Story and photography by Cheré Coen
Adding sensational hues to drinks produces cocktails as pretty as they are delicious.
They look so easy, those colorful creations that arrive on your table adorned with everything from flowers to firecrackers. Behind those creative cocktails, as delicious as they are beautiful, lies a dark history.
“It comes with a lot of experimentation and a lot of bad drinks,” explains Charis Ellis with a laugh. Ellis is a longtime bartender and waitress at Antebellum, a fine dining establishment in Flowery Branch, Ga., which offers an extensive cocktail menu, many of which resemble works of art.
Ellis continually dapples in making cocktails at the award-winning restaurant owned by Chef Nicholas St. Clair and his wife Alison. In addition to the menu serving up innovative dishes created from local farms is a long list of cocktails that range from long-standing favorites to seasonal drinks.
Two cocktails that have been on the menu since the doors opened are the blueberry citrus martini and the cucumber lemon drop. The first mixes up blueberry vodka, 360 Lemon vodka and sweetened lemon juice that’s garnished with fresh blueberries. And yes, it’s colorful. The lemon drop combines Effen cucumber vodka with lemon juice for a simpler drink.
We visited in summer when fresh fruit was in abundance so we chose two refreshing, flavorful, and, yes, colorful cocktails for a late afternoon meal, although Ellis informed us the freshness of ingredients continues all year long.
“We like to use fresh juices,” she says.
The pomegranate martini starts with 360 Sorrento lemon vodka. The triple sec, pomegranate juice, and lemon juice produces a lovely hue along with its bittersweet taste.
Sitting alongside the magenta cocktail was “Lavender Lady” comprised of the purple-colored Empress 1908 Indigo Gin, Cointreau, Merlet Crème de Mure Blackberry Liqueur, lemon juice, and organic dried lavender. It was almost too gorgeous to drink. Almost.
Ellis admits that some ingredients, such as the Empress gin, can be hard to find but the search will be worth it, especially for those who shy away from gin.
“For the non-gin drinker, it’s not that ginny,” Ellis says. “It doesn’t have that strong juniper taste. People who say they don’t like gin, they like this drink.”
And the Crème du Mure offers a delightful blackberry flavor.
“It’s a refreshing drink,” Ellis explains, adding that it’s Chef St. Clair’s favorite.
If you’re shy about creating elaborate cocktails at home, perhaps now is the time to stretch your expertise and try your hand at these two lovely drinks that are simple to make. You’ll impress your friends and delight your taste buds.
2 ounces Empress 1908 Gin
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 bar spoon Merlet Crème de Mure
1 bar spoon dried lavender seeds
Directions: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with lemon wheel.
1.5 ounces 360 Sorrento Lemon vodka
1/2 ounce triple sec
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1.5 ounce POM juice
Directions: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist.