Libations

A Chat with Bridget Albert

David McCowan

May 19 2014 - 10:41 AM

Spiced Beet CocktailDid this week’s book review convince you to grab a few ingredients for your bar on your next trip to the farmers market?

If you’re still holding out, maybe today’s interview will convince you to get in on the fun. Chicago Foodies recently chatted with Bridget Albert – Chicago-based bartender and co-author of Market Fresh Mixology: Cocktails for Every Season – to get her thoughts on seasonal cocktail crafting.

Our edited conversation follows, but first you may want to fix yourself a drink. One of Albert’s favorites from the book – and one our favorite’s too – is the spiced beet cocktail. Get the full recipe here.

Chicago Foodies: We’re always curious to hear how bartenders create. What’s your process?

Bridget Albert: This depends. Sometimes I find inspiration within a spirit and sometimes it may be a song that I hear on the radio. Many times I am inspired by Mother Nature!

CF: Do you think first about flavor combinations and let the nuts and bolts come later, or do you start with a classic formula, tweaking it to make it unique?

BA: I first start with flavors that play nice together. And then I like to push the taste and see how much I can make each individual flavor pop!

CF: It’s often said we drink our eyes first and your book does a great job of keeping us thirsty with a wide range of appetizing colors that pop. What’s the secret to brightening up drinks that often start with boring brown whiskey or clear gin?

BA: It is fine to drink a brown drink. Many times these are high spirited cocktails or classics. The color then typically comes from the garnish.  With a clear spirit, the world is your oyster! You can make a cocktail both colorful and tasty with fruits such as blood orange, prickly pear or even rhubarb. This just depends on what is in season.

Market-Fresh Mixology coverCF: Farmers markets are opening any day now with the earliest offerings of spring. What’s the first thing you rush out to pick up?

BA: In the spring time I love to grab herbs and berries as we move into summer melons! Watermelons are simply awesome in cocktails and they taste like summertime!

CF: Space in the city can be tight and many like me are limited to growing a few things in pots on the back porch. What do you suggest for essentials of a home garden?

BA: Be practical and start simple. Urban gardening can be fun. Use a strawberry pot for your herbs. And try to grow veggies like tomatoes and onions in pots. Yum!

CF: You’ve managed to make cocktails that use carrot, beet, radish and avocado. Is there an ingredient that, try as you might, just never quite worked?

BA: Not yet! I love my veggies. The key is to trust your taste buds. Use what you like. The worst you can do is make a bad cocktail.

CF: As a Chicagoan in the bartending scene, you know this town. Where do you go for your Cocktails for Every Season?

BA: Scofflaw does an amazing job of seasonal cocktails! Go there and ask for Uby or Dan. Tell them I sent you!

Photo of Bridget Albert courtesy of bridgetalbert.com. Photo of the Spiced Beet Cocktail courtesy of Agate Publishing.

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