It's a bountiful life: Shaking up the bar scene
May/June 2013 California Bountiful magazine
Interview by Megan Alpers
Photo by Richard Green
Santa Barbara bartender Patrick Reynolds scours local farmers markets for cocktail ingredients.
More online: A second round
You've likely heard of farm to table, but Patrick Reynolds of Santa Barbara has another option: his business called Farm to Bar. Reynolds scours local farmers markets to find ingredients for unique cocktails that customers are drinking up.
How and when did you get your start as a bartender?
When I was cooking at a local restaurant in 2005, I found myself not wanting to cook at home anymore, and it killed me. I put in my notice, but the owner asked me to stay on as a bartender. The chef told me, "You still use your hands to make tasty things, Patrick."
What inspired you to start making cocktails with local ingredients?
In 2007, I was working at a restaurant and we ran out of strawberries. I went to the farmers market to get more. The strawberries I found there were sweeter, more fragrant and lasted longer. I asked the chef that night to take over ordering produce for the bar.
What is your favorite local ingredient to work with?
Herbs! Thyme. Sage. Basil. Cilantro. Even arugula. Their scent welcomes you into the bar and the flavor leaves a perfect herbal note that rounds out any cocktail.
How does the Farm to Bar menu work?
I walk through the farmers market once to get ideas, and then as I travel back through, I buy everything. When customers arrive, I ask them what type of alcohol they prefer, as well as spicy, savory or dealer's choice. People dig it.
A second round
Reynolds doesn't lack for ideas or enthusiasm! Here's some of the Q&A we couldn't fit into the magazine:
How do the seasons dictate your menu?
The seasons are in the captain's chair; I just manipulate the sails. The reason I don't make a menu is like the reason a farmer doesn't assume tomorrow brings rain: You end up dry.
Describe some of the connections you've made at farmers markets.
Since I've started Farm to Bar, I've been able to introduce a lot of people who wouldn't necessarily have known to go to the farmers market. I've started tours with the travel bureau to shed light on my favorite hard workers. I love having them come by after the market to see my spin on what they've produced.
What is the most popular cocktail you've made with local ingredients?
Smokey and the Bandit, which is a whiskey drink with muddled hickory-smoked pistachios, Mama's Peach Preserves (Lori Heal, known as Mama, has her own farm and makes the best preserves for the farmers market; they are my go-to in winter), a little lemon juice and fresh thyme. It tastes like a vegan bacon peach cobbler.
Have you ever had a seemingly great idea for a drink that went terribly awry? What happened?
Yes. I often get requests to substitute vodka for the spirit the recipe originally calls for. One extra-awesome one was a gin-based drink with arugula and pineapple. When you substitute in vodka, it tastes like a plague coughing on a salad. See, between gin and pineapple is arugula. It bridges the gap between juniper's peppery notes—gin is made with juniper berries—and pineapple's sweet notes. Arugula is peppery/sweet.
What tips would you give to at-home bartenders looking to expand their drink repertoire?
Think of soup. If you can make a great soup, you can make an awesome cocktail. Spicy soups don't have whole jalapeños; you have to cut them up. The same goes for alcoholic infusions. Apply flavor profiles and roundness, sweet/acid/savory and pair to the natural flavors of the spirits. For example, pair lime and sugar or sage and tequila.