Farmers' Market Cocktails: Good. Zucchini Cocktails: Bad.
There was a cocktail article over the weekend in the Chronicle called "Bars looking for more niches in cocktail lists." If not a good article, it was at least well-intentioned. I'm not sure what point the piece was trying to make, as the topics discussed have been floating around for several years, at least.
Maybe it could have been a little more focused. For instance, if it was saying, "is it okay for bars like Heaven's Dog to not carry things like Coke or cranberry juice to satisfy their customers?"--that's a conversation worth having. Likewise, there was good, if familiar, stuff from Thad Vogler. His Bar Agricole, due sometime at the end of the year, is poised to make a big splash. But his list at Camino also made some noise with drinks that he and the owners wanted "to pay as much homage to the farm-to-table movement as the food." Consequently the "cocktails, which are nameless and described only by their ingredients, are made with seasonal produce and herbs." So you can't just go and ask for a Cosmo or a Corpse Reviver there--you have to order off the list. (Tip: if you're really jonesing for a margarita at Camino, don't ask for it by name, because it's probably not on the list. Just hope they have local limes in, and try asking for an "agave spirit, lime, and orange liqueur beverage" and they might respond favorably.)
By the way, I'm cool with bars not stocking Coke or cran, but when it comes to limes and lemons, I say, you gotta have it. Of course the more fresh, local ingredients you can use, the better. In fact, this is the best time to be doing it, as the farmers' markets are brimming with good stuff. However, there are limits of good taste when it comes to these ingredients. Take the zucchini.
Zucchinis must be really easy to grow, because they've taken over practically every stall at the markets like pigeons on an old church. I can't say that zucchinis--ever bland and often mushy--do much for me as food. But as cocktails--even less. Thus, it was with a bit of a sour face that I tried out Food Network host Claire Robinson's (who?) recipe for the Zucchini Tini, which I found reprinted in the Seattle Times. Let's just say that "insipid" is too kind a word.
Let's just say that there's much better stuff at the markets to be working with right now. Just last night at Cantina, I was shaking with Frog Hollow peaches (with Pisco and basil) and Dirty Girl tomatoes (with Hendricks gin). Delicious.