Taste the Rainbow

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Creative technicolored cocktails in vibrant hues appeal to both appetites and aesthetics.

By Ashley Probst

With the exponential rise of social media, it comes as no surprise that more businesses are implementing visually pleasing elements to provide customers with fun photo opportunities. This is especially true in the mixology world, with bright pops of color
taking center stage in glasses across the globe.

Brent Rosen, president and CEO of the New Orleans-based National Food & Beverage Foundation, says he’s noticed the technicolored trend take root in Southern cocktail programs in recent years, and that it goes hand-in-hand with another fad: “Instagrammability.”

“Most cocktails, they’re either clear or brown and it’s really hard to take a good picture. … It can be beautiful if the light is just right on the bar but, if it’s not, it’s just a brown thing on top of a brown bar in a brown room,” Rosen says. “Technicolor cocktails really give the bar a chance to show their personality.”

Last time these multicolored cocktails were trending was the 1980s and early 1990s, an era when Rosen recalls bartenders were liberal with food coloring and artificial ingredients. But today, “technicolor [cocktails] are typically made with fresh juices and infusions and things that really can make the drink taste better, as opposed to just making them colorful and loud,” he says, noting that spirit professionals are focused on creating a balance of flavors and visual elements.

A few seasonal ingredients that Rosen says Southern mixologists may choose to incorporate are persimmons, pomegranates and oranges, as well as other winter citrus fruits. Nic Wallace, resort lead bartender at Sea Island, also points to prickly pear, which will be in peak season this fall and is grown locally on Jekyll Island, as well as beets. “Purée them down and strain them, and you get beautiful colors that you can then add to almost anything,” Rosen explains. Certain spirits can carry the color as well, with Rosen turning to Midori melon liqueur for a “fun green” tint or Campari bitters for their iconic, dark red hue. Wallace also gives a nod to classic blue Curaçao.

“I think Instagram is the big driver and that’s not going anywhere anytime soon, so I think you’re going to see more of these … drinks [and they] are going to be popular for awhile,” Rosen says. And the trend is prevalent at Sea Island as well, with at least one cocktail for every color of the rainbow available on the property. Here, Wallace shares his top picks for tasty technicolored cocktails to sip during your stay.

Lady in Red

Don’t let your eyes deceive you: This Bulleit bourbon-based concoction at Southern Tide, crafted by bartender David Brown, presents a gorgeous red hue and a flavor profile that may surprise you. “This simple sour has the presence of a sweet strawberry cocktail, but ultimately delivers flavors of lemon and cocoa with a slightly bitter backbone,” Wallace explains. The mix also includes strawberry purée, white crème de cacao, lemon juice and a few dashes of angostura bitters, all of which are shaken together and strained into a double rocks glass over ice with a strawberry on the rim for a picture-perfect garnish.

The Last Tango

The Last Tango is made with tequila, agave, lime juice, cantaloupe and basil.

A cocktail of Wallace’s own creation, this refreshing margarita was originally intended for only the River Bar & Lounge menu, but quickly became a staple and is now one of the most popular specialty cocktails throughout Sea Island. Incorporating Gran Centenario Rosangel tequila, agave, lime juice, fresh cantaloupe and basil leaves, the latter two ingredients are muddled together before adding the liquids to be shaken and strained into a double rocks glass over ice. The garnish of two cayenne-salted cantaloupe spheres and a basil leaf play up the herbaceous layer while also adding a slight kick.

Water Lily

Available in The Oak Room at The Lodge, this revitalizing drink was born from the idea of using aloe in a cocktail. For this element, bartender Laurie Rider chose Chareau aloe liqueur for its distinctive and delightful flavor profile of fresh aloe vera, muskmelon, spearmint and cucumber. This liqueur is combined with certified-organic Purity Vodka Connoisseur 51 Reserve, lemon and pineapple juices, simple syrup and a few dashes of Fee Brothers plum bitters, all shaken and strained into a snifter over ice, then finished with a pineapple frond garnish for a tropical accent that will transport you back to the warm summer season.

Colonel’s Orders

This sweet sip, created by Wallace and a friend of the resort, Col. Chris Conner, will appear on the menu at Sea Strike & Pub, an on-property bowling alley and tavern slated to open this fall. “This light and refreshing cocktail features a dessert-ready gin that’s reminiscent of a slice of English lemon cake combined with local honey and garden-fresh aromatics,” Wallace says. The citrus notes in the Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle gin are complemented by velvet falernum, honey syrup and lemon juice, plus muddled cucumber and basil. Everything is shaken and strained into a double rocks glass over ice with a lemon wheel and basil sprig garnish.

Beyond Bliss

Find your bliss at the Forbes Five-Star Georgian Room, where Lead Bartender Erica Gantt is shaking things up with her stunning, electric blue mai tai. Diverging from the classic rum base, this version contains Herradura blanco tequila and Bozal mezcal as well as blue Curaçao, orgeat syrup, lime juice, a few drops of Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters and muddled mint. “Beyond Bliss delivers a rich, mint-forward sweetness that’s offset with a grounded, smoke-driven elegance,” Wallace says. Served in a Cat Coupe glass over crushed ice and garnished with a mint sprig, this luxurious libation stands out at the resort’s speakeasy-inspired lounge.

Purple Rain

The classic New York whiskey sour meets a bold, tropical foundation in this cocktail crafted by Southern Tide bartender Danny Wilkin. Comprising Bacardí Limón rum, orgeat syrup, grapefruit and lime juices, this concoction is shaken and strained into a double rocks glass over ice to create a white base layer. The addition of a cabernet sauvignon float forms a purple cloud at the top of the glass that begins to drizzle down, creating the illusion of purple rain—hence the name. “The result is a beautifully crafted Tiki cocktail that showcases the versatility of red wine as an ingredient while staying true to classic Polynesian cocktail form,” Wallace says.

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