Garden-to-glass mixology is made approachable and easy in San Diego, where the seasonal bounty of fresh produce and locally made products provides delightful ingredients to create cocktails with year-round. While the summer months are a fun time to shake up bright and refreshing sips, the approach of autumn also calls for cozy, grounding beverages. Finding a balance between brightness and warmth is an ideal way to capture the essence of our extended summer and the flavors that thrive during this time.
Stone fruit is a star of summer, though its short-lived seasonality requires some resourcefulness in order to sustain these flavors into the fall. Shrubs, or drinking vinegars, date back to the 17th century as a way to preserve fruits in the off-season without refrigeration. Preparing a shrub—which is a relatively simple combo of fruit + sweetener + vinegar — with seasonal fruit like nectarines, peaches, or berries, extends the shelf life of summer flavors and brings balance between acidity and bright fruity sweetness in cocktails. This Stone Fruit in Session cocktail, which can be easily made ahead of time, also has a low ABV, making it perfect for daytime drinking at a park picnic or backyard gathering. Shrubs are great to use in non-alcoholic drinks as well. For an elevated zero-proof beverage, simply combine with sparkling water or, for an extra probiotic kick, opt for a botanical soda like OLIPOP or a local kombucha from Babe or Superfood & Company.
Early autumn is all about pears and apples and it’s almost as if the cool crispness of the changing weather is packed into each bite. Both match nicely with warm spices resemblant of fall, so it's possible to create a drink that is equally refreshing for late summer with hints of the changing season. The overall medicinal and antioxidant benefits of ginger and cinnamon make this Spiced Pear Collins a satisfying September sipper that will help build up your immunity for the cold season.
Oh, glorious figs, here at last! Since seasonal availability is limited, figs are a definite go-to for cocktails. With several varieties and flavor profiles, there are many concoctions to create with them. Black mission figs are readily available, rich with berry-tinged sweetness, making these gems perfect for creating a drink featuring the earthy warming spices of fall like cloves or cardamom. Figs are packed with healthy minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron, plus fiber and antioxidants. Paired with the herbal and botanical notes of Amaro Nonino, which has hints of delicate spice, orange, and cinnamon, this spirit-forward Figaro cocktail makes for a decadently cozy autumnal nightcap.
When it comes to selecting spirits to mix with, San Diego is fast becoming a great area for sustainably produced options made with locally sourced botanicals. Two of the most progressive sustainable distilleries to come on the scene in the last few years, Misadventure & Co. and ReBru Spirits, offer quality gin and vodka options that are better for the planet and taste delicious! Other local distilleries to check out include Old Harbor, Seven Caves, and Malahat, which all produce excellent quality spirits.
1 ounce Lillet blanc*
¾ ounce vodka
1 ounce Stone Fruit Shrub
¼ ounce honey, warmed (optional)
½ ounce lemon juice
¾ ounce chamomile team
Sparkling water like Topo Chico
Add all ingredients to a shaker tin with ice and shake until chilled. Pour into a Collins glass over ice. Top with sparkling water. Garnish with a dehydrated peach or nectarine slice.
*Can't find Lillet blanc? Switch out club soda for sparkling wine instead.
Make a Stone Fruit Shrub
Slice 1 each peach and nectarine into 1-inch cubes. Heat 1 cup of water with ½ cup of cane sugar and 2 tablespoons of honey to combine. Add in the fruit and simmer until soft. Macerate the fruit into the mixture, strain, and allow liquid to cool. Add 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar and 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and shake to combine. Store and refrigerate in an airtight container to use for up to 6 months.
1 ½ ounces gin
1 ounce pear purée
1 ounce Julian apple cider
¾ ounce ginger tea (infuse overnight with a few sprigs of thyme)
¼ ounce lemon
Add all ingredients to a shaker tin with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a Collins glass over ice. Top with sparkling water. Garnish with a nutmeg and cinnamon sugar rim and a pear slice.
1 ounce bourbon
¾ ounce Amaro Nonino
½ ounce roasted Mission Figs Syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into an old fashioned glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with a pinch of ground cardamom.
ROASTED FIGS SYRUP
Preheat oven to 350°. Cut 5 figs in half and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. Roast for 40 minutes, saving the released juices and syrup. Blend figs and juices into a purée and strain. Use within 1 week for optimal taste and freshness.
These recipes are intended for those 21+. Please drink responsibly.
Originally published in Edible San Diego Magazine, No. 63, Fall 2021.