Miami Bartenders Grow Their Own
by galena mosovich
Miami bars are going beyond farm-to-table and tending their own gardens, growing fresh herbs, flowers, and other ingredients for their haute creations.
Magic City Swizzle cocktail at The Broken Shaker, made with herbs just picked from the garden.
Herbaceous is a buzzword in the cocktail community that’s growing as fast as the aromatic gems it describes. A select group of bartenders in Miami, along with one chef, have actually created on-site gardens, bringing their passion to life with their own hands. April is the best month of the year to taste the fruits of their labor—literally and figuratively.
At The Broken Shaker (2727 Indian Creek Dr., Miami Beach, 305-531-2727), the inventory of the garden rivals that of the premium spirits found on the back bar. Lush, tropical landscaping showcases fragrant stems of rosemary, sage, lavender, oregano, tarragon, shiso, chives, and various kinds of mint that surround the courtyard of this bohemian playground.
Co-owner Gabriel Orta stresses that there’s more to this garden than meets the eye. “The aesthetics only satisfy one of our senses. The goal with every cocktail is to touch them all,” he says as he grabs a handful of lemon verbena. According to Orta, it adds a subtle combination of lemon and mint that never overpowers. Herbs like this and other homegrown treasures, such as nasturtium (edible flowers), lemon, lime, orange, star fruit, mango, papaya, and banana are used to complement the drink recipes.
Julie Frans, the executive chef of Essensia Restaurant + Lounge (3025 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-908-5458) at the Palms Hotel & Spa, says the garden tells her when it’s time for a specific drink. Every day, she spends time in the plot she built by the pool in order to eye the freshest, most seasonal ingredients for her restaurant’s bar (and kitchen). The Kaffir lime tree is a consistent standout that helps Frans and her bartenders craft the Kaffir lime drop cocktail, a signature drink featuring garden-picked lime leaf, Tru Garden vodka, egg white, and fresh ginger syrup. The scented leaves from the lime tree taste like spices, celery, dill, cumin, and pink peppercorns. After muddling them thoroughly, the other ingredients are added to make what is one of the most refreshing martinis in Miami. “It’s nice to keep it like a secret garden,” adds Frans.
The rooftop of The Redbury hotel is home to the fresh herbs for Lorenzo (1776 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 786-483-1796), an Italian restaurant owned by chef Tony Mantuano. Basil, mint, and rosemary are grown for cocktails created by Michael Jack Pazdon from Napa Valley’s Goose & Gander. His Tazza di Suolo (or “Cup of Earth,” featuring Amaro Averna, mixed citrus, rosemary, Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao, ginger beer, and bitters) is a garden-party-style cocktail to bring waves of earthy, herbal flavors to the table. The rosemary is rubbed before it hits the liquid, releasing pungent oils that add unparalleled complexity.
On the other side of the bridge, mint is the most popular herb. It covers the walls of Blackbird Ordinary’s (729 SW First Ave., Miami, 305-671-3307) expansive outdoor patio on the edge of Brickell. Owner Dan Binkiewicz and bar manager Fraser Hamilton call it the “edible wall” because guests walk right up to it and pick leaves to eat. While this gets in the way of their scheduled harvests, they say it makes them smile to see people engaging with the bar’s fresh ingredients.
photography by gary james