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A Spring Cocktail Menu That Honors Farmers from Locanda del Lago Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Lago caprese martiniIn honor of spring, Locanda del Lago restaurant in Santa Monica has launched a spring cocktail menu that celebrates the farmers who grow the produce used in the cocktails -- all regulars at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, located right outside the restaurant's door. For those of us for whom spring brings thoughts of TOMATOES (and Tomatomania, which has started its annual seedling sale -- click here for locations and dates), there is The Wong Farm, a Caprese-style martini made with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, a dash of balsamic vinegar, and cubed mozzarella as a garnish. For those who like their cocktails a bit more sweet, Maggie's Farm features fresh sage, cucumber and prosecco. Recipes for both are below. Hello Spring!!!

The Wong Farm (Caprese Martini)
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 sprigs fresh basil
A dash of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 1/2 oz. Crop Organic Tomato Vodka
Fresh mozzarella

Muddle tomatoes, sugar and basil together, add vodka and vinegar and shake vigorously. Pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a skewer of alternating cherry tomato halves and cubed fresh mozzarella

The Maggie's Farm (Sage Mist)
4 sprigs fresh sage
4 slices cucumber
2 oz Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka
1 tsp sugar
1 oz. prosecco

Muddle cucumber and sugar, add vodka, then shake vigorously. Note: Do not muddle sage; it bruises the leaves and leaves a bitter taste. Serve in chilled martini glass, then top off with a prosecco floater. Garnish with a floating cucumber slice.

Garden Cocktails (for a Good Cause) from Lanai Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Four Seasons Lanai Jeremy SidmanThere are cocktails that are eco-friendly because they use local organic produce and then there are cocktails that are eco-friendly because they use local organic produce AND help restore native environments. That would be the Cocktail with a Cause, found at the Four Seasons Resorts on Lanai. Created by Beverage Manager Jeremy Sidman (pictured left), the Tree-tini not only highlights local flavors but the proceeds from its sale are used to help restore native plant seedlings along the Koloiki Ridgeland on the island through the Four Seasons' partnership with the Lanai Native Species Recovery Program. Sidman created the program to help support their overall farm-to-table philosophy. "In Hawaii, we have access to the freshest produce and ingredients, therefore it was very important to develop organic cocktails that are a reflection of our natural paradise," said Sidman. "We take pride in creating the ingredients in house."

For home gardeners who want to create their own cocktails, Sidman recommends starting with herbs such as mint or thyme. "It's a quick and simple way to add a nice aroma and flavor to any cocktail," said Sidman, who then recommends combining those herbs with citrus, such as limes, lemons, oranges or calamansi, and then muddling together. "The citrus cuts the alcohol and helps balance the acidity."

Sidman offers more ideas -- and a new cocktail recipe -- every Friday on the Four Seasons Resorts Lanai Facebook page. Even better, this week's, the 100-Mile Cocktail, is made with local ingredients from four of the Hawaiian islands: Lanai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island (all within 100 miles). And below is the recipe for the Tree-tini. That's a lot of Aloha!

New Studio Garden (Cocktails) at Montage Laguna Beach Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Studio garden at Montage Laguna BeachIt's hard to imagine a more beautiful spot for a garden than that enjoyed by the new chef's garden at the Studio restaurant at Montage Laguna Beach (right). Perched next to the Craftsman-style bungalow that houses the restaurant, the garden features beds that are built 31 inches tall (according to Chef Craig Strong, that is the exact height needed to keep the pesky bunnies that roam the property away) and filled with herbs and vegetables -- and companion flowers such as marigolds. Against the wall of the garden area, berries and other fruit grow -- protected (again, from those pesky bunnies as well as insects) with a row of alyssum.

Studio Executive Chef Craig Strong, who we first wrote about here in 2009 and who has provided us since with great recipes for salsa verde with spring garlic and watermelon, feta and black-olive salad, is long a proponent of using local seasonal products and a home gardener himself. While he still buys most of his produce from local farmers -- where he gets inspired by some of their discoveries (one of the latest was a leek blossom, which he has been using with sauteed swordfish), the new chef's garden allows him to do two things: 1. Pick herbs such as lemon verbena minutes before using it in, say, the aroma that accompanies his seared Hudson Valley foie gras and 2. create a series of signature cocktails based on what's growing in the garden.

Using a base of Cachaca, the first Studio Garden Cocktail featured tarragon, cucumber, basil and key lime, along with a splash of St. Germaine and champagne. The current Studio Garden Cocktail again uses Cachaca as its base and adds fresh lime juice, lavender-infused syrup and blackberry. For those who would like to try it at home, here is the recipe (click "read more"). Enjoy!

Basil Margarita from Cheyenne Mountain Resort Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Cheyenne Mountain Resort basil margarita

Hello summer! And what better way to celebrate than with an ice-cold margarita. The Will Rogers Lounge at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs has created an award-winning summer margarita that uses basil (six types!) picked fresh from their on-site organic garden. Here is the recipe for the version that uses Thai basil. Feel free to experiment with other basil varieties you may be growing.



3 oz. Thai basil sweet & sour mix (recipe below)

1½ oz. Cuervo 1800 Silver tequila 

¾ oz. Bauchant orange liqueur


Shake all ingredients and strain over ice. Garnish with Thai basil leaves. 


To make Thai basil sweet & sour mix: combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup hot water in a blender and mix slowly. Add 20 Thai basil leaves and blend until completely chopped. Mix with 4 oz. fresh lemon juice and 4 oz. fresh lime juice. Chill overnight.

The Gin Gin Cocktail from the Pierre, New York Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Pierre gin gin

Created as one of its seasonal cocktails for Fashion's Night Out in 2009, the Gin Gin at the Pierre, New York's Two E Bar & Lounge proved so popular it made it on to the standard menu and is still one of their best sellers. Here is the recipe for the Gin Gin, which incorporates the great garden ingredients of ginger, cucumber, mint and lime. Enjoy!


Gin Gin

1 oz. Hendrick’s Gin

1 oz. Canton Ginger Liqueur

1/2 oz. Fresh Cucumber and Mint Puree

1/4 oz. Lime juice

Ginger ale to top

Garnish with a cucumber slice

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