On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe deliberate on best drinks for the spring. The season is quickly approaching, and with that comes lighter, crisper, and more herbaceous flavors for wine, beer, and cocktails. But what are the “quintessential spring drinks?” And how might they differ from our summer favorites? Our hosts debate these questions and more.
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Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.
Joanna Sciarrino: And I’m Joanna Sciarrino.
Zach Geballe: In Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is the f*cking Friday “VinePair Podcast.”
Z: We need to start a betting pool for when the first F-bomb gets dropped on a Friday episode. I feel like we get into the swearing earlier and earlier.
A: I got it.
Z: Just all of us.
J: I think we need special Friday music.
A: Someone just turned it off. They’re like, “Oh, that’s it.” Anyway, St. Patrick’s Day has passed. Lots of Jameson has been consumed this week, probably. I feel like this is a weekend where a lot of people still celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. That’s what happens when one of these big holidays is in the middle of the week. People take advantage of the weekend before and the weekend after. So there’s gonna be a lot of St. Patrick’s Day stuff this weekend, but it has passed. Before we jump into it, you were mentioning something, Zach. None of us are watching any wine-centric TV shows that are on the air right now, right?
Z: I did get a strong recommendation from a friend for “Grand Crew.” I’m aware that a few of these shows have debuted recently. I had not checked it out, but she was very adamant that it was very good. As someone who is into wine — not super professional — maybe I’ll give it a look. As you all know, I’m not a big TV guy.
A: Yeah, maybe I should, too. I don’t know.
J: I’ve heard mixed things about all of these shows. There’s “Kings of Napa,” “Grand Crew,” and what’s the other one? It’s escaping me right now.
A: It’s weird that there are three and they all debuted in the same season. I find that so interesting. What was the market research that decided that there should be three wine-centric scripted, fictitious shows all at the same time? Obviously, Carlton McCoy has his wine- and travel-focused show that’s about to come out on CNN. I’ve seen those previews, too, and they kind of make him look like the next Bourdain. I’ll be curious to watch that just because Carlton’s a nice guy. But we’re not talking about that, we’re talking about the fictitious stuff. One’s set in a wine bar, one’s at a vineyard. It’s really interesting to because…
J: “Promised Land.”
A: Oh, “Promised Land.” I haven’t seen any of them, so I’m curious. Maybe I’ll download some for my next trip and watch them on the plane or something. If any of you listeners are watching, please let us know.
Z: I want to hear if you have recommendations.
A: I’m just really sad now that the “Righteous Gemstones” season is over.
Z: Adam’s getting a lull in his prestige TV.
A: I need more prestige TV.
Z: You gotta go to the broadcast networks, buddy.
A: Yeah, I don’t know. Anyways, there is a really amazing thing happening this weekend. That is, it’s finally spring.
J: I was like, “What’s happening this weekend?”
A: At least on the calendar, right? It never really feels that way in New York, yet. But in a lot of the country, it’s probably already felt like spring for a few weeks. For a fun Friday episode, I have a challenge for both of you. By the end of this episode, I would like to have us come up with the quintessential spring drink. And it can be different for each of us. I’m not looking for this bullsh*t you also drink in summer. Oh, well, an Aperol Spritz, unless you really feel like it’s more appropriate in spring. And I know that’s what you’re going to drink later, Zach, which is why I’m bringing it up now. Is there a drink that we think can define the spring? Or a few drinks? I really do feel like big, bold red wines define winter, along with eggnog and Hot Toddies and things like that.
Z: Bourbon and barrel-aged beers.
Z: And rosé.
A: I would argue that they define summer. Is there a quintessential spring drink?
J: Mint Julep.
A: That’s a good one, Joanna. Why?
J: It’s the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, and that happens in spring every year. I also think that drinks with herbs in them feel very spring-y to me. I know this is not a spring drink. I’m pretty sure it’s a summer drink, but the Pimm’s Cup feels very spring-y to me as well. Also, my mind immediately went to rhubarb and other spring produce that you can only get in spring for a very small window of time. That would be a spring drink to me.
Z: You’re here for a miner’s lettuce-infused gin?
