“I’m a sucker for pop culture when it comes to naming my drinks,” says mixologist, Marc Caballero of Sprig. And the names of his concoctions are as imaginative as the ingredients. Saturday he introduced a small class to summer cocktails he created himself just for Sprig.
Sprig is an Oak Grove neighborhood restaurant and bar that focuses on fresh ingredients from as close by as possible. Sometimes produce comes from a farmer or school just down the road or their own garden. For locally sourced eateries, the bill of fare is constantly changing. Menus reflect the latest summer crop of vegetables and fruit. Since fresh produce changes quickly, often the best food of the day will be found on the chalkboard.
Even cocktails menus are changing, with additions of fresh herbs and fruit. The class this weekend was an opportunity to show off four new creations.
- Pretty in Pink—Benedictine, Ethereal gin, bitters, fresh raspberries, simple syrup, bitters and a White IPA beer.
- Bridge over Troubled Watermelon—Cathead Vodka, Suze, Agave nectar, lemon juice, freshly juiced watermelon.
- The Experience—fresh blueberries, rhubarb bitters, fresh basil leaves, simple syrup, Luxardo Maraschino , Hendrix gin.
- Belle of the Ball—Belle Meade Bourbon, Amaro, simple syrup, bitters.
Marc is very particular about ingredients and I may have missed the exact brand he’s selected for each drink. Trust me. Not just any gin will do for his special creations! And he adds an unexpected layer of flavor with a variety of bitters. I’m a novice, so Angostura Bitters, made from gentian, was the only kind I’d ever seen. Marc introduced me to several and talked about making some of his own.
The drinks were all good, but what impresses me most is the amount of time it takes to individually prepare each drink. Large fruits are juiced. Small herbs and berries are muddled by hand. Each Belle of the Ball has a large, specially prepared, round ice cube with rose, mint and peach inside, which slowly melts to add even more flavor to the drink. Drinks this complicated–while still serving customers quickly–means committing to a level of bar service and staffing that’s above average.
In addition cocktails, we were treated to appetizers that show off the menu.
- Fried Green tomatoes, sliced thick with a crispy cornmeal crust and served with organic baby greens and strawberry-rhubarb vinaigrette
- Calamari with house-made grape tomato and corn salad
- Pimento Cheese on crostini, garnished with bacon
When I asked on Twitter (@Foodgodtess) what I should taste at Sprig, the overwhelming response: pimento cheese! I’ve never been a fan of this southern staple, but Sprig’s could change my mind. They use both white and sharp yellow cheddar, a light hand with the mayonnaise, and smoke their pimentos. Tasty!
Sprig’s menu changes quarterly with the seasons, so these cocktail classes happen about four times a year. Marc is also working on a list of cocktails for a soon-to-open Lilburn restaurant, 1910 Public House.
Located in the Vista Grove Shopping center, Sprig has been open since fall of 2010. Their tag line is “Eat Fresh. Eat Local.”