Sure, the almond sees tons of love in cocktails. With a distinctive sweetness, it's immortalized in classics like the Mai Tai and Amaretto Sour. But, lately the more subtle pistachio is inspiring bartenders from coast to coast. Drink makers are not only rimming glasses with the crushed green nuts, but creating syrups, foams, orgeat and even infusing whiskey, sherry, and brandy. Almond who?
Location: 924 Garrett Street, Atlanta, GA
Bartender: Mercedes O'Brien
Cocktail: Forager ($10) with pistachio rye, strawberry Campari and coconut sweet vermouth.
Cocktail conductor Mercedes O'Brien turned her favorite pistachio strawberry pastry into a fun Boulevardier variation, adding coconut for texture and nuttiness. Per O'Brien, "The infused pistachio rye is the focus of the cocktail, the coconut vermouth is used to highlight its rich nutty quality, and the strawberry Campari offers contrasting brightness and bitterness."
Location: Hotel Palomar Chicago, 505 N State Street, Chicago, IL
Bartender: John Stanton
Cocktail: Dans Le Nuit ($14) with Pierre Ferrand Ambre, pistachio syrup, lemon juice, Marie Brizard orange curaçao, simple syrup and orange peel garnish.
This Mai Tai riff incorporates pistachio syrup for a more nuanced, nutty flavor. And thanks to the cognac in place of rum, it's a refreshing but slightly savory tropical cocktail with a French touch.
Location: 8700 W 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA
Bartender: Christiaan Rollich
Cocktail: Doctor Common ($14) with absinthe, Green Chartreuse, pistachio syrup, lime juice, egg white and a splash of soda.
Rollich wanted to create a cocktail that actually used absinthe as the main ingredient rather than as a coating or float accent. And pistachio syrup provided the body and balance to the sour mix of absinthe, Green Chartreuse, and lime. "Even though absinthe is a very fennel-driven and powerful flavor, the pistachio comes out on the first taste. And then the absinthe with a lingering flavor of Chartreuse. Even people with a dislike for licorice enjoy it," says Rollich.
Location: 8905 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA
Bartender: Jason Eisner
Cocktail: A Clockwork Orange ($13) with mezcal espadin, pistachio orgeat, Meyer lemon juice, orange oil and an orange peel garnish.
Nothing celebrates warm weather better than Tiki cocktails, so bartender Jason Eisner devised a drink ideal for al fresco sipping: a mezcal libation featuring pistachio orgeat. "The earthy creamy qualities of pistachios works really well with the varietal of mezcal we use: Espadin," he explains. Since both the pistachio tree and espadin agave hail from similar arid climates, there's "a harmonious play with the flavor of the earthy rich nut and the mesquite qualities of the espadin."
Location: 2460 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA
Bartender: Gioconda St. George
Cocktail: Santa Vera ($12) with mezcal, pistachio orgeat plus Chareau, lime juice and bitters.
Bartender Gioconda St. George brightens up the mezcal in this Oaxacan-inspired cocktail with the floral notes of Chareau aloe liqueur and the nuttiness of a pistachio orgeat.
New york city
Location: 207 2nd Avenue, New York, NY
Bartender: Dee Ann Quinones
Cocktail: Thundernut ($18) with pistachio rum (shelled pistachios blended with dark rum in a centrifuge), Amaro Montenegro, acid-adjusted fresh orange juice (malic and citric acid are combined with orange juice to achieve the acidity of lemon juice), pineapple syrup and saline.
This time-intensive cocktail, which is a variation of Booker and Dax's Tropical Thunder drink by bartender Jack Schramm, is currently available on the limited edition menu because of the work it takes to make the pistachio rum. Inspired by Dave Arnold's milk-washing technique, which creates a frothy texture when shaken, bartender Quinones extracted the pistachio nut milk. But, instead of sugar like one would add for an orgeat, she used alcohol. So, when the drink is shaken it creates a creamy pistachio flavor and texture.
Location: 30 Water Street, New York, NY
Bartender: Jillian Vose
Cocktail: Lone Oak ($15) with Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey, Green Chartreuse, lemon, pistachio syrup, curry leaf and Dead Rabbit Orinoco bitters.
To update the classic Cameron's Kick, bartender Vose added Green Chartreuse and curry leaves but found that pistachio rather than orgeat pairs better with the herbal flavors.
