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5 Tips: Spring Cocktails

After months and months of Hot Toddy weather, spring finally starts today! It’s time to break out of your winter rut by fixing a new set of cocktails featuring a range of delicious seasonal ingredients.

We can’t think of a more beautiful place to be than in Washington, D.C., with its famous cherry blossoms in bloom. So we turned to one of the city’s finest bartenders, Todd Thrasher, who runs the drinks programs at six different establishments in nearby Alexandria, Va., including PX, Restaurant Eve and the new rock-‘n-roll-inspired TNT, for his secrets to creating spring concoctions.


Think Produce, Not Spirits:

Many mixologists talk about putting away the brown spirits and switching to the clear ones in warm weather, but the fact is that both Scotch and gin taste the same in December as they do in July. Instead, focus on what’s truly in season: fruits and vegetables like grapefruits, pomelos, strawberries and rhubarb. “Once it’s really coming out of the ground and not [from] hydroponic farms or hothouses, it’s so much better,” Thrasher says.

Fresh Herbs are Better:

While you can certainly get fresh herbs year-round, Thrasher says they’re at their most flavorful right now. He particularly likes featuring different basil and thyme varieties in his creations. Try his savory Thymes Like These recipe that calls for gin, sweet vermouth and a house-made thyme-lime mixture.

Go Raw:

Strawberries are some of the season’s first fruits and are often turned into shrubs and syrups for drinks. Just be careful: “Cooking changes their flavor,” Thrasher says. His Strawberry Smash (pictured above) incorporates a mix of strawberries, basil, sugar and lemon juice that he crushes with his hands and allows to macerate, drawing out its essence into a tasty liquid that doesn’t require heat.

Use Your Blender:

Raw rhubarb juice is a fantastic cocktail ingredient, but the stalk’s fibrous texture wreaks havoc on electric juicers. Thrasher’s solution is to puree it in a blender with water, lemon and sugar, and then strain. Inspired by a Restaurant Eve dish combining rhubarb and olives, he uses this mixture in a clever take on the Dirty Martini that he calls the I Have an Idea, Let Me Make You a Cocktail.

Try Valencia Oranges:

Most citrus varieties peak in the winter, but these sweet and juicy specimens are at their best in late spring. Thrasher likes to roast both peel and fruit until caramelized to form a burnt-orange syrup that pairs beautifully with bourbon, as in his Oh My God Maria’s Leg is on Fire.

Thymes Like These

Contributed by Todd Thrasher

  • 1 oz Citadelle Gin
  • 1 oz Coccchi Americano
  • 1.5 oz Thyme-Lime Mixture*
  • 1 dash Kaffir lime bitters
  • Glass: Coupe

Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and double-strain into a coupe glass.


*Thyme-Lime Mixture
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • .5 cup Sauvignon blanc wine
  • 1 cup Fresh thyme
  • .5 cup Lime juice

Add the sugar and wine to a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the thyme, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain, and stir in the lime juice. Let cool completely before using.

Strawberry Smash

Contributed by Todd Thrasher

Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a strawberry.

*Strawberry-Basil Mixture

  • 1 pint Strawberries
  • 15 Purple basil leaves (may substitute Italian basil)
  • 1.5 cups Sugar
  • 2 oz Lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and smash with your hands. Refrigerate for 3 hours. Strain through a sieve, discarding the solids. Do not push the mixture through the sieve with a spoon—you do not want any pulp in the finished product. (This should yield about 20 ounces of liquid, enough for five or six cocktails.)

I Have an Idea, Let Me Make You a Cocktail

Contributed by Todd Thrasher

  • Olive ice cubes (freeze equal parts olive brine and water in an ice cube tray)
  • .5 oz Citadelle Gin
  • 1 oz 42Below Vodka
  • 1 tsp Olive brine
  • 4 oz Rhubarb Mixture*
  • Garnish: Rhubarb-stuffed olive
  • Glass: Highball

Fill a highball glass with olive ice cubes and set aside. Add the remaining ingredients to a shaker and fill with regular ice. Shake, and strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with a pitted Castelvetrano olive stuffed with a piece of rhubarb.

*Rhubarb Mixture

  • 8 cups Rhubarb, chopped small
  • 8 oz Lemon Juice
  • 24 oz Water
  • 1 cup Sugar

Add all the ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve.

Oh My God Maria’s Leg is on Fire

Contributed by Todd Thrasher

  • 1.25 oz Maker’s Mark Bourbon
  • .25 oz Cherry Heering
  • .50 oz Burnt Valencia Orange Syrup*
  • .25 oz Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer
  • 2 dashes Cherry bitters
  • 2 dashes Orange bitters
  • Garnish: Flamed orange peel
  • Glass: Mini pilsner

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir, and strain into a mini pilsner glass containing 1 fresh ice cube. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.

*Burnt Valencia Orange Syrup

  • 1 Valencia Orange
  • 16 oz Water
  • 1 cup Sugar

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Peel the orange and slice the fruit in half. Place both the peel and fruit on a pan and bake for 10 minutes or until the peel has browned almost completely. Add the water and sugar to a small saucepan over low heat and bring to a simmer. Add the baked orange pieces and simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool completely and strain.

Series & Type: Entertaining Trends5 Tips
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