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Add herbs and shake

(Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
By Luke O'Neil
Globe Correspondent / June 19, 2009

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Everyone talks about using fresh ingredients, but it’s not every bar where you can walk out back to a greenhouse and watch the bartender pick the herbs he’s going to use in your cocktail.

“The farm-to-table thing is trendy right now,’’ David Greekwood of Summer Winter in Burlington told us. It’s something Summer Winter chef-owners Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier have been doing for years at their celebrated Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine. The picture-perfect greenhouse situated outside Summer Winter’s dining room is smaller than Arrows’s fields, but it gets the job done.

“You’d be amazed at the amount of greens and produce we’re able to take out of here,’’ Greekwood said, offering up basil, rosemary, lavendar, and multiple types of mint (pineapple, apple, pineapple sage). “Because we have this great resource for the dinner menu, I thought about herbal cocktails. What can I do to include fresh ingredients in the drink menu?’’

In the morning he comes out to see what they have a lot of - maybe some shiso, or kaffir lime - and plans drinks from there. “It forces you to keep your menu current and seasonal,’’ he said.

In that spirit, the Greenhouse Caipiroska (Hangar One Mandarin vodka infused with herbs and crushed ice, $12) is something of a “surprise’’ herb cocktail. The bartender picks herbs for it at random, Greekwood explained, while muddling some lavender flower, shiso, and pineapple sage with fresh lemon and syrup.

“You want to give this a good muddle, but don’t want to bruise the rind to the point that it’s bitter,’’ he said. The result, a vodka caipirinha, is a cavalcade of herbaceous flavors. And it’s pretty much straight alcohol. “I should call it that Caipiroska Smash,’’ he joked. Too many of these, and that’s what you’ll be.

For now, the fruit in the Blackberry Nightshade (below right; Skyy Vodka, Cointreau, blackberries, $12) comes from a local farm, but the bartender already has his eye on a little plot out back where he could grow berries soon. One look at the thick, dark color from the hard-shaken fruit and you can see where this one gets its name. Served up, it comes with a sparkling rosé chaser (below left) that cuts through the viscosity of the berries. Try throwing the shot of rosé in after a few sips to give the cocktail a totally new character.

For something entirely different, move on to the Watermelon Daiquiri (white rum infused with basil, fresh squeezed watermelon juice, $12). For this one, Greekwood purees fresh watermelons, then strains them through fine mesh. Watermelon’s good name has been ruined by too much cheap liqueur nonsense of late. This drink goes a long way toward bringing it back.

The Red Sangria (Grand Marnier, brandy, $12) is a match in natural flavor. Here Greekwood heats a variety of herbs from the greenhouse with a bottle of Rioja to release the oils. Then he lets that steep for a week or more before straining. “It gives it a real herby, earthy feel,’’ he said. That’s something you could say of the bar’s entire menu.

Summer Winter, 1 Burlington Mall Road, Burlington. 781-221-6643. www.summerwinterrestaurant.com

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