J: Oh, yeah.
Z: I don’t know if that would taste like much. Some nettle tea mixed with whatever.
A: Already, we may be close on the spirits side of that. I think the Mint Julep is 100 percent the official spring cocktail.
J: Good, OK, this conversation is over.
A: I think we’re done. Joanna just dropped the mic. But I mean, I really do, because it has all those things you’re talking about. It has the sweet notes that people are looking for. It can play well in a warmer climate, but it also has that freshness that we think of with spring. All these things that are now in bloom and coming back. It just is this amazing cocktail that really is only drunk now. You could never claim that the Margarita is a spring cocktail. Although Cinco de Mayo happens in spring, and obviously tons of brands circle around the Margarita, it’s an all-year cocktail. It’s most massively consumed in the summer, but it is an all-year cocktail. It’s the No. 1 cocktail in America all year long, so it’s very hard to say that the Margarita is a spring cocktail. But the Julep is 100 percent a spring cocktail.
J: When else are you ordering a Julep?
A: I don’t see a lot of Juleps getting ordered even in the summer. But you know what? I want to see a damn Julep on every f*cking cocktail bar menu in the spring. I want to drink Juleps, have them made for me. I’m not going to make them; they’re kind of annoying to make.
J: They’re very annoying to make.
A: Have you guys tried to make them?
Z: Oh yeah.
A: They’re so annoying. I’m talking about this as a home bartender. As a professional, I’m sure you get them ordered. For a home bartender, they’re annoying.
Z: Well, the big problem is the ice.
J: Yeah, you need the right ice.
A: But then are you making a Mint Julep syrup? Are you just muddling? Are you using a simple syrup or are you using sugar? They’re so annoying to make. You need the crushed ice. You need a special glass. I want to order them out, and I’m challenging the bars in these United States: You better have some Mint Juleps on the menu for me this spring, because I will come in and I will order it.
Z: The other piece about the Julep is, as Joanna mentioned and you all probably know, it’s very closely tied to a specific spring event, the Kentucky Derby. But it definitely does not only fit in that context. I don’t think that, after Derby Day, you absolutely have to put your Julep cups away. You probably have to put your hats away, but not your Julep cups.
A: Some people never put those hats away.
Z: I’ll take your word for it. I was thinking about this prompt earlier, and I was thinking about the differences in how we even approach certain spirits or styles of cocktails in spring versus in summer. Joanna was very much onto something when she said that spring is really about fresh herbs. In part because in most of the country, you’re not really getting fresh fruit in the spring. Besides something like rhubarb, which again, isn’t really a fruit, but we kind of treat it like fruit. So there aren’t a lot of fruit-forward options. This is just my personal preference, so maybe it’s not universally applicable; spring is the time of year when I enjoy fruited beers the most.
Z: I know that fruited sours are having their moment year-round. But I really think that fruit-forward beers, especially stone fruit beer and stuff like that, are almost like a preview of the summer to come. Those are really fun. To me, the thing about fruit beers is that when it’s really summer, I want light, crisp beer. I don’t really want something with a lot else going on. But on a 65- degree sunny day in April, where it’s nice out but I also know it’s getting a cold when the sun goes down, that’s the right time to be drinking a fruit-forward beer. I don’t know that I need it on an 85- degree day in July, but in spring it’s a really nice fit. Maybe it doesn’t quite conform to the parameters of “never consumed any other time,” but it is absolutely at its pinnacle in spring.
J: Also what works for that time is lavender- or lemony-type drinks as well. Those types of herbs. It’s not like a lemonade, because that’s very summery. But I think it’s a nice transition into it.
