We live in a world now where you can get any ingredients from all over the world and any time of the year. But how good would it be if you could get all the ingredients you want for your cocktail just around the corner of your bar?
Historically we have been getting our food and water close to where we live to save energy we desperately needed to survive. There weren’t many cities back then, of course, but even the city center of Amsterdam was (and is) a source of fresh and original ingredients. Unfortunately, throughout the centuries, we have lost most of our knowledge of those locally grown products.
In recent years, chefs and restaurant owners worldwide have been looking more and more into regaining this knowledge of locally sourced and foraged ingredients. They have embraced the foraging concept and get their local ingredients from the woods and the forage in the proximity of their establishments. If it works in the kitchen, it should definitely work in the bar for your cocktails.
What to be aware of when you want to use locally sourced ingredients
There are some important things you have to take into account when you go foraging. First of all, if you don’t know what you are doing, always check with an expert. Never go foraging without knowledge; many plants can be poisonous.
Secondly, foraging should always be done with respect for the environment. Don’t take away all the herbs and plants from one spot. Make sure you don’t ruin the woods or parks you forage in. Ask permission from the council if you want to forage in a city park. If you stick to these rules, you are ready to go!
Just around the corner
There are many great spots to source ingredients, even around the corner of your bar in a busy city center. The Bols Bartending team took this statement to the test and, with the guidance of an expert, started to look for ingredients in the proximity of the Bols Bartending Academy.
At the Paulus Potterstraat in Amsterdam, just five meters from the main entrance of the House of Bols, you found our first treasure, chickweed, which can be used as a replacement for lettuce in salads. Walking on, we found rosehips, sea buckthorn, eucalyptus, and passion plant in the P.C Hooftstraat. All berries and plants you can use the leaves, berries, and branches of in your drinks. Lots of plants and trees have parts you can eat and give great flavor.
Some examples of ingredients that urban
Of course, we know there are differences in the different cities in the world, but there are some ingredients you might not expect to be edible and great cocktail ingredients that grow just around the corner of your house. They are great to use in syrups, infusions, bitters, etc. Here are some examples of ingredients that grow in cities and make great ingredients—Roses, dandelions, cattails, nettles, acorns, chickweed, elderflower, and much more. We stress that before you start foraging, you research and ask an expert, but then the fun can begin!
If you don’t want to leave the house (or bar)
If you are not that adventurous or don’t have the time, you can quite easily grow some amazing ingredients at home or in your bar. Ingredients like straw- and raspberry, for instance, are not too difficult to grow at home. As well as lemons, limes, and mandarins. All it takes is some time and love. You can grow lemons, for instance, from the seeds of organically grown lemons. Plant them in early spring, and they will sprout after a couple of months. Then, in three to four years, you will have beautiful lemons!
A faster-growing herb is red pepper. Put the seeds of red pepper in wet tissue and let it sprout. After a couple of weeks, you will see a little plant growing from the seeds, and this is the time to plant them in soil. Most of the red pepper plants are two-year plants. They grow very fast, and in the first year, they will already give you quite some peppers. The second year is when you can really harvest them. Make sure that at the end of summer, you start sprouting the seeds of one of the last peppers of your plant again since your old plant will probably die after two years.
We have grown quite some of our own ingredients like lemons, limes, pomegranates, passionfruits, red peppers, mint, and rosemary at the Bols Bartending Academy.
Our personal favorite of the foraging trip was sweet cicely—a plant in the celery family with an amazing taste reminiscent of anise. The leaves and roots of the plants are edible. We used a 50% abv neutral grain spirit to make an infusion out of this that tasted amazing!
Another ingredient we managed to make with locally sourced ingredients was an elixir of Bols Genever, with sea buckthorn and angelica root-infused honey. Both the sea buckthorn and the angelica root have foraged locally.
This is just one example of some great products made with foraged ingredients. So if you want to make an exciting and surprising cocktail menu, reach out to a local botanist or foraging expert and start creating.
Just around the Corner Cocktail
50 ml Bols Genever Original
10 ml Sea Buckthorn
Angelica root elixir
5 ml Sweet Cicely Tincture
2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
- Put all ingredients in a stirring glass.
- Stir for twenty seconds and strain into a pre-chilled old-fashioned glass.
- Garnish with a dried daisy.
Want to learn how to make your own shrubs, bitters, tinctures & syrups? Visit the Bols cocktail inspiration page.