Look Away Ents: Delicious Cocktails Use Bark, Sap, Buds and More

By Justine Sterling Posted March 22, 2013
Tree Cocktails: Fire & Smoke

Fire & Smoke © Aaron Cook | AACK Studio

You love them for shade, for climbing, and if you're a squirrel, for their cozy hollows, but trees also have a lot to offer when it comes to cocktails. The roots and bark imbue tinctures with a woody sweetness, the sap lends itself to an aromatic syrup, the leaves infuse spirits with freshness and the buds can be made into a concentrated tree-essence.

At star chef Suzanne Goin's A.O.C. in L.A., lead bartender Christiaan Rollich features a bark-infused drink on his new cocktail menu. The Fire & Smoke gets its heat from a spicy arbol chile tincture, smoky flavor from a mezcal rinse and body from a mix of tequila, fresh blood orange juice, lime juice and an infusion of sweet wood a.k.a. licorice root. Rollich remembered sweet wood from his childhood in the Netherlands, where he chewed on pieces of the root instead of candy (it can have a very sweet flavor with just a hint of anise). To make the infusion, he soaks the wood in vodka for weeks, then strains it through a chinois. The resulting tincture mellows out the spicy-smoky-citrusy cocktail, which is shaken and served over ice with a blood orange twist. Here, more cocktails that make use of roots, sap, bark and buds.


The Lounge at Atera, New York
The downstairs lounge at F&W 2010 Best New Chef Matthew Lightner’s Michelin-starred restaurant uses foraged pine sap in the Sap cocktail. The tart drink is made with gin, lime juice, fresh bergamot juice and egg white, shaken and strained into a coupe that has been chilled with liquid nitrogen. Head bartender Brandon Duff finishes the drink with a spoonful of a tannic, aromatic pinesap infusion he makes by boiling hardened sap with wormwood and anise.

The Pines, Brooklyn
The eclectic Gowanus restaurant's signature cocktail, also called The Pines, is made with High West Double Rye, Clear Creek Douglas Fir eau de vie (a brandy infused with Douglas fir buds), locally made Hella Bitter aromatic bitters, vibrant yuzu juice and housemade pine needle simple syrup. The citrusy, pine-scented cocktail is stirred and served neat in a rocks glass, finished with a flamed then discarded twist of yuzu zest.

AQ, San Francisco
Since San Francisco never truly experiences all four seasons, AQ honors them in both its interior design and its cocktail menu. In autumn, there was fall foliage inside and a fig wood-infused Manhattan on the menu. In the spring, the décor will reflect cherry blossoms and the bar will infuse bourbon with cherry wood. The current winter setting features bare branches and the Red Wood Hook cocktail, which mixes rye whiskey with bittersweet Punt e Mes vermouth, maraschino cherry liqueur and a bright, piney redwood tincture made by macerating coniferous tree buds in a neutral spirit for over a week. The cocktail is stirred and served up in a coupe.

The Trenchermen, Chicago
At the experimental Wicker Park restaurant, oaky, toasty George Dickel whiskey is infused with pine needles for a day before being strained and used in the fresh and bright Pioneer cocktail. Bartenders shake the alpine-scented whiskey with bracing Campari, fresh lemon juice and a touch of simple syrup. The crisp cocktail is served up in a cocktail glass.

Related: Garden-to-Glass Cocktails
Fantastic Classic Cocktails
50 Best Bars in America

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