The tasty fruit shouldn’t just be reserved for Bloody Marys
STORY: Angela Hansberger
PHOTO: Erik Meadows, Brett Ferencz
The summertime thrill of slicing a vine-ripe tomato is a catalyst for poetry. They arrive in abundance and burst with color and lush flavor. Both juicy and fresh, their bewitching curves and delicious pulp taste of the earth. Their flavor is easily enhanced by a pinch of salt, providing that elusive umami flavor (the complex savoriness characteristic of foods such as mushrooms, Parmesan cheese and meaty broths) other fruits do not. So why not enjoy their essence in a glass, too, and give your cocktail a fresh-from-the-garden herbaceousness?
In honor of tomato season, and the annual Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival taking place on July 14, where more than 50 of the city’s top chefs and bartenders will pair with area farms to create imaginative tomato-centric dishes and libations, we share how the humble fruit isn’t just for salads and sauces, but for a range of tasty cocktails as well.
Biltong Bar beverage director Sean Gleason is mixing with tomatoes again this year. He’s known for his Swallow My Vine, which he calls “needlessly complicated.” He first uses a centrifuge to clarify heirloom tomato paste, sundried tomatoes and Green Chartreuse liqueur. He shakes the resulting mixture with London dry gin, housemade tomato and coconut syrups, lime juice and bitters, and serves it in a coupe with a fresh curry leaf for garnish and additional aromatics. “The tomato is one of the few ingredients that combines both high acid and a deep underlying umami character,” says Gleason. “It lets you craft drinks that are super bright, fresh and vegetal, while having complex depth and savory accents.”
At King + Duke, beverage director Clarke Anderson adds an extra splash of summer to a Gin and Tonic with the enhancement of tangy-sweet Sungold tomatoes. He uses Bristow gin, flush with lemon peel and coriander aromatics, and stirs it with the bracing fizz of tonic, orange bitters and fresh tomatoes, then garnishes it with a basil leaf for further flavor and fragrance. The cherry-sized Sungolds bob in the effervescence. It’s a little bit of garden magic in a glass.
You can easily capture the essence of two quintessential summer fruits at home with a Watermelon Tomato Margarita (recipe above). The base of tequila plays well with tomatoes to make a clean-tasting refresher, and the watermelon rounds out the sweetness for a balance that is both juicy and fresh in a glass. It can easily be mixed in advance and served from a drink dispenser or large pitcher. Remember to stir often to keep ingredients combined.
2 ounces watermelon-tomato juice (see recipe below)
1 ½ ounces tequila
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
¾ ounce simple syrup (see directions below)
Pinch of salt
Basil for garnish
1 ½ pounds watermelon, cubed
1 pound ripe tomatoes, quartered
For simple syrup, warm up equal parts sugar and water and stir until sugar is dissolved. To make watermelon-tomato juice, combine watermelon and tomato in blender or in a bowl with a hand blender. Purée until smooth. Pour through fine mesh strainer into bowl. Combine with tequila, lime juice, simple syrup and salt in a cocktail mixer or large glass filled with ice. Stir to chill and combine. Garnish with sprig of basil.
306 Buckhead Ave.
King + Duke
3060 Peachtree Rd. N.W.
Drinks columnist at Simply Buckhead. Food, spirits, and culture writer.