Sagra Italian Trattoria: Mason Popp brings us the herbs in farm-to-tumblercocktail creations
The farm to table movement has been sweeping restaurant tabletops across the country for some time now. It is a culinary movement that literally means the food that is served on the table is sourced from a local farm. Chefs have been incorporating this trend to craft their menus for some time now, but mixologists are now taking a cue from the kitchen, and the farm to tumbler movement is similarly sweeping the nation’s bar tops.
I spotted this trend here in Austin at Sagra Italian Trattoria. When I arrived at the small and intimate bar in the cocktail lounge, I was greeted by bunches of garden fresh herbs. Sweet aromas of rosemary and basil engulfed me. I was there to meet with Mason Popp, the restaurant’s lead mixologist and horticulturalist, as well as the wine buyer and cocktail creator. Popp is keeping the cocktails in line with what the kitchen is turning out, and that is a simple yet delicious menu using only fresh, seasonal ingredients. “Simplicity is key,” says Popp. When the ingredients are fresh, you don’t need to add much to them to create delicious and flavorful food and drinks.
Popp also sources cocktail ingredients from his own home garden, often using them to create the daily specialty drink. Such was the case on the day I visited when he featured the Cocomero Magico, made with his own homegrown white cucumbers. I had not seen a white cucumber before; it resembled a small melon with a thin, white skin and large seeds. It smelled like a typical cucumber but with a hint of lemon. In the Cocomero Magico, the white cucumbers were muddled and combined with Hendrick’s Gin and Vermouth Perucchi to create a perfectly refreshing cocktail.
There are also two seasonal drinks currently on the menu that put that fragrant basil and rosemary to good use. The Basilico, a basil ginger martini, is made with vodka, muddled basil, Domaine de Canton and limoncello. I couldn’t decide between that and the Pera Rosmarino, a pear rosemary martini with freshly muddled pear, Absolut Pear, fresh rosemary and simple syrup. The muddling creates an effect Popp refers to as "flash infusing," which releases the ingredients’ flavors and aromas almost instantly.
The cocktail menu will change according to season and, next up, Popp will be experimenting with sage and Texas grapefruit. Instead of muddling the sage he claps it in his hands to release its flavor and aroma, then adding gin and a touch of lemon. Also look for the Sagra Spritzer, an Italian style mojito. The delicate sweet flavors of fresh mint are combined with pineapple, limoncello, lemon juice, prosecco and a splash of soda water.
“We have become extremely proud of our product sourcing. If it doesn’t come from my own garden it will come from local sources as much as possible,” states Popp. I’ll drink to that!