Location: 310 Spring Street, New York, NY
Bartender: Jeremy Strawn
Cocktail: Pistachio Mule ($13) with house-infused pistachio vodka, lime and ginger.
Bartender Jeremy Strawn (Mulberry Project, Death & Co.) infused vodka with pistachio shells for two reasons. Firstly, there is no pistachio flavor vodka on the market, and secondly he felt the "unique and bold flavor of the pistachio seemed like a natural fit for an infusion." The nutty vodka can be enjoyed as a shot, but in the mule the rich nut flavor is balanced by the ginger's heat and the lime's brightness.
Location: 649 E 9th Street, New York, NY
Bartender: Nico de Soto
Cocktail: Cardamom ($13) with pistachio oil-washed vodka, espresso and cardamom syrup.
Bartender de Soto created this twist on an espresso martini to emulate the tradition of enjoying Turkish coffee with baklava. "The pistachio oil brings the richness of the baklava while cardamom is commonly used in Turkish coffee," he explains.
Location: 169 Thompson Street, New York, NY
Bartender: Thomas Waugh
Cocktail: Pistachio ($20) with gin, honey, lemon, housemade pistachio paste, muddled kumquat, shaved pistachio and kumquat "flower" garnish.
Director of Bar Operations Thomas Waugh was inspired to create a pistachio cocktail while he was helping out chef and co-owner Rich Torrisi by shaving Italian pistachios over a seared scallop. "I knew Carbone's (our sister restaurant a few doors down the street) pastry department made a pistachio paste for a dessert so I grabbed it and everything came together after that," says Waugh.
Location: 501 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA
Bartender: Kevin Diedrich
Cocktail: Lychee ($11) with Absolut Smoked Tea vodka, coconut-lychee milk, salted pistachio syrup and lime juice.
Wanting to create a lychee drink that wasn't a lychee martini for a change, barman Diedrich researched milk punch ideas for a year. "Then I ate some salted pistachio ice cream and it all made sense to me. That’s what brought the whole cocktail together," he states. Diedrich found his answer in an ice cream recipe but left out the heavy cream for this cocktail.
Location: 12 4th Street, San Francisco, CA
Bartender: Brian Means
Cocktail: Cream of the Crop ($13) with Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, King's Ginger liqueur, coconut pistachio purée and lemon juice.
Bartender Brian Means looked to mimic the kitchen's practice of pairing a soft flavor with some heat. "A lot of the time you see pairings like coconut, spice (as in heat) and smoke together and I wanted to incorporate that into a cocktail, although this time the spice comes from ginger," he says. His Cream of the Crop puts the ginger's heat upfront, followed by the smoke of the mezcal mid-palate and finishes with the toasted pistachio.
Location: 12505 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA
Bartender: Eric Quilty
Cocktail: Funston’s Diamond ($12) with pistachio-infused cognac, Appleton VX Jamaican rum, Alvear cream sherry and housemade banana bitters.
The pistachio wasn't former bar manager Eric Quilty's first choice. "I actually tried using almonds and other nuts with assorted whiskies and cognacs before finding the profile I was looking for," he says. The result is a nutty, spirit-forward cocktail rounded out with rum and a slight fruitiness from the banana bitters.
Location: 1101 4th Ave, Seattle, WA
Bartender: Keith Villanueva
Cocktail: Emerald City Monk ($11) with pistachio-infused Bulleit Bourbon, Benedictine and a crushed pistachio rim.
Taking a cue from Dave Arnold's (Booker and Dax, NY) rapid infusion techniques, bartender Villanueva infused bourbon with pistachios for his Emerald City Monk. "I used Bulleit Bourbon because of the sweet vanilla notes – they remind the palate of pistachio ice cream," he explains. The drink itself is soft, sweet, and nutty.
Location: 2000 2nd Avenue, Seattle, WA
Bartender: Chad Phillips
Cocktail: EVOL ($11) with pistachio-infused oloroso sherry, Luxardo bitters, Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon and rhubarb bitters.
Pistachio-addicted bartender Chad Phillips was inspired to infuse the rich nuttiness of oloroso sherry, believing the nuts could shine through without overwhelming the drink. His well-balanced cocktail, which is super nutty with a hit of bitterness and some vanilla notes, makes for a refreshing and easy sipper.