Banish mediocre cocktail toppers with the help of these new products.
Each is made with local fruits and vegetables, and worthy of the finest Manhattans, Bloody Marys and martinis.
Mess Hall & Co.'s Bar Cherries: Scented with vanilla, peppercorns, cinnamon and star anise, these cherries ($10) imbue a Manhattan with a touch of spice. Part of a new line of preserves from the chef of In Fine Spirits, Marianne Sundquist, they're packed in spice-rich bourbon and cherry juice, which merits some mixing of its own. We have plans to shake her apple-rum butter ($10)--spiked with Wisconsin's Cane & Abe Freshwater Rum--into a cocktail, too. Available at In Fine Spirits, 5418 N. Clark St.; 773-506-9463 or infinespirits.com
Scrumptious Pantry's Pickled Peppers: These organic, Wisconsin-grown heirloom chile peppers ($9) have a slow but potent burn, having been packed in a simple brine of coriander, pepper and bay. Use them to garnish a Bloody Mary, or purée them into the cocktail's base in place of hot sauce. The company's new pickled lemon cucumbers ($9) have us thinking of booze as well; one bite, and we were craving a gin martini, with a lemongrass-scented spear on the side. Order the pickles online or find them at Provenance Food & Wine, City Provisions and Dill Pickle Food Co-op.