Brimmer & Heeltap

Brimmer & Heeltap Q&A with AM Sous Chef Angela Ortez-Davis


We started brunch on Mother’s Day weekend two years ago. Since then, we have enjoyed serving hungry diners an evolving menu inspired with full flavors and regional influences. One of the people so instrumental to its success is our AM Sous Chef, Angela Ortez-Davis.

Originally from Los Angeles, Angela moved to Seattle back in 2004 to get her undergraduate degree at Seattle University in Political Science and Latin American Studies. According to her, culinary school was a way to avoid graduate school.

We couldn’t be more delighted to have this intelligent, kind, and resourceful chef as a part of our team!

When asked about her influences, she was quick to acknowledge her roots: “A great deal of my upbringing influences me today. My mom is chef from Mexico who taught me about art and food. My dad is a mechanical engineer from El Salvador who taught me about history and work ethic. Both of them are activists who instilled social justice values in my siblings and me. I’m also influenced by where I grew up. I love Los Angeles! Living in such a diverse and multifaceted place always kept me hungry for more. There’s always something new to try, some new way to live that I hadn’t considered. I feel like that same restlessness keeps me motivated.”

A few of her newest menu additions include:

Housemade Granola, (pro tip: get it to-go) made with steel cut oats, coconut flakes, pepitas, dried cranberries, chia seeds, butter, honey, brown sugar, and nutmeg. She accompanies this with house made yogurt. Morning brain power people!


Greens, Egg & Ham, (Jen’s personal favorite thing on the menu) made with lentil, spinach, sunny-side egg, lardon, bacon fat vinaigrette, citrus-herb crema.


When Angela isn’t working, she’s likely cooking for her husband, playing pinball, or eating out with friends.

We were curious what her favorite menu items are right now and here’s the inside scoop…

“For dinner, I love the beef cheeks with masa gnocchi. That texture reminds me of a beef tamal , but feels fresh and new at the same time! Swoon.

On the brunch side, our Scotch Egg is pretty special. I think it’s a true example of how collaborative our kitchen is. The dish kept evolving and I love where it is right now. Rather than a traditional caraway profile, we have house made green chorizo in our Scotch Egg. It’s served on a thick slice of brioche, toad-in-the-hole style. Then it’s topped with rotating pickled vegetables, pickled mustard seeds and a delicious sorghum demiglace. A lot of love goes into that dish and it’s so much more than the sum of its parts.”

What changes can we expect to see next on the menu? She’s looking forward to the summertime bounty of corn and peppers, not to mention preserving them for our pantry.

I think it’s safe to say a few of us are excited about that too!

Thanks to all of you for making our brunch so worthwhile for us to cook and take care of you on weekend mornings!

Author: Jen Doak

Images: Will Foster

What's Shakin' Bacon?

Mmmmm...bacon! | Photo by Will Foster

Mmmmm...bacon! | Photo by Will Foster

It's hard to believe that it's been an entire year since we started serving brunch to our wonderful Ballard community. Time flies when you're having fun (and noshing on amazing food), right? We've made so many new friends this year; from families with hungry little ones to folks who normally work nights but trek over on weekend mornings for a delicious meal, we've delighted in getting to know all of our new regulars. 

A lot has changed since we first opened our doors for brunch. (Goodbye oxtail soup and hello ramen loco moco!) Our current menu features glorious, homemade slabs of bacon and pork loin, French toast with tart cherries and luscious lemon curd, and homemade ricotta accompanied by grilled bread and seasonal fruit. We're also happily serving menu favorites like Chef's hot puffed black rice with mango and warm, sweet coconut milk, and the b-e-s-t Belgian waffles you've ever tasted. That's right, we said it! 

We've got a special family-style menu that we offer to large groups of people to encourage breaking bread with the ones you love. This menu features larger, shareable plates of waffles, beautiful ricotta and fruit, scrambled eggs with fresh herbs and cheese, and other delicious offerings. 

We're always enthusiastically slinging classic brunch cocktails as well as inventive and fresh tiki-inspired drinks. Our brunch bartender Kyle also creates a daily cocktail special intended to pair perfectly with your meal. Make sure to ask your server about the special cocktail of the day, or better yet, pull up a seat at the bar and nerd out on spirits with Kyle. 

If it's been a little while since you've been in to dine with us for brunch, chances are there are many new menu items to try on your next visit! Tart and sweet berries, stone fruit, deliciously juicy heirloom tomatoes, lovingly-prepared pork loin, creamy mascarpone grits, and a garden's worth of beautifully fresh herbs are all having a moment on our ever-changing, seasonally-inspired brunch menu. Even our cocktail program has experienced a springtime revamp, with more than your average mimosa or Bloody Mary to accompany your rich, hearty breakfast.

Come in soon to grab a seat on the patio and start your weekend morning off with delicious food, genuinely friendly service, and a gorgeous setting. 

Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Jazzlyn Stone  & Will Foster


Green is the Word

“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” – Harriet Ann Jacobs

It never ceases to amaze us just how spectacularly green Seattle is this time of year. I guess that’s one of the upsides of living in such a rainy place. The garden at the restaurant is overflowing with an abundance of dreamy, cascading flora; it seems as if something new blossoms each day. Our West Woodland neighborhood looks lush and renewed, and more and more of our neighbors cruise by us on their bicycles and with many a happy dog in tow.  

