Seattle’s got great bartenders, and when a new trend crops up in New York or San Francisco, it’s just a matter of time and menu-watching before it’s spotted here.
After discovering the Carnegie martini at Rich Table in San Francisco (a drinkable version of pastrami on rye, dotted with mustard oil) and the Alligator Alley not too far away at Trick Dog (a spin on the dirty martini, made with olive-oil-infused gin), I tapped my foot impatiently, waiting for the trend of oil in cocktails to move north. Finally, we’ve hit the “three’s a trend” mark, and I’d expect to see a lot more olive oil in your vintage punch cup in the near future.
The same reasons that olive oil makes a great finishing splash on food make it shine in cocktails: fruitiness without sweetness and lots of complex flavors that enhance without overpowering.
The first place I spotted the trend locally was Essex, where the Roger Sterling was on offer last summer—another take on the dirty martini: a Sun Liquor vodka base, with pickled chili brine playing the ‘dirty,’ dry vermouth, and a few drops of olive oil on top, garnished with an anchovy-stuffed olive. At Serious Pie on Westlake, beverage director Adam Chumas and bar manager Brook Browning use a technique called fat-washing to incorporate olive oil into their dirty martini variation. Using a slow mixing, freezing, and separating process, they infuse the vodka with olive oil.
The strategy leaves all of the flavor, but none of the actual oil in the base, which joins dry vermouth and lemon bitters (and a garnish of a Castelvetrano olive) in the drink, called the Shelley Duvall.
Meanwhile, on Poppy’s winter bar menu, they’ve taken the idea of a pear salad and transformed it into a drink, matching pear brandy with the herb flavors of Chartreuse, the acid of lemon, and the warmth of olive oil.
As bartenders start to see this trend build around the country and the city, we can expect that olive (and other) oil cocktails will only get more interesting and better crafted. We’ll see new techniques to incorporate oil, and taste new flavors brought out by its unique characteristics. Olive oil lovers and savory cocktail aficionados, brace yourselves.