From Garden to Glass

Tastings.com recently sat down with award-winning Chicago mixologist and spirited entrepreneur Adam Seger to talk about the ‘Garden to Glass’ movement sweeping the world of spirits and cocktails. As a Certified Culinary Professional (CCP), Adam offered an inside look at how the movement is zeroing in on freshness and seasonality and convincing consumers to drink like they eat.
Cocktails: From Garden to Glass

Cocktails: From Garden to Glass

Photo Credit: Adam Seger
Adam Seger stops by to discuss the Garden to Glass movement sweeping the world of spirits and cocktails.

What’s your take on the “Garden to Glass” movement?

What’s your take on the “Garden to Glass” movement?

Photo Credit: Tastings.com
I think that mixology trends are really following what happened with chefs. Ten years ago the whole notion of celebrity chefs and TV food networks started and now you're starting to see that happen in mixology. All the things that started with, for instance, Alice Waters first putting the names of farms on menus you're actually starting to see happen on cocktail lists. It's really kind of a whole cocktail movement following what chefs really started.

What do you think is making this movement so popular?

What do you think is making this movement so popular?

Photo Credit: Adam Seger
I think a number of things. One has been the whole explosion of urban farming. You're seeing more and more spaces being repurposed in cities, from rooftop gardens to warehouses. You're also seeing more Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and people starting to go to farmers markets as the alternative way to shop. People educating themselves to shop a little more locally, so I think people are programmed more to seasonality and also to where their food is coming from. As cocktails have grown I think those two trends have started to really come together.

So when someone is thinking about their strawberry margarita, they're thinking a little bit more about 'maybe I'll do this in the summer time' and 'maybe I'll do those strawberries I saw in the Green City Market' or 'maybe I'll get those organic strawberries at Whole Foods.' I think those trends have started to overlap a bit.I always kind of sum it up as 'drink like you eat' and I think people are starting to drink better--they are certainly eating better--and I think those are all starting to converge a bit more.

How is “Garden to Glass” changing bars and restaurants?

How is “Garden to Glass” changing bars and restaurants?

Photo Credit: Adam Seger
I've seen more and more chefs get involved with the bar, more than ever before. I haven't seen a chef-driven restaurant open recently that doesn't have a cocktail program that the chef doesn't have some kind of influence on. So, as these chefs get involved with the bar, inevitably they are opening up their produce orders and some of their more local-specific ingredients to the bar and I think that is helping people to connect food and seasonality and cocktails together.

Chefs have actually started doing what mixologists have been doing and you're seeing more blurring of lines between those two and it makes it more exciting for a consumer to drink fresh. Also, with the movement of craft cocktails or craft spirits it's possible to have fresher ingredients in your cocktails and also possible to have spirits that are made closer to home and closer to where the restaurant is.

Is it growing simply because the cocktails taste so much better?

Is it growing simply because the cocktails taste so much better?

Photo Credit: Tastings.com
Absolutely. The whole thing with people going to farmers markets and joining CSAs and cooking from the garden would not have worked if it didn't taste great.

You look at different food trends where everything was low fat and low this and low that and tasted terrible, and you see those products sort of waning away because at the end of the day if it doesn't taste good then consumers aren't going to come back to it. And you know, once you've had a fresh tomato or you've had basil that was just picked or you have heirloom garlic, it's pretty tough to go backwards to the mass-grown things or something that was ripened on a ship full of nitrogen and picked four months ago.

Does using fresh, local ingredients change the taste of the spirits used?

Does using fresh, local ingredients change the taste of the spirits used?

Photo Credit: Adam Seger
Completely. Just like if you were using local produce or seasonal produce, it always has a much bigger, bolder flavor and in a cocktail you will generally taste the produce more than the spirit. You want to use a good spirit to be the kind of base or enhancer but the produce is really going to kind of drive the flavor of the cocktail.

You can make a drink for someone who may not like hard spirits quite as much but because of the produce used they're really tasting the cucumbers or tomatoes or strawberries or rhubarb or cherries and not as much of what they would consider kind of a hard, distilled spirit. I would have people come in and say 'make me anything you want as long as it doesn't have gin' for example, and I'd always make them a gin cocktail with fresh produce because you wouldn't taste the gin but it would instead act to kind of flavor enhance everything.

Does this approach to cocktails present any challenges to consumers?

Does this approach to cocktails present any challenges to consumers?

Photo Credit: Adam Seger
Absolutely. I think you're seeing less cocktail lists that stay stagnant the whole year and sometimes it's frustrating in the beginning for the consumer. 'Well, why can't I get a strawberry rhubarb mojito right now?' Well, because it's October and the rhubarb has been done for five months and the strawberries are grown somewhere way far away in a greenhouse and it's just not going to taste right, but I can make you an apple rosemary pear mojito that's going to blow your mind, that at the same time wouldn't be that great in the spring because the fruit would have been sitting in cold storage all winter. I think people are starting to learn that.

