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Ground to Glass
Incorporating Spring Produce into Your Cocktails

Your favorite spring farmers’ market has just opened for the season and you’ve had your generous shopping basket sitting by the door for weeks, reluctantly toeing it away on occasion to make room for that old towel to catch those last snow- and sand-covered footprints. 


Upon your first visit to the market, you'll want to buy nearly everything at the maple stand, but remember to take a step back. Case the place. There are beets and rhubarb to your left, a great fennel grower a few tents down. Sniff around...is that mint and fresh thyme behind that woman's giant canvas bag? Or is it the familiar oregano and sage that’s survived the cold, still hanging around from the winter market?


As you browse the bounty, take a page out of Maine’s spring crops playbook; don’t rush. This is your time to gain the inspiration that you’ll carry back to your kitchen and your countertop to prove that cocktails deserve fresh ingredients, too. Using vegetables in your snifter may not qualify as getting your recommended daily dose of vitamins and minerals, but they can add that slightly earthy, colorful achievement that sings spring.


I didn’t say don’t buy anything at the maple stand, so be sure to make your way back, as it is a quintessential spring gift. The Maine Maple Producers Association hosts the perfect segue into spring the fourth Sunday of every March, officially designated Maine Maple Sunday. Sugar houses all over the state open their doors to the public to show us how maple syrup is made and offer delicious samples. 


The Maine Maple Mashup is the perfect cocktail to handle a transition from winter into spring. A twist on an old fashioned, this sturdy beverage is full of wonderful aromas that keep you pining for the next sip with its roasted clementine rind, black walnut bitters, a touch of complex amaro, and maple syrup. 


Fennel is one of the first vegetables to make its appearance in the garden and the green color it imparts in a simple syrup is reminiscent of fresh spring grass. Thus, the Fennel Spring Fling was created. The sweet, herbal notes in this pale green cocktail are balanced with citrus. And don’t discard the fennel that you’ve cooked in the simple syrup—the candied fennel bits that garnish the cocktail are addictive. 


Perhaps the earthiest of spring vegetables, beets, add a stunning ruby red to the Beet and Elderflower Collins. By using a combination of the beet-infused simple syrup and vodka, the former subtler than the latter, this cocktail offers a taste of beet without too much sweet, while the citrus and floral liquor join the party for an ideal pairing. Word to the wise: While the color of beets can be splendid, you may not feel that way when it stains your skin and clothes. Wear dark clothes or a full apron, and gloves, when prepping this cocktail. 


Thyme is readily available in early spring and until Maine’s most popular berry is ready for harvest, frozen blueberries are fine to use in the Thyme for Blueberries cocktail. In this beverage, the thyme is subtle, the blueberry simple syrup sweet and beautiful, and the citrus and soda a lovely balancing act. It just might be the cocktail to convert a gin naysayer. Add club soda and it can be repurposed for summer, especially when the fresh berries are available. 


Maine Maple Mashup 


1 clementine peel

2 ounces of your favorite Maine bourbon

½ ounce Montenegro Amaro 

¾  ounce Maine maple syrup 

3 dashes black walnut bitters 

2 dashes orange bitters 

Whiskey glass, large sphere ice cube (for serving)

Bourbon cherry garnish


Cut a piece of the clementine peel about a ½-inch wide for the garnish. Hold the skin side an inch or two above a flame for a few seconds until the skin takes on a slight burnt color. Set aside. 


Tear the rest of the clementine peel into pieces. Sprinkle with sugar and roast at 275° for about 25 minutes. Let cool. Set aside. Store in container at room temperature. 


In a shaker filled with ice, add the bourbon, Amaro, maple syrup and bitters, and shake. Pour into whiskey glass with sphere ice cubes and garnish with bourbon cherries and the roasted and the burnt clementine peels. 


In addition to the black walnut bitters, the roasted clementine peel gives a nice aroma, so be sure to use the right glass to enhance the experience. The roasted rind will become a new favorite garnish for a variety of cocktails. 


Fennel Spring Fling


For the fennel simple syrup 

1 cup sugar 

1 cup water 

1 tablespoon corn syrup 

1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped

1 fennel frond, (the lacy tops, for garnish)


For the cocktail

2½ ounces of your favorite Maine gin 

1½ ounces fennel simple syrup 

1 ounce lime juice

2 dashes Angostura bitters 

Roasted candied fennel

Fennel fronds

Coupe glass (for serving) 

Lime wheel garnish


For the simple syrup

In a saucepan, add the sugar, water, and corn syrup and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add the chopped fennel and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain half the fennel from the syrup and set aside for roasting. Store the syrup along with the leftover fennel in an airtight jar or container in the refrigerator. 


For the cocktail

Roast strained fennel on a sheet pan at 275° for 30 minutes, or until it reduces by about half in size and is slightly golden in spots. Dust with granulated sugar. Let cool. These don’t stay crispy too long, so use them as a garnish and enjoy the rest (they taste like candy!). 


In a cocktail shaker with ice, add the gin, fennel syrup, lime, and bitters and shake until cold. Strain into coupe glass and garnish with a lime wheel, fennel frond, and a piece of candied fennel. 


Beet and Elderflower Collins 


For the beet simple syrup

1 cup sugar 

1 cup water 

1 tablespoon corn syrup 

1 medium beet, chopped 


For the cocktail

2 ounces beet-infused vodka (using your favorite Maine vodka) 

¾  ounce St. Germain elderflower liquor

½  ounce beet simple syrup 

1 ounce lemon juice 

3 dashes grapefruit bitters 

Soda water (for topping)

Tall rocks glass (for serving)

Sliced lemon garnish

Mint sprig 


For the simple syrup

In a saucepan, add the sugar, water, and corn syrup and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add the beets and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain the syrup into a glass jar or container and add half of the beets, saving the other half to infuse your vodka. Store the syrup in the refrigerator. 


For the cocktail

Add the other half of the beets to 6–8 ounces of vodka and let sit in an airtight container on the counter for a day or up to 7 if you want a more pronounced beet flavor. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the infused vodka, St. Germain, beet syrup, lemon juice, and bitters and shake until cold. Strain into tall rocks glass filled with ice and top with soda water. Garnish with sliced lemon and a mint sprig. 


Thyme for Maine Blueberries  


For the blueberry-thyme simple syrup

1 cup sugar 

1 cup water 

1 tablespoon corn syrup 

1 cup Maine blueberries 

4–5 thyme sprigs 


For the cocktail

2½ ounces of your favorite Maine gin 

1 ounce blueberry-thyme simple syrup 

½ ounce lemon juice 

½ ounce lime juice 

Short rocks glass (for serving)

A few Maine blueberries (for garnish)

Lemon peel, curled (for garnish) 

1 thyme sprig


For the simple syrup

In a saucepan, add the sugar, water, and corn syrup and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add the blueberries and thyme and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Let cool. Pour into glass jar or container with the thyme and berries and store in refrigerator. Store without the thyme for a subtler thyme flavor. 


For the cocktail

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the gin, blueberry-thyme syrup, and citrus juices and shake until cold. Strain into short rocks glass and garnish with Maine blueberries, a lemon peel curl, and fresh thyme sprig.

Dana Moos is the author of The Art of Breakfast: How to Bring B&B Entertaining Home, as well as a former innkeeper and has spent many years dazzling her guests with food and drink.

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