At Crudo it's old school hip-hop. Unlike many other bars, open from lunchtime on, Crudo opens in the evening, and I'd arrived at the height of prep -- so I was a sort of obstacle, I guess. Good thing they wanted to talk Spring Cocktails as much as I did.
I didn't need to cross my fingers for a hit, knowing Micah Olson, co-owner and head mixologist, would deliver. What I didn't foresee was a head nod to bartender Andrew Calisterio, a young Sacramento star-tender (as an acquaintance described him), for one of his creations. Calisterio presented me with The Wishing Well, a stir of Vida mezcal, Sun Rum from Seattle, Tempus Fugit Creme De Menthe (read as: legit creme de menthe), a dash of celery bitters, and house-made cucumber simple syrup -- so suffice to say, despite its "Day Glow Green" appearance it's, well, no well drink.
How did you end up with this drink?
AC: I wanted to do a mezcal cocktail that would be a little bit more approachable for folks who just kind of associate it with this smoky, really big flavor and at the same time still bring out some of its minty undertones and the herbaceous background notes. Something that a lot of people don't realize when they're having mezcal is that there's a lot of mint in the background and one thing I did to actually bring this forward was using the creme de menthe which totally bumps that herbaceous quality. I always like to add a little aspect of cool, funky umami or some weird make-you-think tastes in the background, so that's why I reached for the rum. It has some subtle saffron that works really well with the cucumber. The nose is really bright and both cucumber and mint have this amazing cooling effect -- this being my first summer in phoenix, I was trying to make something that was spirit forward but still have the cooling effects of a spritzier cocktail.
MO: I love the way the cucumber and mint cool things down. He nailed it.
Which flavors or aromas come to mind when you think of spring?
MO: Floral always come to mind. You have all of the blossoms in Arizona -- it always smells amazing outside. So I always like to bring in orange water, rose water, some kind of springtime aromatic, whether it be lavender, which is very spring, or citrus, obviously.
Do you achieve that spring profile through the things that you bring in from outside, or can those be found in the actual liquors and spirits themselves?
MO: One-hundred percent. Liquors can definitely bring you those same kinds of things. Like Nolet's gin has a raspberry and a rose to it as well, which we're using in some of our spring cocktails. And as far as floral components, you have something like St. Germain's elderflower liquor as well, that's been all over the world and back, and those types of aromatics of the spring time do such a good job of getting people in that mood of what's coming and the greenery that comes with summer.
So then what makes a good spring cocktail? What would you want to drink when you're out somewhere else?
MO: I think that the spring cocktail transitions you from the fall/winter heaviness, and most of the country is still a little chilly at night, getting nice in the daytime, so you don't want to leap straight into the big, berry-berry summer stuff, so it ends up being a lighter style cocktail that still teeters a little bit on fall and winter. A refresher, basically.