Summer's Bounty Cocktails

Five local bartenders head to the farmers’ market to get these seasonal cocktails shakin’.

 Rain Dance Cobbler at Employee’s Only. Photo: Josh Telles

Rain Dance Cobbler at Employee’s Only. Photo: Josh Telles

RAIN DANCE COBBLER

Having one of the industry’s most celebrated talents managing the bar program is a perk not many cocktail bars in Los Angeles can claim. Employees Only co-founder Dushan Zaric and his team feature this refreshing yet complex summer cocktail, blending local farmers’ market blackberries with Spanish and Portuguese spirits. 

INGREDIENTS

1 oz Ruby Port

1 oz Gin Mare

3/4 oz Rainwater Madeira

1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

1/2 oz blackberry syrup

1 crown fresh mint, for garnish

3 fresh blackberries, for garnish

sprinkle of powdered sugar, for garnish

 TO PREPARE COCKTAIL

Add all ingredients to a shaker, top with ice and shake hard, then double-strain into a tulip beer glass. Fill with crushed ice. Garnish with large fresh mint crown, blackberries, and a dash of powdered sugar.

BLACKBERRY SYRUP

INGREDIENTS

1 cup organic granulated sugar

1 cup very hot water

1 cup fresh blackberries

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a low boil for 2 minutes and let cool completely. Strain and store refrigerated in a sealed container.

YOU AND WHOSE GARDEN?

At the helm of the new Genever in Filipinotown is Kelso Norris, who shares an earthy and aromatic cocktail recipe that is as versatile—switch out the gin for vodka or even tequila—as it is seasonal. “I wanted to make a summery cocktail that was a hybrid of a vegetal Bloody Mary and a Gordon’s Cup,” he says. Norris adds that the tomatoes and cucumbers used to make the shrub come straight from a friend’s backyard.

INGREDIENTS

2 oz gin

1 oz cucumber tomato shrub 

½ oz fresh lime juice

dash hellfire bitters

2 cucumber slices, plus more for garnish

2 cherry tomatoes, for garnish

salt & pepper, for garnish

TO PREPARE COCKTAIL 

Add gin, shrub, lime juice, bitters, and two slices of cucumber to a shaker tin, fill with ice, and shake until cold. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and garnish with a trio of cucumber slices, 2 cherry tomatoes, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

CUCUMBER TOMATO SHRUB

INGREDIENTS

3 cucumbers, peeled and sliced 

1 quart cherry tomatoes, halved

2 quarts granulated sugar

pinch of salt

2 cups rice vinegar

2 cups apple cider vinegar 

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large container, add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt, then the cucumber peels and slices, and lightly press both to release some juices. Cover with sugar and muddle. Seal and store in the refrigerator for 48 to 72 hours. Norris starts to check in around hour 48 to see how the sugar is dissolving and usually lets it sit for another day, but each batch varies depending on how much liquid there is. At this point, stir to dissolve the remaining sugar and then strain out all solids. There should be about a quart of liquid remaining. Add the vinegars and stir to combine. 

MARY PICKFORD

Bar manager Rui Silva of Encino’s Woodley Proper offers up this island vacation in a glass, complete with housemade grenadine—it’s so much easier to make at home than you might believe! 

INGREDIENTS 

1 ½ oz Banks 5 Island Rum

¼ oz grenadine

½ oz fresh lime juice

½ oz Maraschino liqueur 

1 ½ oz fresh pineapple juice  

TO PREPARE COCKTAIL 

Add all ingredients to a shaker tin, fill with ice, and shake until cold. Strain into a chilled martini glass or coupe. 

HOUSEMADE GRENADINE

makes 1 ½ quarts 

INGREDIENTS

24 oz pomegranate juice

24 oz granulated sugar

4 oz pomegranate molasses

INSTRUCTIONS

Add all ingredients to a saucepan over low-medium heat, stirring until all sugar dissolves. Allow to cool, then transfer to a container and refrigerate until cold. 

WATERMELON COOLER

In keeping with Malibu Farm’s philosophy of using as many local and organic ingredients as possible, bartender Jason Nobriga sources the basil, along with many of the other herbs and vegetables on the menu at this local favorite, from Thorne Family Farms, just four miles from the iconic Malibu Pier location. 

INGREDIENTS

2 oz cucumber-infused vodka

2 ½ oz fresh watermelon Juice

½ oz fresh lime juice

½ oz agave syrup 

fresh basil, for garnish

watermelon ball, for garnish

TO PREPARE COCKTAIL 

Add all ingredients into a mason jar, stir and top with ice. Give a couple of large pieces of basil a whack against your hand to release its aroma, then add to the cocktail as a garnish with a watermelon ball.

CUCUMBER-INFUSED VODKA

INGREDIENTS

1 750ml bottle vodka, such as Humboldt Distillery 

2 organic cucumbers, peel and sliced 

INSTRUCTIONS

Place vodka and cucumber in a sealable container and set aside for 2 to 3 days, then strain and store in a bottle or glass jar. 

ZESTY PIÑA

Heading to the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, bar manager Blaine Bradfield has his pick of the crop when it comes to fresh seasonal fruit to incorporate into The Mar Vista’s sake and soju-based cocktail program. “We’re having a lot of fun now, and once we get our full liquor license [sometime] down the road, the sky’s the limit with the great things we’ll come up with behind the bar,” Bradfield tells me. 

INGREDIENTS

3 oz sake

2 ½ oz fresh pineapple juice

¼ oz fresh ginger juice

2 oz soda water

orange twist, for garnish

TO PREPARE COCKTAIL 

Add sake, pineapple juice, and ginger to a shaker tin, fill with ice, and shake until cold. Strain over ice into a Collins glass, then top with soda water and garnish with an orange twist. ◆