Any other bartenders that are key players in this movement?

Any other bartenders that are key players in this movement?

Photo Credit: Adam Seger
Bridget Albert has a book called 'Market-Fresh Mixology' that is actually everywhere from Barnes and Noble to upscale houseware shops. She's really been a leader in taking this mainstream. Someone at home can pick up this book and rethink the ways they're making their own cocktails.

Then there's Huckleberry Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn who were one of the first to start growing their own herbs and started their own rooftop garden to use for their cocktails. 20 Hongkong Street in Singapore was really the first in southeast Asia to start growing their own herbs and Calamansi limes for their cocktails. Then on the west coast, Tanzy in Westwood is doing their own herb garden and also going biweekly to the Santa Monica Farmers Market, which is kind of the Carnegie Hall or urban markets.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Photo Credit: Adam Seger
I think the only other kind of comment is, if you look at what trends have happened with food and with chefs and with the whole TV food-networkization of the world, consumers are fascinated with the ways chefs cook and make things. I think that's starting to translate into cocktails and mixology and we're seeing a difference in people who come to bars.

The same entertainment of someone watching a cooking show can be found in a bar. Consumers are realizing they can go to a bar and not only have a great drink but also be entertained in watching these mixologists with fresh herbs and produce and infusions and tinctures and bitters. I always train bartenders to think of the bar as kind of the ultimate exhibition kitchen—it's completely unfiltered. It's possible to have a communication back and forth when with a bartender you can really say 'hey that cocktail looks interesting but I'd really like it with tequila or with pisco or with rum' or 'can you do something with those fresh cherries I see?' It's going to be interesting to see that kind of interaction and relationship develop.

The Plots Continue...

The Plots Continue...

Photo Credit: Adam Seger
Adam is currently developing a book titled "Drink Like You Eat" and will continue to explore and contribute to this growing movement and the impact it has on the world of food and drink.

Cocktails: From Garden to Glass
What’s your take on the “Garden to Glass” movement?
What do you think is making this movement so popular?
How is “Garden to Glass” changing bars and restaurants?
Is it growing simply because the cocktails taste so much better?
Does using fresh, local ingredients change the taste of the spirits used?
Does this approach to cocktails present any challenges to consumers?
Any other bartenders that are key players in this movement?
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The Plots Continue...
From Garden to Glass
Tastings.com recently sat down with award-winning Chicago mixologist and spirited entrepreneur Adam Seger to talk about the ‘Garden to Glass’ movement sweeping the world of spirits and cocktails. As a Certified Culinary Professional (CCP), Adam offered an inside look at how the movement is zeroing in on freshness and seasonality and convincing consumers to drink like they eat.

Cocktails: From Garden to Glass

Cocktails: From Garden to Glass
Photo Credit: Adam Seger
Adam Seger stops by to discuss the Garden to Glass movement sweeping the world of spirits and cocktails.

What’s your take on the “Garden to Glass” movement?

What’s your take on the “Garden to Glass” movement?
Photo Credit: Tastings.com
I think that mixology trends are really following what happened with chefs. Ten years ago the whole notion of celebrity chefs and TV food networks started and now you're starting to see that happen in mixology. All the things that started with, for instance, Alice Waters first putting the names of farms on menus you're actually starting to see happen on cocktail lists. It's really kind of a whole cocktail movement following what chefs really started.

What do you think is making this movement so popular?

What do you think is making this movement so popular?
Photo Credit: Adam Seger
I think a number of things. One has been the whole explosion of urban farming. You're seeing more and more spaces being repurposed in cities, from rooftop gardens to warehouses. You're also seeing more Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and people starting to go to farmers markets as the alternative way to shop. People educating themselves to shop a little more locally, so I think people are programmed more to seasonality and also to where their food is coming from. As cocktails have grown I think those two trends have started to really come together.

So when someone is thinking about their strawberry margarita, they're thinking a little bit more about 'maybe I'll do this in the summer time' and 'maybe I'll do those strawberries I saw in the Green City Market' or 'maybe I'll get those organic strawberries at Whole Foods.' I think those trends have started to overlap a bit.I always kind of sum it up as 'drink like you eat' and I think people are starting to drink better--they are certainly eating better--and I think those are all starting to converge a bit more.

How is “Garden to Glass” changing bars and restaurants?

