Artisinal Cocktails: Drinks inspired by the Seasons

Scott Beattie

Scott Beattie first made a name for himself at the bar of Healdsburg’s now shuttered Michelin-starred Cyrus, where his use of fresh local herbs, fruits and vegetables was unprecedented in the area’s cocktail scene. It wasn’t long before he was recognized as one of the leading farm-to-bar experts in the country. In 2008, he published Artisanal Cocktails, a master collection of classic and creative recipes, tips and techniques for crafting your own home cocktails. Proteges at Healdsburg’s Spoonbar, where he popped up after Cyrus, describe him as a creative purist who creates “drinkable works of art, with perfection in his recipe measurements, capturing the peak essence of the garden goods.” Today, Scott Beattie is the Beverage Director of Estate Events at Meadowood Napa Valley, in Napa California.

Coastal Pimm’s Cup by Scott Beattie.

You’re known as the “The Godfather” of artisanal cocktails in Napa, what’s the secret to crafting original, drinkable works of art?

I hope that I’m not old enough to be the “Godfather” of anything, but I do appreciate the nod. The secret to any delicious and beautiful cocktail starts with creating a balanced libation, appropriate for the season or venue, and garnishing it with items that have context. For example, our Coastal Pimm’s Cup (see image #1) is similar to the classic version but it has little bit of St. George Terroir added to it. This is a Bay Area gin that incorporates Douglas fir, Bay Laurel, coastal sage and wild fennel therefore garnishing the drink with any of these plants would be appropriate. Also consider using edible flowers that slightly contrast the color of you drink. If the drink looks amazing, guests will already want to taste it before they’ve even taken the first sip. If you’ve made it taste great, too, you have a winner!

Estate Events Outdoor Bar in Napa, California.
Estate Events Outdoor Bar in Napa, California.

What is your top herb or floral inspired cocktail for summer?

Right now I’m working on strawberry-infused Encanto Pisco cocktail with pineapple gum, lime, and tarragon.  The drink is garnished with pickled red and green strawberry slices. All of the fresh ingredients are in season right now and come from small farms in my area (except the lime). Encanto Pisco is a locally owned brand and the pineapple gum is made here in the Bay Area by Small Hands. This is the kind of cocktail that embraces my personal philosophy of utilizing superior product and embracing what is in season. I recently had to make 850 of these in thirty minutes as guests arrived for the Napa Valley Wine Auction on June 2nd. Chef Francis Mallmann was this year’s visiting chef and there was a South American theme to the entire 2016 event. I didn’t get much sleep the night before!

Cocktails by the pool.

And finally, some go-to base spirits that work well with botanical cocktails?

Definitely the aforementioned St. George Terroir Gin with the notes of Bay Laurel and Douglas fir.  If you find it too intense cut it by 50% with another dry gin. I’m also a huge fan of the Bay Area gins coming from Old World Spirits, Spirit Works, Benham’s, and Distillery 209 for cocktails involving herbs and shrubs. Also try the Sea-Gin from OsCo – amazing stuff! Other great bases for refreshing, citrusy drinks that I like are blanco tequila cut with a touch of mescal (3 to 1), white rum cut with a bit of rum agricole (3 to 1), and high-quality flavored vodkas from Charbay and Hangar One. I would also highly recommend buying “The Flavor Bible” (By Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg) for new ideas on flavor combinations involving herbs and spices – it is an indispensable resource guide.

Beattie’s book is a giant leap for cocktail-kind…the beauty of this book goes way beyond the petal-porn of its edible-flower garnishes. Working through a few of Beattie’s recipes will give you new skills and techniques, so even if you don’t have access to pineapple guavas, you will look at the produce section in a fresh light. 

Artisanal Cocktails is shaping up to become the indispensable cookbook of farm-to-glass cocktails.

Artisinal Cocktails: Drinks inspired by the Seasons From the Bar at Cyrus by Scott Beattie and is available to buy online

Artisanal Cocktails