How feasible is the ‘foraged cocktails’ trend?

9th January, 2015 by admin

Michelin-starred restaurants have foraged for ingredients for years, but now bartenders are taking a leaf from their cookbooks and discovering the practice for themselves, as Tom Aske reports.

Foraged-cocktails

The trend of foraged mixology has grown in popularity along with the rise in organic food

Foraging, or the practice of gathering wild food, dates back as far as the hunter-gatherer and despite its current renaissance, for quite some time it was left in the wilderness (sorry). Somewhere along the way this practice had become lost, with convenience replacing quality.

Now, the ability to trace food right back to its source has gained popularity, with ‘organic’ becoming the new buzzword by which the informed consumer makes their purchasing decisions. Developments in the restaurant scene with award-winning venues such as Noma pushing the “field to table” movement have been a natural inspiration to bartenders and brands alike.

Lynton Davidson, of The Botanist Islay Dry Gin, has been working on driving foraging within mixology for the last few years. “When we sat down and began to ask ourselves what was at the heart of our philosophy, we realised it was a sense of place, a connection to our island home, and a sense of creativity and play,” he explains. It is this idea of spontaneous creative freedom that’s really encouraging bartenders and chefs to rummage through nature’s back country for menu inspiration.

Unrivalled freshness

It’s easy to see the benefits of foraging within mixology; an ingredient’s unrivalled freshness of course being the most obvious. The ability for a bar to associate its surroundings with the ingredients listed within its menu creates authenticity and attention to detail. It creates an association between the drink and the guest whereby they can visualise its origins. This visualisation is something perhaps natural to country-folk but for those that take the Central Line through London, this notion of origin becomes slightly more blurred.

The passion for freshness is already global, with Emil Åreng, head bartender at Open/Closed in Umeå, Sweden, creating concoctions such as Camouflage, using foraged meadowsweet, spruce and birch. The drinks may take pride of place on the new bar’s menu, but he is very wary of disclosing the precious locations of his prized ingredients.

One Response to “How feasible is the ‘foraged cocktails’ trend?”

  1. Monica Wilde says:

    While it’s great that chefs and bartenders go foraging (“a roving in search of provisions”) it’s hard to see how it could become a feasible day-to-day commerciality unless restaurants and bars subcontract the foraging. There are several ‘wild food’ supply companies around now of varying quality. This is no longer foraging and foraged food, it is about purchased, traded, supplied commodities. There are differences.

    Firstly when you forage yourself, you are very aware of the freshness and purity of what you harvest – after all you are about to eat it. You also pick sustainably as you hope to return year after year. Unfortunately once foraged food becomes a commodity, the pressures of supplying a contract can override these priorities. I have seen areas stripped bare by people supplying restaurants.

    Secondly, once you infuse a plant in alcohol you are not just making a cocktail. You are also making a medicinal tincture or extract, often with quite a powerful action. Most wild plants have medicinal properties and many have alcohol-soluble toxins. So in the rage to come up with the newest “oldest” ingredient bartenders also need to brush up on their phytochemistry – least their happy consumers get more than they bargained for!

    Happy Foraging!
    Monica Wilde
    Forager and Research Herbalist

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