How is “Garden to Glass” changing bars and restaurants?
Photo Credit: Adam Seger
I've seen more and more chefs get involved with the bar, more than ever before. I haven't seen a chef-driven restaurant open recently that doesn't have a cocktail program that the chef doesn't have some kind of influence on. So, as these chefs get involved with the bar, inevitably they are opening up their produce orders and some of their more local-specific ingredients to the bar and I think that is helping people to connect food and seasonality and cocktails together.

Chefs have actually started doing what mixologists have been doing and you're seeing more blurring of lines between those two and it makes it more exciting for a consumer to drink fresh. Also, with the movement of craft cocktails or craft spirits it's possible to have fresher ingredients in your cocktails and also possible to have spirits that are made closer to home and closer to where the restaurant is.

Is it growing simply because the cocktails taste so much better?

Is it growing simply because the cocktails taste so much better?
Photo Credit: Tastings.com
Absolutely. The whole thing with people going to farmers markets and joining CSAs and cooking from the garden would not have worked if it didn't taste great.

You look at different food trends where everything was low fat and low this and low that and tasted terrible, and you see those products sort of waning away because at the end of the day if it doesn't taste good then consumers aren't going to come back to it. And you know, once you've had a fresh tomato or you've had basil that was just picked or you have heirloom garlic, it's pretty tough to go backwards to the mass-grown things or something that was ripened on a ship full of nitrogen and picked four months ago.

Does using fresh, local ingredients change the taste of the spirits used?

Does using fresh, local ingredients change the taste of the spirits used?
Photo Credit: Adam Seger
Completely. Just like if you were using local produce or seasonal produce, it always has a much bigger, bolder flavor and in a cocktail you will generally taste the produce more than the spirit. You want to use a good spirit to be the kind of base or enhancer but the produce is really going to kind of drive the flavor of the cocktail.

You can make a drink for someone who may not like hard spirits quite as much but because of the produce used they're really tasting the cucumbers or tomatoes or strawberries or rhubarb or cherries and not as much of what they would consider kind of a hard, distilled spirit. I would have people come in and say 'make me anything you want as long as it doesn't have gin' for example, and I'd always make them a gin cocktail with fresh produce because you wouldn't taste the gin but it would instead act to kind of flavor enhance everything.

Does this approach to cocktails present any challenges to consumers?

Does this approach to cocktails present any challenges to consumers?
Photo Credit: Adam Seger
Absolutely. I think you're seeing less cocktail lists that stay stagnant the whole year and sometimes it's frustrating in the beginning for the consumer. 'Well, why can't I get a strawberry rhubarb mojito right now?' Well, because it's October and the rhubarb has been done for five months and the strawberries are grown somewhere way far away in a greenhouse and it's just not going to taste right, but I can make you an apple rosemary pear mojito that's going to blow your mind, that at the same time wouldn't be that great in the spring because the fruit would have been sitting in cold storage all winter. I think people are starting to learn that.

Any other bartenders that are key players in this movement?

Any other bartenders that are key players in this movement?
Photo Credit: Adam Seger
Bridget Albert has a book called 'Market-Fresh Mixology' that is actually everywhere from Barnes and Noble to upscale houseware shops. She's really been a leader in taking this mainstream. Someone at home can pick up this book and rethink the ways they're making their own cocktails.

Then there's Huckleberry Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn who were one of the first to start growing their own herbs and started their own rooftop garden to use for their cocktails. 20 Hongkong Street in Singapore was really the first in southeast Asia to start growing their own herbs and Calamansi limes for their cocktails. Then on the west coast, Tanzy in Westwood is doing their own herb garden and also going biweekly to the Santa Monica Farmers Market, which is kind of the Carnegie Hall or urban markets.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Photo Credit: Adam Seger
I think the only other kind of comment is, if you look at what trends have happened with food and with chefs and with the whole TV food-networkization of the world, consumers are fascinated with the ways chefs cook and make things. I think that's starting to translate into cocktails and mixology and we're seeing a difference in people who come to bars.

The same entertainment of someone watching a cooking show can be found in a bar. Consumers are realizing they can go to a bar and not only have a great drink but also be entertained in watching these mixologists with fresh herbs and produce and infusions and tinctures and bitters. I always train bartenders to think of the bar as kind of the ultimate exhibition kitchen—it's completely unfiltered. It's possible to have a communication back and forth when with a bartender you can really say 'hey that cocktail looks interesting but I'd really like it with tequila or with pisco or with rum' or 'can you do something with those fresh cherries I see?' It's going to be interesting to see that kind of interaction and relationship develop.

The Plots Continue...

The Plots Continue...
Photo Credit: Adam Seger
Adam is currently developing a book titled "Drink Like You Eat" and will continue to explore and contribute to this growing movement and the impact it has on the world of food and drink.