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The Archduke © Brent Herrig
Lightly sweet and fresh, fennel is the perfect bridge from winter to spring. Like a lot of chefs, many cocktail experts are fans of both fennel bulbs and the plant’s herbaceous fronds. At New York City’s The Third Man—Edi & The Wolf’s little, boozier sister—Austrian chef-partner Edi Frauneder uses fresh baby fennel juice in the Archduke. Frauneder first dehydrates fennel fronds with a quick blast of liquid nitrogen, then adds ice, Laird’s Apple Brandy, bittersweet Cynar, fresh fennel juice made from the delicate bulb and Peychaud’s bitters. He stirs the anise-scented cocktail, then strains it into a rocks glass with one large, hand-cut ice cube and garnishes it with a fresh fennel frond. Here, more fennel drinks that offer a taste of spring.
Hi Lo BBQ; San Francisco
This brand-new smokehouse tapped the Goose and Gander’s Scott Beattie to design its cocktail list, which has two fennel-inflected drinks. The seasonal Savory Collins is made with local Blade gin, lemon juice, muddled tarragon and Beattie’s “Ultimate Pickling Liquid,” a lightly sweet, white wine vinegar-base, which he uses to pickle the drink’s fresh fennel garnish. The cocktail is finished with a refreshing hit of soda water and served over ice. Beattie’s Fennel Old Fashioned is made with fennel-seed-and-star-anise syrup, Eagle Rare 10-Year bourbon and orange bitters—a combination inspired by flavors in the restaurant’s barbecue dishes.
Cal-Mex Comal offers the Manzanita, a gingery, fizzy cocktail with flavors of mulling spices and bright fennel. Bartenders shake together reposado tequila, Becherovka (an herbal Czech liqueur), nutty oloroso sherry and house-made spiced apple-fennel sour mix. The drink is double-strained into a rocks glass filled with ice and ginger beer and garnished with a wide strip of lemon peel.
Old Granite Street Eatery; Reno, NV
This rustic restaurant offers a spring cocktail for Scotch lovers, The Jefferson, made with smoky Scotch, herbal Benedictine, fresh lemon juice, Peychaud’s bitters and a house-made fennel-and-clove syrup. The drink is shaken and served over ice in a rocks glass, garnished with an orange peel.
The Tasting Kitchen; Los Angeles
Bar manager Justin Pike starts making the English Garden two weeks before anyone orders it. The fennel dram, which is the base for this rich gimlet variation, is made with fruity Jamaican rum and freshly ground fennel seed; simple syrup is mixed in after two weeks. To complete the cocktail, Pike shakes the dram with dry gin and fresh lime juice and strains it onto a glass with a large cube of ice. He drops a cucumber slice in at the end for freshness.