part of Bowood Farms, which gives bartender Jamie Everding access to an on-site garden. She says the majority of cocktails are made with botanical simple syrups of fresh fruit and herbs. “We have a produce garden across the street and a rooftop garden where we grow most of our herbs, which really shoot off in the summer,” she says. “The Cucumber Revival has a cucumber shrub from our garden, lemon-balm simple syrup, North Shore gin and cucumber liqueur and it’s topped off with a Brut.” The café also makes herb-infused sodas made with greens from the rooftop in flavors such as basil-peach and grapefruit-mint.
Café Osage, 4605 Olive Street, Central West End, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.454.6868, bowoodfarms.com
Springfield, Missouri’s MudLounge, the cocktail counterpart to its more study-friendly Mudhouse Coffee location, has been serving up fresh, fruit-forward cocktails for more than 10 years. “We gained such a following for them that they’ve kind of added to our identity,” explains head bartender Ryan Walter. “On our spring and summer menu, we try to use a lot of fresh fruit and herbs; we do a lot with mint, cucumber, grapefruit juice and [housemade] sweet and sour [mix].” MudLounge puts a fresh spin on all its drinks: The Ramona Flowers, for example, is made with rye, Campari, St-Germain, crème de violette and fresh lime, and the Lavender French 75 combines Journeyman Bilberry Black Hearts Gin, lavender simple syrup, sparkling wine and fresh lemon for two distinctly aromatic, floral cocktails. However, “The cucumber lemonade is our most popular drink,” Walter says, featuring Hendrick’s Gin, cucumber, housemade cucumber simple syrup, lemon juice, a twist of lemon and soda water.
MudLounge, 321 E. Walnut St., Springfield, Missouri, 417.368.8298, mudhousecoffee.com/mudlounge