Eating seasonally is commonplace nowadays in the Pacific Northwest, yet the same principles—with a modicum of patience—apply just as well behind the bar as at the dining table. It’s as simple as taking whatever is in season—fennel in fall, for instance, or chamomile in spring—and giving it an extended soak in vodka or grain alcohol. After a few days, up to several weeks, all you do is strain the solids from the liquid and voilà!—you’ve got the makings for a seasonal cocktail made with homemade bitters, garnish, or liqueur.
For an in-depth exploration of the joys of drinking seasonally, check out Maggie Savarino’s just-published book, The Seasonal Cocktail Companion. A mash-up of arts and crafts and booze, the guide bridges the gap between distilling and bartending, yet keeps the enterprise entertaining and accessible.
“The whole point of the book is to make something that you love, that’s super-personal to you, and you don’t need a six-step drink,” says Savarino. “Craft cocktails are great, but what kind of space does the average person devote to the home bar—not to mention time and money? I wanted a book that would let you play as little or as much as you want, and encourage you to try variations.”
A Seattleite since 1997, Savarino was previously the cocktail and spirits columnist for Seattle Weekly; presently she tends bar at Madison Park Conservatory in Seattle. “I came from Chicago and remember being kind of a snot about the dining scene here. The suffix ‘tini’ was all the rage. If you squeezed your own lime juice you were a cut above; now that’s the least that’s expected of you as a bartender. You couldn’t get someone to try an amaro if your life depended on it. But people were quietly doing good work, long before food and drink became sport and circuses and bartenders’ movements started being tracked like free agents. Now I’m a reverse-snot, as I watch while public opinion slowly bleaches the blue collar of this industry. It’s crazy, and I laugh about it a lot.”