A: This is probably where you have the clearest, what I would think of as a spring wine, which is Sauvignon Blanc. You have fresh grass, you have all the herbs we’re talking about, you have the lemon. To me, once we get to summer, Sauvignon Blanc is a little too aggressively aromatic. I don’t want that anymore. I just want to crush rosé and some other whites. But I’m not really in the mood for Savvy B. But as a spring wine, it’s great. It finds its way onto a lot of quintessential holiday tables in the spring as well. It plays really nicely with lamb and rabbit. You have all these different holidays where, depending on what your culture is, Sauvignon Blanc plays well. So it is a very easy wine for the spring. And it’s a more difficult wine, I think, for the summer. I know people are going to come at me, because there are people that drink it all year long. But I do think it finds its best place in the spring. This is where I also think, even though the haze boys are going to come at me, this is the season for the hazy IPA. The hazy IPA is citrusy; it’s fluffy. But it still plays really well when, as you’re saying Zach, you get those crisp, cooler days where that full-bodied IPA is still really welcome. But then you also get some of the warmer days. I don’t want to drink a hazy IPA that’s 7.5 percent alcohol, sitting outside on the beach in the summer. That’s not what it’s there for. You’re going to fall asleep and get sunburnt, let’s be honest.
Z: Adam may or may not be speaking from personal experience.
A: Yeah, you don’t want that. In the spring when you’re getting back to outdoor activities, you’re in the park with friends, etc., it’s a really fun beer to have. It’s where the style is most at home. Again, I get it. People drink it all year long. I find myself liking hazies throughout the year, but I do think it is a spring beer.
Z: I can see that. There’s also a whole category of German beer that fit into the spring season.Your Märzens and your doppelbocks, things like that hit a little higher on the malt register. They’re not your really clean crisp. As we discussed, the lagers, pilsners, etc., are really more summer beers. They’re not the full, deep, dark winter beers. They’re sort of in between, but in between in a different way. Spring is kind of the mirror image of fall, in its own way. I was thinking about this, do I just reverse my fall drinking in spring? Do I start out with medium-weight red wines and move into rosé? There is something to that. We’re kind of living through a spectrum. But I do think there are specific flavors that make much more sense. A flavor that I would enjoy in fall, like apples and pears and stuff like that, would feel very out of place in spring. With cherry and other stone fruit, you’re starting to see cherry blossoms on trees. And you’re starting to see that whole emergence from winter, that’s very heartening to me personally, but definitely provides some nice prompts. An ingredient that’s not a specific drink, although maybe we can workshop it, is honey. Spring is an excellent time for honey. Maybe a Bee’s Knees or something like that.
J: I feel like gin is a good spirit for spring.
A: Gin is a great spirit for spring. If you want to be super bougie, here’s a good spring cocktail. You can make a Gin Martini, and instead of a lemon twist or an olive, you use a pickled ramp that you foraged yourself.
Z: You’re going to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to get your ramps?
A: You can get a lot of ramps in the Hudson Valley. The first year of Covid, we went up and stayed with some friends for one week in early spring at their house, and we went ramp foraging and there were a ton of ramps.
Z: Having to explain to guests what ramps are every year was one of my least favorite parts of spring.
A: How did you explain that? What did you say?
Z: It’s like a wild onion. It’s like a leak. I don’t know. It depends on how much people know about the allium category of vegetables.
A: You can only get it for a few weeks, and everyone’s obsessed with them.
Z: Spring definitely has an overabundance of obscure, weird, foraged vegetables. Especially around here, and I assume it’s not all that different in New York, everyone in the restaurants was so desperate for anything that was not cruciferous vegetables.
A: I feel like ramps are the gourds of spring. Fight me. Everyone is like, “Oh, ramps, ramps.” I mean, they do wind up in a lot of cocktails as well. It’s also amazing how much the green market charges for them. But I digress. I don’t know. Can you use asparagus in anything? Asparagus is a really hard vegetable to pair with wine.
Z: I don’t agree with that. I received that wisdom when I was starting out in wine. Like a lot of things with vegetables, it comes down to how they are cooked more than anything else. If you’re steaming your asparagus and serving it plain that’s been over-steamed, then it’s pretty pungent and vegetal. It isn’t going to go well with anything, frankly. This is a pairing fundamental, the cooking method will change the pairing for any item, it’s not just with vegetables. Certainly you could look at wines, especially white wines, that offer a degree of sort of vegetal character. We talked on the last episode about near northern Italian white wines that can convey those notes. Whether it’s a Soave or an Arneis from Piedmont, they often carry green tones. You could certainly look at Sauvignon Blanc as another example. Maybe not from New Zealand, where it tends to be more like juicy fruit and bold fruit character, and more from the Loire Valley. But those are really great options. Depending on what else you might be eating, it works really well with green, vegetal red wine as well. Those work really well with asparagus, like a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, Gamay, etc. I never understood the trepidation. Steamed, naked asparagus is fine. But I don’t want to eat that, whatever the drink is.
