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Elements: Tomatoes

Fresh tomatoes have always embodied peak summer in all their glorious permutations, save one category: alcoholic beverages. Apart from the Bloody Mary and its kin (usually made with canned juice or premade mixes), the canon of classic cocktails is woefully deficient when it comes to using tomatoes. But the ubiquity of farmers markets now makes it easier to source luscious varieties with diverse flavor profiles.

Tomato water is a simple and versatile way to incorporate the fresh fruit into drinks. Bartender Juliette Larrouy says ripe tomatoes with bread were a fundamental part of her childhood in southeastern France, as well as her time bartending in Barcelona. For her Bread con Tomatoes cocktail, she makes a flavorful mix by combining beefsteak and cherry tomatoes with “burned bread,” olive brine, and sugar. After straining, she stirs the amped-up tomato water with vodka, dry vermouth, and a chili tincture for a layered, savory cocktail with a crisp, herbal lift. “The principal flavors are the tomato and bread,” says Larrouy. “We toast the latter until it’s almost black to ensure the flavor will carry over into the drink, and vodka keeps those flavors pure.”

General manager and creative director Jewel Murray of The Gibson in Washington, D.C., makes a tomato shrub, then mixes it with a high-rye vodka, amontillado sherry, and spicy bitters. The result is a stirred drink that “looks like a Martini but drinks closer to a complex, spicy Margarita with a hint of nuttiness,” says Murray, who uses low-acid tomatoes like beefsteak or Big Girl for the shrub. “It will always come out a little different because you’re using fresh fruit, which means different yeasts and individual harvests,” she says. “You can adjust the proportions, depending upon usage; I also like the shrub in a Gin & Tonic.”

Cocktail consultant and sherry ambassador Chantal Tseng finds that tomatoes pair perfectly with the fortified wine. “The natural glutamates in the fruit go especially well with the salinity and yeasty, bread-like characteristics of fino sherry,” she says. For her Tomato Rickey, Tseng makes a straightforward tomato water using heirloom varieties. Stirred with fino and lime and topped with sparkling water, the cocktail is a refreshing and unexpected low-ABV beverage ideal as an aperitif. “I only work with tomatoes in summer, when they taste amazing,” she says. “When you use ripe fruit in cocktails, there’s just no comparison.”

Baron’s Night Out

Murray describes this cocktail as a “tasty little vixen” amplified by the spice from the vodka and bitters.

1 3/4 oz. vodka (Murray recommends a high-rye vodka)
3/4 oz. tomato water shrub
1/2 oz. amontillado sherry
1 dash spicy bitters (Murray uses 18.21 Japanese Chili & Lime Bitters)
1 lime peel

Tools: barspoon, strainer
Glass: coupe or Nick & Nora
Garnish: basil leaf

Stir the first 4 ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled glass. Express the lime twist over the drink and discard. Garnish.
Tomato ShrubIn a jar, add 1 cup of fresh, pulped tomatoes, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup of champagne vinegar. Seal and refrigerate for 1 week, shaking vigorously once a day. Strain the solids through cheesecloth by letting it slowly drip through (don’t squeeze or force it).
Refrigerate for use within 6 months.

Jewel Murray, The Gibson, Washington, D.C

Tomato Rickey

This low-ABV Rickey sings with summertime flavor.

3 oz. fino sherry
3/4 oz. fresh tomato water
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
2 oz. sparkling mineral water

Tools: barspoon
Glass: Collins
Garnish: cherry tomato

Squeeze the lime half directly into a Collins glass and drop in the shell. Add fino sherry and tomato water, then fill the glass with cracked ice and stir. Top with sparkling mineral water and more ice, if needed. Garnish with a cherry tomato.
Tomato WaterPlace a square of double-layered cheesecloth over a wide, shallow glass or jar. Halve a large ripe tomato and gently squeeze it through the cheesecloth to strain out the solids.

Chantal Tseng, Washington, D.C.

Bread con Tomatoes

This cocktail brings complex flavors that belie its simplicity.

1 1/4 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. dry vermouth (such as Dolin)
4 oz. plus 1/2 Tbsp. tomato mixture
2 dashes chili tincture

Tools: barspoon
Glass: Collins
Garnish: celery ribbon

Add all ingredients to an ice-filled glass and briefly stir. Garnish with a celery ribbon.
Tomato MixtureIn a blender, combine 1 lb. of ripe tomatoes with 1 3/4 oz. of water, 2 1/2 oz. (by
weight) of very darkly toasted bread, 1 1/4 oz. of olive brine, and 1/2 oz. of sugar (by weight). Blend all of the ingredients and allow to strain slowly through cheesecloth. (This process can take hours to complete.) Add a small amount of white balsamic vinegar for balance if needed. Strain a second time for clarity. Keeps refrigerated for 4 days.
Chili TinctureInfuse 1 sliced green Thai chili in 3 oz. of vodka for 1 to 2 days at room temperature. Strain and bottle.

Juliette Larrouy, The Schmucks

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