Farm to table is not a new concept when it comes to restaurants. But even when they tout the “seasonal, local and sustainable” mantra, the bar often features the same old standard drinks and brands, which can be less than satisfying. Not at the Four Seasons. When Guy Rigby, vice president of food and beverage, the Americas, Four Seasons Resorts and Hotels asked his beverage committee what was important at the moment, farm to glass was the answer and the concept of the “100-Mile Cocktail” was born and subsequently launched in February of this year. While the program did not have a specific bottom-line target, it was key to the launching of Rigby’s beverage committee and while not mandated, saw participation from all of his North American locations.
The 100-mile cocktail was the inaugural initiative coming out of Rigby’s sommelier- and bartender-focused committee so it
was crucial that it succeeded to help establish credibility. With the farm-to-glass concept, they discussed the rules that would govern the program and decided that all the ingredients had to come from within a limited geographical radius.
The overall concept was intended to help hotel exuctives to learn more about sources in their own backyard and support a goal of encouraging sustainable practices companywide. Since the program was slated to launch in winter, Rigby had some hesitation and was concerned that winter resorts like Jackson Hole, Wyoming might have little available, but he needn’t have worried. Each location in the Americas responded and rose to the challenge.
Competition and Collaboration
The committee introduced a competitive element to sweeten the pot. Says Rigby, “We picked three winners and did some national promotion.” Collaboration was also a factor as bartenders worked with chefs and local farms to source ingredients and create recipes. The inspiration, research and experimentation meant stories behind each drink that were tailor made for promotion for guests. Many of the individual properties wrote press releases and used social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to help build excitement and sales. The stories behind the drinks gave servers more information to share with guests and boosted sales as well.
It was up to each individual location to develop their own 100-Mile Cocktail and each operator handled that in their own way. At the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, both bartenders and servers came up with drinks, the goal being to represent Arizona but in an unexpected way. And that meant no Margaritas. Says Bryan Feigenbaum, director of food and beverage in Scottsdale, “First we thought of prickly pears, then pears, because not everyone realizes that we grow pears in Arizona: so we created the ‘Pear fect Pair,’ for $15. In addition to Arroyo vodka, ingredients included Crockett’s Honey, prickly pear syrup, oranges and lemons from Sunizona Family Farms and pear juice. It also had an herbal component. According to Feigenbaum, “We tried basil and rosemary but tarragon was more subtle.” The resulting drink had a layered look that, according to operators, resembled an Arizona sunset to many guests.
Some Four Seasons locations used beer and wine, as well as non-alcoholic beverages like root beer. Toronto used Collingwood Toasted Maplewood Rye and they added some Peller Estates Cabernet Franc Ice Wine and local bitters in the A.C.C. (the All Canadian Cocktail). Meanwhile St. Louis created the “10 miles of Pride,” priced at $10 and made with 85 Lashes Rum, a local egg, Fitz’s Root Beer and house-made vermouth, served in a beer glass. Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta offered the Appalachian Moonshiner, $12, created with local peaches, pecans, honey from their own beehive, bacon and moonshine served up in a Mason jar. The Chicago location used fresh snow in their drink. Washington D.C. locations created a shandy that included bay water salt and Old Bay Seasoning as well as lemonade and local beer.
Putting their own twist on the program was something operators did of their own volition. Examples include a complimentary Pear Flatbread Bite paired with a cocktail and a “tree” for $58. The premium priced cocktail consisted of Ocean Vodka, Eureka Lemon Juice, Green Gecko Farm’s Ginger and Hawai’i Island Sugar Cane Simple Syrup. The coconut cup was rimmed with Hawaiian Black lava sea salt, garnished with star fruit and a Thai Basil Flower. As part of the resort’s ongoing commitment to plant 500,000 Koa Trees on the island, each Koa Wai Cocktail had a tree planted in honor of the guest who purchased it. Rigby shared that locations including Austin, Houston, Vancouver and the Beverly Wilshire in Los Angles have all continued with the program and have explored local products for new cocktails. And really, that was the goal in the first place.