The new spring cocktail menus are dropping at bars all around town. Playa, Rivera, Cana, Villains, to name just few. Coming up on its one-year anniversary, Silver Lake's Thirsty Crow hasn't overhauled its menu in the name of seasonality, but bar manager Cooper Gillespie has committed what amounts to heresy in a whiskey bar: adding non-whiskey cocktails to the roster. Specifically, she's created a trio of gin and tequila-based cocktails that run the spectrum from fruity and floral to surprisingly spicy.
Strawberry Fields Forever is based on Nolet's, a pot-distilled dry gin introduced only a few months ago by the makers of Ketel One. In addition to common botanicals like citrus, licorice and juniper, it includes a distinct rose flavor as well as strong notes of peach and raspberry to create a fruity gin unlike any other on the market.
Gillespie makes good use of the Nolet's by muddling it with fresh strawberries, basil and what she will only describe as "unicorn tears." (How do you source that ingredient?) The result is a summery, girlish cocktail that seems ideal for a sunny afternoon.
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Ruby Slippers is more sophisticated, a balance of sweet and smokey that incorporates Maurin (a cherry aperatif similar to Heering), Cazadores Anejo tequila and a mescal float.
Our favorite, by far, is the Afternoon Delight, a a champagne coupe of pale green, slightly frothy stuff. The main ingredients aren't esoteric: Hendrick's gin, lime, basil and a sliver of serrano chile. What this drink does so well, and where so many others have failed, is find the equilibrium between heat and quaffability.
Spice has been a growing cocktail trend the past year, and we're only expecting to see more chile-themed drinks on bar menus. The Afternoon Delight has a heat that's at once surprising and persistent. You probably won't notice it until the third or fourth sip, but when you do, it builds slowly and lingers pleasantly on the back of your throat, pierced by the tartness of the lime. Discreet and elegant but with a secret kick, this is a cocktail for all seasons.