SPRING IS WHEN WE SIT ON THE PATIO with a refreshing, bright cocktail. It’s when fresh flowers perfume the air and when smart bartenders like Sarah Crowl, the front-of-house and bar manager at Goodnight Hospitality’s chic Montrose restaurant Rosie Cannonball, take advantage of the local bounty available to them just as chefs do. “Our food menu has seasonal ingredients,” Crowl explains. “So why wouldn’t you make cocktails that are going to match that?”
She has a point. To stand up to spring’s snappy vegetables and herbaceous dishes, she likes to break out the gin and other floral spirits, infuse cocktails with fresh fruit, and go big on crisp flavors. One example: ranch water—the popular mixed drink of tequila, lime, and soda water, served on the rocks.
“It’s not a vodka soda,” she says. “It’s a little more exciting.”
Her savory take on the drink, Rosie Ranch Water, is a mix of tequila and the vegetal Mexican spirit sotol, with muddled orange that stays on the bottom of the glass, creating a citrusy foundation for this cloudy beverage with ice and bite—it also gets a squeeze of lime and a topper of (what else?) Topo Chico, no sugar necessary. “It’s like a highball,” she says. “Not an overly sugary-sweet cocktail, which I think in general Houston has a lot of. Even the margaritas.”
Adding to her ranch water’s allure is one incredibly artistic garnish. She glitters up the top of the glass in a salt blend flecked with a garden’s worth of aromatics—nepitella, pennyroyal, rose, safflower, oregano, chamomile, rosemary, and Aleppo pepper—and arranges fresh herbs (say, sage or mint) from Goodnight Hospitality’s Good Thyme Farm in Bellville into a bouquet, popping that into the glass like it’s your very own vase, alongside a lime wedge, of course. It’s springtime perfection.
Prefer gin to tequila? Try a Blackberry Woo. Here, Crowl infuses gin with blackberries for at least 48 hours, adds in lemon juice, honey, a barspoon each of crème de cassis and the mint-and-clove-heavy liqueur Fernet Vallet, and a sparkling wine topper, resulting in a deep purple cocktail that’s all things floral.
For an adventurous alternative, why not try a highball that combines pineapple-infused Fino sherry, rainwater madeira, dry curaçao, an Italian spirit called punch fantasia, and hard apple cider? “It’s not juicy or tiki,” says Crowl. But it is the tropical treat you never knew you needed, at least until we can get back on a remote island for a spring beach getaway.
Rosie Ranch Water
- Salt blend
- Orange wheel
- .75 oz lime juice
- 1 oz blanco tequila 1 oz sotol
- 2 oz Topo Chico
For salt blend, combine a variation of salt, nepitella, pennyroyal, rose, safflower, oregano, chamomile, rosemary, and Aleppo pepper. Whatever you have works. Then, flip a Collins glass on its side and roll the top through the salt blend. Muddle orange wheel at bottom of glass. Combine lime juice, tequila, sotol. Fill near top with ice. Top with Topo Chico.
- .5 oz lemon juice
- .25 oz simple syrup
- .25 oz of crème de cassis
- .25 oz of Fernet Vallet
- 1 oz blackberry-infused gin
- Dry sparkling wine to top
Combine all ingredients with ice in shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a coupe glass and top with sparkling wine (Crowl recommends Cleto Chiarli Brut de Noir).
- .75 oz pineapple-infused Fino sherry
- .75 oz rainwater madeira
- .25 oz dry curaçao
- .25 oz Distilleria Varnelli fantasia punch
- 1.75 oz hard apple cider
Combine sherry, madeira, curaçao, fantasia punch in shaker with ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into Collins glass, then top with apple cider.