Peas in a cocktail? Believe it, people. No ingredient is considered too weird or esoteric for today’s bartenders. And compared to squid ink or bacon, the humble sugar snap pea seems downright mainstream.
The first drink I ever tried with snap peas was made by the sure hands of Tom Macy at Brooklyn’s award-winning Clover Club. It was late April several years ago, the farmers’ markets were awash with peas and fava beans, and Macy’s drink was a revelation. The temperature was creeping up into the 70s, and when his Green Giant—made with old Tom gin, dry vermouth and muddled snap peas and tarragon—was presented to me on a mountain of crushed ice, I was embraced in a wave of perfect spring refreshment.
That drink inspired a new cocktail of my own, which combines many spring flavors, including lemon thyme, verjus (the tart non-alcoholic juice of unripe grapes) and of course snap peas, with seasonally appropriate liquors including aquavit, absinthe and, my all-time favorite, dry manzanilla sherry.
Because peas have such a delicate flavor, it’s best to choose spirits similar to dry sherry, things that are light and clean, like vodka, gin, genever, pisco, blanco tequila, aquavit or white rum, as well as other light-colored fortified wines.
Sugar snaps are part of a group of pea varieties whose entire pod is edible (a term the French call mangetout, meaning “eat all”), much like the closely related snow peas. Removed from the pod, these peas can be blended to make a versatile puree that’s great when shaken in cocktails like the Green Margarita.
I’ll never stop eating—or making—the classic salad of peas, fava beans, fresh mint and ricotta cheese. While that last ingredient won’t make its way into my cocktail shaker anytime soon, you get the idea.
1. Green Margarita
Sugar snap peas, brightened with a touch of verjus, and the elderflower liqueur St-Germain are unexpected additions to an otherwise-traditional Margarita that brings in the best of spring.
2. Snap, Chat & Rum
A puree made from sugar snap peas and a fennel bulb joins aged rum, lime juice and simple syrup in this sweetly vegetal and chlorophyll-filled cocktail.
3. Miss Me Not
A fresh celery-and-sugar-snap-pea syrup brightens this tequila-and-sherry highball, created by bar star Ivy Mix, that's finished with a mint sprig and a spritz of absinthe.
4. Green Giant
This recipe from Macy calls for muddling sugar snap pea pods with tarragon and simple syrup before adding old Tom gin, dry vermouth and lemon juice. A couple of additional sugar snap pea pods make a festive and eye-catching garnish.