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Savory Cocktails Are Trending in the Hudson Valley

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The current trend in cocktails is decidedly less sweet. Drinks with savory ingredients—think tequila infused with hot peppers and goat cheese martinis—are all the rage right now.

Mixologists are trading sugary mixers and fruity garnishes for ingredients that are salty, spicy, and umami. “As craft cocktailing has grown in popularity, more and more bar programs are experimenting with flavors that you would traditionally see in the kitchen,” says Trudy Steier, head of the cocktail programs at Savoy Taproom and The Copper Crow in Albany. She says diners are looking for more of an experience when they hit the town—and an unusual combination is “going to leave more of a lasting memory than a vodka cranberry.”

It’s easy to experiment at home. Gin pairs well with fermented sauces, peppers, and vegetal flavors; mezcal and tequila both work well with hot peppers and smoked ingredients; bourbon is complemented by mushrooms, miso, and anything umami; and vodka’s neutral taste makes it ideal for infusing any type of flavor. Some of Steier’s go-to combos: A vodka martini with a mix of pickle and pepperoncini brine and a dash of tabasco, a blanco tequila with beet and dill, and a gin sour with gochujang and citrus.

A dirty martini—typically made with gin or vodka, vermouth, and a splash of olive brine—is a classic that’s getting a revamp. Rhinebeck’s Pretty to Think So serves up The M, made with goat cheese, and the dirty pickle martini is a hit at Goodnight Kenny, a bar in Poughkeepsie.

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Not sure what to pair with what? Amanda Baker, bar manager at Troy’s Nighthawks, says “the best bartenders seek inspiration from every source, including their favorite foods, a walk through the farmers market, and trying new spices.” For more ideas, take a look at cookbooks—Steier and Baker recommend The Flavor Bible by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen J. Page.

Savory cocktails can be enjoyed just like any other drink—on their own or paired with food. “They can be awesome complements to food; attention should just be paid to how the flavors may interact,” says Madeline Dillon, bar director at Pretty to Think So. Steier suggests sipping a drink with tangy and fermented flavors when eating meat, and pairing veggie-forward dishes with a more herbal drink. “A martini with tomato or burrata water would probably be delicious,” she says.


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