After sounding off on the ills of mixology and other ‘cocktail geekery,’ New York-based bartender Greg Seider shares his favorite drinks.
Greg Seider’s rules to cocktail-making boil down to one simple but paramount ingredient: inspiration. The peripatetic barman—who earlier this month spoke on the ills of the mixology trend—finds it in disparate places around the world. It pops up on his menus at New York’s Summit Bar and Manhattan Cricket Club through rare spices and fresh vegetables. In advance of the opening of his new drinking den in Cape Town this summer, Seider recalls some of his favorite travel memories and tells us how to shake up the globally inspired concoctions in his new book Alchemy in a Glass.
On my first trip to South Africa I came across two native plants while hiking in the mountains on the western cape. Rooibos took me with its soulful deep floral scent; Honeybush had especially sweet notes. I actually used them to poach lobster before I started incorporating their unique flavor profiles into cocktails.
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Lions In London
1.5 oz Rooibos infused No.3 London Dry Gin
.75 oz Dolin Sweet vermouth
.75 oz Cappelletti Aperitivo ( may substitute equal parts Campari or Aperol)
2 dashes of orange bitters
Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir until the liquid has a syrup-like viscosity. Strain over ice in a rocks glass and garnish with an orange twist.
Add 2 tbsp of Rooibos tea leaves to a 750 ml bottle of gin. Let it sit two to three hours, then strain.
Honey Bush Manhattan
2 oz Honeybush-infused Michter's Straight Rye or High West Double Rye
1 oz Dolin sweet vermouth
Dash of angostura and orange bitters
1/8 oz of Madeiria or fino sherry
Swirl a martini glass with Madeiria, then add remaining ingredients to the mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir until the liquid has a syrup-like viscosity. Strain into the martini glass and garnish with rye-soaked Luxardo cherries.
I was on a mezcal tour with my friends who grew up in Oaxaca and we detoured for some amazing Mexican street food. I tasted this chili sauce that had such an amazing flavor, so I convinced the woman cooking the food to take us back to her village and teach me how to make the sauce from scratch. It required a special roasting technique and a variety of local chillies, which added an extra layer of complexity. The recipe inspired one of Summit Bar’s most popular drinks, Breaking the Law.
Breaking The Law
1 oz Don Amado Reposado or Illegal Mezcal
1 oz Dimmi cordial
3/4 lime juice
3/4 chili-infused agave (dried chipotle, ancho, serrano)
1.5 oz Fever Tree club soda topper
Lightly muddle a cucumber slice in a shaker tin. Add the other ingredients except for the club soda. Fill a large shaker with ice and hard shake for eight to ten seconds until its snowball cold. Pour soda over ice in a highball or Collins glass. Strain the rest of the ingredients into the glass. Garnish with cucumber and lime zest.
3 chili agave makes 1 quart
Deseed two of each chili (you can use chipotle only if can't find others) and combine them in a pot with 16 oz of water and 16 oz of light agave. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cover for one hour. Strain out the chillies.
You come across some exotic ingredients strolling through the markets of Japan. Two of my favorites: Shiso leaf, an exotic member of the mint family, and Yuzu, which tastes like a grapefruit and lime had a baby. I use these in place of mint and lemon/lime when I want to elevate smell and flavors in a cocktail.
Sunrise to Sundown
2 oz No.3 London Dry Gin or Fords Gin
3/4 oz Shiso-infused agave
.5 oz Yuzu citrus
1.5 oz Fever Tree club soda
Add all ingredients together in a shaker tin except the club soda. Fill with ice and hard shake for eight seconds. Add soda to Collins or highball glass filled with ice. Strain ingredients into the glass. Garnish with Shiso leaf.
To me, one of the most delicious meals you’ll ever eat is found at the street food stands in Thailand because of the bright and exotic favors in their dishes. I was with a local photographer who took me for this epic bowl of pork neck soup. If you’re a fan of Thai curries or soups, you know Kaffir lime is one of the signature flavors. It has this exotic lime essence without the acidity of lime juice.
2 oz kaffir lime-infused Olmeca Altos or Cabeza Tequila
1 oz fresh lime juice
.75 oz agave mix
Wet 1/2 of a rocks glass rim with a lime wedge and dip the top edge in Kaffir lime salt. Add all ingredients to the shaker tin and fill with ice. Hard shake for eight to ten seconds until its snowball cold and strain over ice. Garnish with a kaffir lime leaf and a microplane of lime zest.
How to make kaffir lime-infused tequila
750 ml bottle tequila
15 kaffir lime leaves
Combine tequila and lime leaves and let it sit for three days. Strain out leaves.
How to make kaffir lime salt
Maldon sea salt
1 to 2 tablespoons of kaffir lime powder
Combine together in Mason jar and shake
Kaffir lime leaves are available at Asian specialty stores and you can order Kaffir lime powder on Amazon.
When I’m at home in Manhattan, I have a couple of spots that bring inspiration and global ingredients to my finger tips: Alphabet City’s Sos Chefs for the freshest single-origin spices and Le Boîte in Midtown West for incredible blends like Mish Mish, a combo of honey, saffron, and lemon.
I'll Have Another
2 oz Santa Teresa rum
1 oz Garam Masala infused agave
.5 oz lime juice
1.5 oz Fever Tree club soda
Add all the ingredients except club soda into a shaker tin. Fill with ice and hard shake for eight seconds or until the tin is snowball cold. Top with club soda and strain over ice in a highball or Collins glass. Garnish with a microplane of ginger.
Garam Masala agave makes 750 ml
2 tbsp coarse ground garam masala
13 oz water mixed with 13 oz light agave
Bring to a light boil in a pot. Remove from heat and cover for one hour. Strain out garam masala.
I was on an epicurean tour in the Tuscan countryside and came across sprawling rosemary bushes, juniper berries, and pear orchards in the village of Montisi. It was an amazing combination of smells and tastes—which I knew would go perfectly with the prosecco I was sipping at that very moment.
The Last Cocktail
1 oz no.3 London Dry Gin
1oz rosemary-infused agave
1 oz pear purée
1 oz lemon juice
1.5 oz prosecco
Combine all the ingredients except for the prosecco in a shaker filled with ice. Hard shake for eight to ten seconds. Strain ingredients over ice in a rocks glass and top with prosecco. Garnish with clove dust and rosemary sprig.
How to make rosemary agave
Makes 25 oz
Mix 13 oz water with 13 oz light agave syrup
2 bunches of rosemary
Add all ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cover for one hour. Strain out the rosemary.
Blend 1 peeled pear with 20 oz of pear juice.