**Corn Cocktails Showcase Sustainable Aspects**
Top bartenders embrace vegetables not just for their flavor but also for sustainability.
Corn, a staple summer produce in America, has long been used as a cocktail ingredient due to its sweet-savory flavor, vibrant color, and widespread availability. However, an increasing number of bartenders are bringing a sustainable approach to this vegetable, utilizing not only the kernels but also the cobs, husks, and more in innovative ways. It's no longer just about surprising guests with brightly colored drinks containing corn; instead, bar professionals are attempting to maximize the versatile ears, akin to a nose-to-tail approach for vegetables.
**Keeping It Local**
Some find corn versatile and visible in every season.
Shaun Traxler, the general manager of Vault in Fayetteville, Arkansas, has been working with vegetables in cocktails for about four years. “I use corn in something on every damn menu,” says Traxler. One of the oldest concoctions, called “Children of the Corn,” featured a corn stock, corn “milk” extracted from the cobs using the back of a knife, and the cobs themselves, half-charred. Inspired by Trash Tiki, a waste-preventing pop-up and online platform that utilizes used citrus peels for citrus stock, Traxler's goal is to “use every part of the corn.”
However, what Traxler defines as a “burning passion for corn” goes beyond minimizing waste; it's also about using what's local. “Corn grows like a weed all over the country,” he says. “Flying in fruit and avocados from Mexico, why not use something that grows abundantly in this country?”
For Vault's spring 2022 menu, a recent creation is the “Nance Nance Revolution,” made with Jamaican rum, yellow cherry-like nance fruit, banana liqueur, and a blend of fresh and creamy corn essence turned into a syrup.
“The corn cob element came from thinking about things that might not be used in the kitchen [at Leyenda],” she recalls. (Favre mentioned that Leyenda's chef already used corn cobs in the vegetable stock for the bar but saved some specifically for drinks.)
Favre finds boiling corn cobs brings out an appealing sweet taste and notes that it also involves the texture. “The cornstarch released from the cob provides an almost silky texture that I associate with honey,” she says.
tim Wiggins, co-owner of Lazy Tiger in St. Louis, Missouri, finds corn attractive for its “ease and versatility.” He says, “It adds a great flavor but is incredibly light at the same time,” and he works with a wide variety of alcoholic beverages in both sweet and savory applications. He adds that corn takes heat, char, and spice well.
This versatility resulted from a deep dive into reusing materials and reducing waste during the pandemic at Lazy Tiger, leading to the creation of the “Yellow Corn Paloma.” Instead of using fresh corn, Wiggins utilized masa, a ground corn kernel flour left over from making taco shells at the restaurant before the pandemic. The masa was fermented with homemade koji and piloncillo, then turned into a syrup with Mexican sugar cane. “It tasted beautiful, like toasted bread,” he says.
Wiggins adds the fermented masa syrup to a mixture of grapefruit soda, Zucca amaro, aged rum, tequila, a corn and sugar cane spirit called “Flor de Caña,” and a blend of herbal mezcal with “salsa verde vibes.” Wiggins describes the finished drink's flavor as a “charred vegetable taco Paloma.”
Of course, corn is not limited to custom syrups and stocks; it has long been part of whiskeys (hello, bourbon, Mexico's Abasolo, and moonshine, among others) and liqueurs. However, bartenders feel compelled to fold many corn iterations, including many aimed at addressing sustainability concerns, into creative combinations. Once rejected as just a metaphor, corn now provides an endless source of inspiration for refreshing, summer-soaked drinks that go beyond stale jokes.
*Note: The names of the cocktails mentioned are not directly translated to English, as they are specific and creative names for the drinks. The translations aim to convey the essence of the names.*