Why Tomato Is The Seasonal Darling Of The Craft Cocktail World

The Bloody Mary gets top-spot recognition as a tomato-based cocktail. There are many variations, but the recipe traditionally features thick tomato juice and vodka. It also includes a variety of well-known ingredients, like Tabasco, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, and lemon juice. The Old Dame of tomato cocktails is likely here to stay, but don't be fooled by its prominence on bar menus. A new wave of fresher, lighter, and more experimental craft cocktails is emerging from mixologists across the globe — many featuring freshly picked and hand-squeezed seasonal tomatoes.

Liquor.com points out the wide array of tomato varieties available for seasonal cocktails, including fresh cherry tomatoes, acidic tomatillos, and any number of heirloom varieties from organic or local farmer's markets. Since tomatoes are primarily water, they need few additions to bring out the fresh, natural flavors. Small pinches of salt, sugar, pepper, or vinegar do the trick, followed by fresh herbs, citrus, and your choice of spirits. Popular choices include vodka, gin, white rum, or Pisco.

But minimalist craft cocktails aren't the only way to go, especially during the prolific tomato season. Exotic, artistic, and herb-infused versions take tomato craft cocktails to new levels.

Fresh, seasonal tomatoes transform craft cocktails

Craft cocktail venues across America experiment during tomato season, capturing the power-packed flavors from fresh local tomatoes. The Via Vecchia Italian eatery in Portland, Oregon, even serves a Caprese Milk Punch cocktail, featuring tomatoes, dairy, gin, dry vermouth, basil, and white balsamic. The Press Herald calls Via Vecchia, which means "old street" or "the old way" in Italian, a cocktail-forward restaurant with craft cocktails grouped by fresh, savory, and almost classic. Their tomato-infused milk punch cocktail falls into the savory category, following the trend away from the pre-sweetened and salted canned versions.

Today's tomato craft cocktail recipes venture much further afield than the classic Bloody Mary. The Farmer's Cocktail by bartender Jonathan Howard gets adventurous with freshly juiced tomatoes, watermelon, orange liqueur, and the neutral-grain Veev spirit with açaí berries, per Liquor.com. Dozens of farmers and mixologists at the Attack of the Killer Tomato festival in Atlanta, Georgia, create seasonal tomato-based cocktail concoctions, notes HGTV. The Heirloom Reviver cocktail by mixologists Stuart White of Miller Union and Eduardo Guzman of JCT. White mixes Black Krim and Purple Cherokee tomatoes, white tequila, cilantro, and Thai basil for a light, summery seasonal drink.

Another way to capture the essence of fresh-squeezed tomato flavors in cocktails is to incorporate a macerated-tomatoes liqueur, such as the French-made 72 Tomatoes, explains Punch. Regardless of the method and season, Mother Nature's healthy, juicy, and flavorful tomato definitely belongs in your expanded craft cocktail repertoire.