Sweeten your everyday!

Produce Pulse: A Savory Salute

Produce Pulse: A Savory Salute

I used to fancy myself a sweet drink kind of girl. I know, I know. Sugary and ultra-fruity cocktails are reminiscent of 21st birthdays and toxic hangovers. Trust me, I’ve been there.

As my palate has evolved, so has my affinity for stronger-tasting cocktails. I began drinking gin and tonics (with extra lime, of course) on my nights out with coworkers and friends. Boring? Yes. Quick buzz? Double yes.

I found myself in a state of limbo—wanting to be kind to my stomach, but also wanting to thoroughly enjoy the experience. Luckily, the cross between culinary excellence and craft cocktails caught fire in the United States, making for one produce-forward trend I can gladly get behind: savory cocktails.

My first encounter with such a drink was when I paid a visit to a local Sacramento, California, speakeasy, The Roost. On the menu were two cocktails in particular that caught my eye. I had heard whispers of savory cocktails circling in the industry, so when I spotted a drink with Japanese whiskey, Benedictine—an herbal liqueur—and The Roost’s signature Umami Bitters, my interest was piqued.

Dubbed the MSG Soundsystem, this drink encapsulated everything I love about a produce-forward cocktail without the unnecessary sweetness. The finishing taste was reminiscent of a light and airy herbal appetizer, rounded out with brilliant notes of umami I imagine would pair well with a number of savory entrees.

Next was the Mela—made with gin, Parmesan-infused Vermouth, apple, rosemary, and black pepper. While I would typically think of apple flavors as sweet, this drink was buoyed by the nuttiness of Parmesan and brought home by the familiar taste of rosemary and pepper. And just like that, a savory cocktail fanatic was born!

Mixologists across the world have been leaning into this trend with a wide array of applications. New York’s Jac’s on Bond cocktail bar has become famous for its Caprese Martini, crafted with an olive oil-, tomato-, and basil-infused vodka with Lustau blanco and balsamic vinegar. Outside the States, Hong Kong’s The Savory Project serves drinks featuring ingredients such as charred corn husks, leeks, and Shiitake mushrooms.

The opportunities to highlight such diverse flavor combinations abound at foodservice, but I can also see this trend taking off in home kitchens. Retailers might consider merchandising savory produce items like tomatoes and mushrooms near popular spirits. Because if there is one thing I’ve learned in this industry, it is that consumers never want to stop exploring. 

Produce Pulse: A Savory Salute