Inspired by the recent New Nordic culinary craze – a style emphasizing raw ingredients and old-school techniques like smoking and pickling – bartenders have begun creating a complementary school of woodland-inspired cocktails featuring tree-derived syrups, foraged greens, and Northern European spirits (click on "View More Photos" to see three bottles that'll give your drink a dose of the timberland). Following the earthy tasting menus of Scandinavian restaurants like Denmark's Noma and Sweden's Fäviken, U.S. bartenders are serving drinks featuring unusual ingredients foraged directly from the dirt. At Brooklyn's Scandinavian restaurant Aska – where the dining menu includes sea fennel, yarrow, and fried pig's blood – head bartender Shiraz Noor offers the aquavit-based Next of Kin cocktail, a molasses-sweetened drink made of Pu-erh, fermented dark tea leaves. "If a mojito is a beach, this drink is a forest," Noor says.
But the Scandinavian-cocktail trend isn't only about new creations. Pip Hanson, bar manager at Minneapolis's acclaimed Nordic restaurant the Bachelor Farmer, is applying Scandinavian twists to classic cocktails. His variation on the Gibson is made with aquavit, onion brine, and gin, while his Kir Royale is composed with a cordial of lingonberries, a staple of Scandinavian cuisine. In the most direct use of nature's flavors, bartenders are using actual wood and tree products to enhance their libations. At the sleek, intimate bar in Tribeca's tasting-menu destination Atera, cocktails feature pine sap incorporated with gin. In Portland, Oregon, the Woodsman Tavern bartenders are infusing Campari with charred cedarwood to make a woody version of the classic rye cocktail, the Old Pal.
The Nordic-influenced back-to-nature movement is attractive to bartenders in large part because it allows them to step outside the craft's codified flavors and formulas. "The classics are great," Noor says. "But it's fun to rip out all the rules and start, literally, from scratch."
1.5 oz Aalborg aquavit
1.5 oz Beefeater gin
.25 oz cocktail-onion brine
Garnish: 1 pickled cocktail onion
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.