When it comes to craft cocktails in Richmond, Beth Dixon knows her stuff. In fact, she was making them before they were cool…at least in Richmond.
Dixon began her bartending career at Can Can Brasserie in Carytown 14 years ago. A few years into her tenure, the bar dove headfirst into the craft cocktail scene, and so did she. “I pretty much jumped right into it,” Dixon said. “Can Can was starting to jump on the [craft cocktail] ship, so I jumped right in with them.”
She perfected her craft over the years and moved to Pasture on West Grace Street when it opened in 2011. Shortly thereafter, owner Michele Jones suggested trying a cocktail of the day to highlight the restaurant’s cocktail program and drum up weeknight business.
FROM GARDEN TO PASTURE
After more than four years behind the bar at Pasture, Dixon isn’t even close to running out of ideas for new daily drink specials–or sources of inspiration.
Dixon’s own garden in Northside is the source of many of the fresh ingredients you’ll find in her daily drinks. Perusing her yard, Dixon says you’ll find four to five different types of basil, several varieties of tomato and eggplant, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, kale, herbs, and even a full-fledged nectarine tree. And here I am barely able to keep a simple houseplant alive. But I digress.
She says the restaurant’s own kitchen is a good source of ingredients as well, as they change on both a nightly and seasonal basis. She often uses pickling liquid from fresh pears, pickled watermelon, and even jams and jellies, once they cure into syrup.
And then there’s magazines and the Internet. “I read a lot of magazines and books and I’m a total Pinterest whore,” she jokes. “I have an entire [Pinterest] board with about 500 cocktail recipes. If I’m feeling really stumped, I’ll just go to that and pull inspiration from it.”
Seasonal Drinks and Industry Trends
In the summer months, Dixon creates refreshing, often fruity cocktails. Some of her more unusual ingredients lately have included green tomatoes, laurel, and juniper. One of her favorites right now is fresh chocolate mint from her garden.
She says a great summer cocktail is simple and fresh. “I like to do simple recipes with a lot of fresh flavors.” She’s featured a lot of sangrias, and has been experimenting more with batch cocktails–barrel aging, that is–ever since Virginia ABC regulations eased this month, allowing her to infuse up to 20 liters of alcohol.
“The past few years, a lot of people have been doing more with barrel aging.” She says the new regulations mean you’ll probably start to see more small batch cocktails in the coming months and years.
Richmond’s Cocktail Program Game
When it comes to Richmond’s cocktail program offerings, Dixon thinks that as a city, we’ve definitely elevated the game but still have some work to do. “I think we’re there in a lot of ways; I think we have a long way to go as well. I’ve really been enjoying seeing the camaraderie and partnership between everyone lately.”
She cites a recent meeting of the Richmond Bar Alliance at Pasture in which she witnessed a lot of new ideas and budding collaborations between the city’s bar brethren as a sign of our collective progress.
As for her own favorite cocktail programs in town, she offers up Saison–one of her favorite haunts–without hesitation. Dixon also recommends Comfort’s cocktail program, which she thinks is one of the better kept secrets in town. “I don’t think [Bar Manager] Derek Salerno gets nearly as much love as he should. His cocktail program is simple but delicious. He keeps it to a minimum, but what he has is awesome.” Rounding out her favorites is Suzy Critchlow at Graffiato.
Throwing A Curveball
When asked to come up with a cocktail on the spot that represents RVANews, Dixon doesn’t skip a beat, nor does she hesitate to recommend a tequila-based concoction. Sounds about right.
“I’m thinking tequila,” she says with a quick wit. “I think you guys are always posting pictures of the river, so I’m going to do something fun and summery.” And she delivered, crafting what equates to a fancy margarita of sorts, with tequila, ancho, lime, orange, orgeat syrup, and salt sprinkled directly into the drink itself. It was as delicious and refreshing as it sounds.
To check out Dixon’s daily drink offerings, follow her on Instagram.
Pasture is located at 416 East Grace Street, Richmond, VA 23219
Lunch: Monday – Friday 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM; Dinner: Monday – Thursday 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM, Friday & Saturday 5:00 PM – 11:00 PM; Bar open at 4:00 PM daily; closed Sundays.
Photos: RVANews/Trevor Dickerson
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