By Virginie Boone
Scott Beattie has been foraging for cocktails in Sonoma County since he moved up from San Francisco to start the bar program at the original Cyrus in 2004. His drinks inspired by the seasons justifiably earned him legendary status as an innovative creator and keen observer of Sonoma County’s bounty, as he highlighted a wide array of quality ingredients, from berries to citrus to spirits.
He continues this work as beverage director at Michelin-starred Barndiva in Healdsburg, a restaurant that has always prioritized seasonality in its kitchen and at its bar.
Beattie’s book, “Artisanal Cocktails: Drinks Inspired by the Seasons from the Bar at Cyrus,” written in 2008, remains a seminal resource on his approach.
“Located just off the town square in Healdsburg,” he writes about Cyrus’s first iteration, “Cyrus Restaurant sits in the heart of a rich agricultural landscape where organic farmers, small dairies, artisan cheese makers, specialty meat purveyors and premier vineyards produce some of the finest food and wine in the world. It is easy to be inspired with so many high-quality, local ingredients bursting from the earth.”
This inspiration led to so many well-respected and beloved drink creations that Beattie is often hailed as a virtuoso who turned bartending into a culinary art form.
A native of San Francisco and journeyman restaurant worker, Beattie got the chance to take his seasonal cocktails ideas to the next level at Cyrus, where he wrote a 40-page spirits menu with well-researched descriptions, used only fresh-squeezed juices and house-made syrups and offered new twists on classics.
Still, when he saw the level of food coming out of Chef Doug Keane’s kitchen, Beattie felt “a little unsettled,” feeling his contribution to the restaurant was “average by comparison.”
Going to the Healdsburg’s farmers’ markets was the spark he needed, and he began to meet local farmers. Soon he was visiting the farms themselves, learning about the life cycles of plants and gathering herbs, leaves, buds and edible flowers to use as tasteful ingredients and visually stunning pieces of garnish every night.
Before long, he made a deal with the local Chevy dealer to trade his Meyer lemons and satsuma mandarins for restaurant credit. Offers of peaches, Asian pears, apples, pomegranates and many types of citrus from other area farmers followed. Preston Farm and Winery was a source of pomegranates, hot chiles and horseradish.
Safflowers, spearmint, cherries, pineapple, guava blossoms, Thai basil and lemon verbena came from La Bonne Terre in Healdsburg, run by Mary and the late Bert Villemaire. Dry Creek Peach and Produce supplied white peaches for Bellinis.
Iron Horse Vineyards was not only a source of sparkling wine but tomatoes, chiles and melons. Key limes came from The Camellia Inn. Love Farms had seedlings, produce and flowers. The McConnells who owned the Chevy dealership loved growing Meyer lemons and satsuma mandarins. Paul and Yael Bernier, who helped establish the Healdsburg Farmers’ Market, supplied garlic and pomegranates. Ridgeview Farm in Alexander Valley specialized in flowers, olallieberries and marionberries as well as apples. Rose Family Farm grew flowers, herbs and vegetables while the Sebastopol Berry Farm grew, well, berries.
Beattie also planted Kaffir lime, Bergamot orange, yuzu, Buddha’s hand citron and Australian finger lime trees on a friend’s property, where 50-year-old Rangpur lime and orange trees were already thriving.
Then he learned about foraging, finding blackberries, huckleberries, elderberries, wild fennel and miner’s lettuce in the woods. Supporting local spirits companies was also key, from Germain Robin to Charbay Distillery, fully immersing himself in the culinary traditions of Northern California from a barman’s perspective.
Fall is always peak season for great produce, with apples, pears, wine grapes, pomegranates and peppers starting to come on, the time of the year when Beattie works with dozens of heirloom apples, dehydrating them into garnishes.
In wintertime, many of his classics rely on citrus, something Sonoma County grows in abundance. Beattie found so many citrus trees growing in people’s yards, he would knock on doors to see if he could arrange for a trade.
These included Ruby Red grapefruits, Meyer and Eureka lemons, Rangpur and Key limes, bergamot, Valencia and blood oranges, and satsuma mandarins, all of which formed the foundation of his winter drinks, high in acid and complemented by salted and sugared rims, spiced sugar syrups and foams.
One of Beattie’s most popular citrus-based drinks at Cyrus was the Meyer Beautiful, a tart cocktail made with Charbay Meyer lemon vodka that explored the complex flavors of Meyer lemons and elderflowers.
At Barndiva, Beattie brings many of these same sentiments and ideas to life in such cocktails as The Drink (Formally Known As…), a delightful commingling of Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Vodka with ginger shiso, galangal, soda and butterfly pea flower. Barndiva maintains beautiful gardens of herbs and edible flowers of its own, another source of inspiration that helps inform the cocktails Beattie makes.
So over the holidays or beyond, treat yourself to a drink that celebrates not only the season, but the incredible landscape of fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs growing in our midst, and the artists and farmers that make it all possible.
Want to learn how to make cocktails of your own? Take a class with Scott Beattie.
Here are the recipes from the cocktails made in Episode 13 of “The Good Stuff” Show with Scott Beattie:
1 oz Junipero Gin
1 oz Bordiga Italian Vermouth
1 oz Campari
Add all ingredients to the empty mixing glass
Fill the mixing glass with ice 2/3 of the way to the top
Stir for 20 seconds
Strain into a coupe glass
Garnish with orange zest
“The Drink” . . . . formerly known as
2 oz Buddha’s Hand/Pea Flower Vodka
1 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz ginger/galangal simple syrup
2 oz chilled soda
Add all ingredients EXCEPT THE SODA to the shorter mixing tin
Fill with a full amount of ice
Seal it up, shake a few times, and unseal leaving the mixture in the larger half of the shaker. Add the soda to the mixture, swirl it around, and then dump it into a bucket glass.
Garnish with pickled huckleberries and edible flowers.