A: Yeah, I agree.
J: You can also use it as a wonderful garnish for a Bloody Mary.
Z: Yeah, that’s true.
A: I’ve never been a Bloody person.
Z: Pickled asparagus as your Martini garnish; why not?
A: Oh, that’s cool. But ramps really say that it’s spring.
Z: It’s true. It carries with it a whole other level of extra.
A: So if we were to vote here, what are we saying? I think we very easily landed on the cocktail: the Mint Julep as the official cocktail spring. But what about the beer and the wine?
Z: I’m with you on Sauvignon Blanc. That sounds good to me; it does make sense. Another ingredient that’s very common in spring dishes is fresh cheese, goat’s milk or otherwise. Sauvignon Blanc goes really beautifully with that as well. I think of a quintessential spring salad, and Sauvignon Blanc is what I want to drink with that.
A: Interesting. Then what about beer? It’s hard.
J: The fruited sour makes sense to me. And some of the more fruited, hazy IPAs also make sense.
A: As you’re saying Zach, the beer with the stone fruit makes sense. Because you’re right: In the summer, that’s not the beer I’m reaching for. In the summer, I’m reaching for beers that are much refreshing, because it gets really hot. It just gets so hot. You’re not in the mood to drink something that’s that heavy and also sugary. I just really want crisp lagers, crisp pilsners, and Kölsch. Those are great beers to drink all summer long. In summer, too, you’re a little bit more active. You’re sitting on the beach, you’re hanging out, you’re taking a bike ride. You want stuff that’s not going to give you a massive buzz. Those beers are nicely lower in alcohol. Some of these fruited beers also come in around the same level as these hazy IPAs. Yeah, I’ll have one of them, but then it’s like, “See ya.”
Z: Spring is the time when you are happy to be doing anything outside. You don’t have to be doing much.
A: Exactly. I could just be sitting at a picnic table with some friends all day, and I’m good.
Z: I have one last prompt along those lines. What is the best hard seltzer flavor for spring?
Z: I feel like grapefruit is a winter one more for me.
A: Well, it’s citrusy. It has a little bit of a bite to it.
J: I think lemon.
A: Oh, lemon is good. It has a little bit of a bite.
Z: How about black cherry?
A: That’s also good.
J: What is the season for black cherry?
A: Who knows?
Z: I don’t know. Summer, I guess? Early summer, late spring.
A: The only stuff I would say doesn’t work is the pineapple. That’s very tropical to me. That feels very beachy. That all feels very much like summer. Seltzer has also become one of these things that’s all year round. It’s such a weird behemoth.
J: It’s all artificial flavoring.
A: It’s like Mountain Dew.
J: We gotta get some of that. How do we get it?
A: I don’t know. It’s only in three states and already sold out. Boozy Mountain Dew, in three states, already sold out. I wish we had it. If you’re listening, Sam Adams, Boston Beer, and PepsiCo, please send us some. Please send us some boozy Mountain Dew. We would love to try it on the podcast. Come on. I gotta try this. It’s too good. I hope you both enjoy your weekends. I would say we would drink something, but Zach made an Aperol Spritz and it’s really early in the morning.
Z: I know; it’s my breakfast. I haven’t even had coffee yet.
A: I also feel like you made an Aperol Spritz and now we’ve totally decided it’s not an official spring cocktail.
Z: I’ll just have it for myself.
A: You should. I will not be talking to you guys next Monday because I’m going to be out in California doing some cool stuff for the “Wine 101” podcast. I hope guys have a great conversation with whoever it is. I’ll see you both in a week.
J: Yes, talk to you then.
Z: Sounds great.
Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.