A Midsummer Cocktail Dream

August 5, 2016

With juicy stone fruit, heirloom tomatoes, berries, and herbs in full force at the farmers market, summer is peak season for creative cocktails. Last week, CUESA and the United States Bartenders Guild Northern California chapter raised a glass to the long days of summer at our Picnic on the Plaza: Summer Cocktails of the Farmers Market party.

Using the farmers market bounty, bartenders pushed the boundaries of creativity and flavor with unexpected ingredients like corn milk, snap pea juice, Padrón pepper sauce, and peanut orgeat. Congratulations to the mixologists behind our audience favorites: in first place, Pilar Reyes of Penrose with her “Grey Garden Punch” with Venus Spirits, followed by Nicolas Torres of Lazy Bear with “Stone Pit Punch” featuring Cointreau.

In case you missed it, here are some if the summery concoctions from our bartenders (along with some sun-dappled photos) to inspire your own cocktail adventures.

Enjoy the photo album »

Picnic on the Plaza: Summer Cocktails of the Farmers Market Recipes

Grey Gardens Punch

Source: Pilar Reyes of Penrose

In the spirit of summer, I wanted to capture the essence of walking through an overgrown, ultraripe garden, with wild-grown herbs and ripe fruit falling off trees. Venus Gin #1 in is an excellent botanical spirit made locally in Santa Cruz, and pairing the gin with juicy, sweet flavor queen plums, crisp and vegetal snap peas, and a honey infused with intensely aromatic sage, thyme, and lavender brought out all the elements of an ideal bright garden picnic. Adding yellow chartreuse and cava highlighted the summer botanical flavor elements, making for a perfect drink to sip on while braiding daisy chains and sitting on a bright patch of grass under a blue, sunny sky.


Summer Garden Honey
8 leaves fresh sage
1 tablespoon dried lavender
Half bunch of thyme
12 oz boiling water
24 oz honey (preferably from Marshall’s Farm)

Flavor Queen Plum Juice
6 flavor queen plums

Snap Pea Juice
½ pound snap peas

1.5 oz Venus Spirits Gin #1
.75 oz freshly squeeze lemon juice
.5 oz yellow chartreuse
Top with 1.5 oz cava
Bundle of herbs for garnish


To make the Summer Garden Honey: Place herbs in a large tea bag or coffee filter, and steep in the boiling water. Let sit for five minutes, then strain. Add the honey while water is still hot, and stir. Note that this recipe can be adjusted to the ratio 2:1 honey:herb infused water; if you have left over honey, it is great for putting in tea or on toast!

To make the Flavor Queen plum juice: Cut the plums in half in order to remove the pits and stems. Juice plums with champion juicer. If you do not have a juicer, blend to a smooth puree in your home blender and strain through a fine mesh chinois. Left over plum juice is a great addition to any lemonade!

To make the snap pea juice: Remove stems from snap peas. Juice snap peas with champion juicer. If you do not have a juicer, blend to a smooth puree in your home blender and strain through a fine mesh chinois. Left over snap pea is a great addition to morning fruit juice smoothies!

To assemble the cocktail: Combine the gin, lemon juice, yellow chartreuse, .5 oz of the Summer Garden Honey, .75 of the Flavor Queen plum juice, and .25 oz of the snap pea juice in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, pour over fresh ice, and top with the cava. Garnish with a bundle of herbs.

Corn on the Job

Source: Max Gerasimenko and Nick Melle of Cafe du Nord

Nothing says picnic like corn and peaches, and nothing says Mexico like elote (corn) and mezcal, so we put them all in a glass together. Enjoy!


1.5 oz Ilegal Mezcal
1 oz peach juice
.75 oz corn milk
.25 oz lemon juice
.25 oz 2:1 simple syrup
1 dash Padrón pepper sauce


Shake and serve on the rocks.


Source: Suzu of 15 Romolo

The cocktail was inspired by the fascination of the classic PB&J. Growing up in a Japanese household, my mom would always pack bento boxes full of traditional Japanese lunches for school, sporting events, and picnics. I begged her for a PB&J because everyone else was eating them. Ironically enough, I didn’t like ’em—but only recently started to appreciate the balance of fruit, brioche, and nuttiness.

The sourdough peanut orgeat (classically, an almond syrup) was made using Acme sourdough soaked water and then following a classic orgeat recipe but using roasted peanuts instead of almonds.


1 oz Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro
.5 oz white rum
.75 oz sourdough peanut orgeat
.25 oz lime juice
3 blackberries


Combine all ingredients, shake, and strain.


Source: Raul Ayala of Dirty Habit

The Haverkamps cocktail is a summery, savory, and refreshing cocktail, with notes of stone fruit and hints of herbs from the spiced foam. The cocktail itself was inspired by the beautiful Northern California coast: its weather, diversity, and freedom.


Spiced Foam
4 oz of heavy cream
4 oz All Spice Dram
4 oz Chai tea
2 gelatin sheets

1.5 oz Singani 63
1 oz puréed Suncrest peach, summer savory, and honey
.75 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
.5 oz Drambuie
2 dashes of orange bitters
Summer savory for garnish


To make the foam: Combine all ingredients into a whipped cream dispenser.

To assemble the cocktail: Add the Singani, purée, lemon juice, Drambuie, and orange bitters  into a shaker, shake and double strain. Garnish with spiced foam and summer savory.

Earthy Possessions

Source: Brice Sanchez of Blackwater Station

A play on a daiquiri with earthy vegetal tones, this cocktail is both savory and refreshing at the same time.


Rich Syrup
Sweet Treat pluots
Italian peppers

1.5 oz The Real McCoy Aged Rum
.5 oz Kronan Swedish Punsch
.5 grapefruit juice
.25 lemon juice
.25 rich syrup (recipe above)
1 dash eucalyptus bitters


To make the rich syrup: Using a ratio of 2 parts sugar and 1 part water, bring the water to a boil. Add parsley, pluots, Italian peppers, and sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Strain.

To assemble the cocktail: Combine all ingredients, shake, and strain.

Photos by Jeremy Meehan and Valter Fabiano.

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