We love this magical time of year and the bounty of fresh ingredients it brings to us to experiment with and taste. Once again our menu mirrors the emerald-hued city just beyond our front door, a thing we’ve come to love about the emergence of spring. Fresh herbs, along with foraged and found goodies from Washington’s literal backyard and our own garden, have truly brought our seasonally-inspired menu to life. As American author Harriet Ann Jacobs observes, we are indeed beginning to feel revived after such a long winter.

Creamed nettles with miso, glass noodles, and green garlic. 

Creamed nettles with miso, glass noodles, and green garlic. 

Our spring salad features fiddlehead ferns, peas, pickled ramps, mustard seeds, and opal basil, among other green goodies. 

Our spring salad features fiddlehead ferns, peas, pickled ramps, mustard seeds, and opal basil, among other green goodies. 

It makes us so happy when the dishes we serve are able to surprise our guests in some way. Many people don’t know that nettles, which have a somewhat short season here in Washington, are actually edible and not just pesky, prickly wild greens. Similarly, the gorgeous fiddlehead ferns we’ve been adding to our daily-changing spring salad have brought many a smile to the faces of people who never considered noshing on these tasty plants.

Our delicious prawn salad. 

Our delicious prawn salad. 

Our prawn salad, prepared with herb oil, pickled chiles, pistachios, and green Szechuan peppercorn, is one of our menu standouts right now. This dish is unbelievably fresh, bright, and contains a multitude of textures that absolutely sing when enjoyed together.

Perhaps one of the things that makes springtime so beloved is the fact that it’s a fleeting time. Ingredients like our foraged nettles, ramps, and fiddleheads won’t be around for too much longer; come in soon and let them revive you.

Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Will Foster Photography

Brimmer & Heeltap Team Member Q&A with Bartender Kate Mcmahon

Kate Mcmahon has been on the Brimmer & Heeltap team as a bartender and server since last spring. Originally from New England, Kate loves the beautiful Pacific Northwest and stays active outdoors with friends and her pup Maggie. She’s also very fond of drinking beers at local breweries and honing her tiki drink-making skills behind the bar. She’s got a knack for soccer, knowing where to find all of the best dive bars, and making genuine connections with her guests. Always laughing and up for an adventure, Kate is a wonderfully kind, big-hearted, and talented member of the Brimmer & Heeltap team. You can learn a little bit more about her in this Q&A.

What is your go-to cocktail to make when you’re trying to impress someone?

KM: Hmm…When I want to impress a bar patron, I usually just pour a good whiskey…but with LOTS of flair.

What spirits and ingredients have you been most drawn to when crafting special cocktails lately?

KM: We've been into making our own ingredients for the bar from shrubbery to Worcestershire sauce for bloodies to Cynar falernum. Hopefully guests appreciate all of the thought and effort that goes into that. If that doesn't do it, I resort to lighting things on fire. 

What is your favorite part about making tiki drinks? How did you first get into/inspired by tiki-style drinks?

KM: Tiki drinks?! I don't like tiki drinks, who told you that?! I think it was me trying to escape winter somehow and imagining myself on a tropical beach somewhere, anywhere, sipping island booze and feeling so relaxed - and wanting others to feel that way when they drink tiki vibes. That's why tiki bars were first invented, to transcend. It's better than nothing, right?

Where are some of your favorite watering holes around Seattle?

KM: Grizzled Wizard in Wallingford, Pacific Inn in Fremont, Duck Island Ale House in Green Lake, Essex (is that still Ballard?) and the Independent Beer Bar in....Everett. 

What differences have you noticed about Seattle vs. Boston bar culture?

KM: Boston drinks more! I don't think Boston is really into Duck Farts (I think they originated in Alaska and didn't catch on out there) or Touchdowns - cocktails that is. Millennials really seem to like Touchdowns, and Trash Cans. Kill me. 

Kate also says that “It's inspiring how many breweries and distilleries exist these days...obviously if they're putting out good product, the more local the better…get it while you can before Trump reinstates prohibition.”

Be sure to say hi to Kate on your next visit to the restaurant. Better yet, ask her to make you a tiki drink!

How A “Menu Artist” is Helping Us Give Back this Year

Photo credit: Will Foster 

Photo credit: Will Foster 

On your next visit to the restaurant you might notice a series of framed prints hanging in our bright entryway. The prints, which instantly evoke feelings of warmth and being comforted by a meal shared with dear friends, are part of an annual tradition at Brimmer & Heeltap – one that combines our collective commitment to doing right by our community with food and art.

From the very first day the restaurant opened, proprietress Jen Doak has been dedicated to not only feeding our community, but also bringing people together, raising awareness about vital charity work being done on a local level, and raising funds for Seattle-based nonprofit organizations.

Each year in honor of the restaurant’s anniversary, Jen works with a local artist to design a commemorative print that is available for purchase. The inaugural print was designed by local artist Mike Klay, with proceeds benefitting the Ballard Food Bank. Last year, friend and neighbor Kristen Winn designed a beautiful print that benefitted Big Table. This year, net proceeds from print sales will go towards Arts Corps, a local organization that is committed to providing access to the arts and art education to underserved youths.


We are thrilled to have partnered with Patrick Nguyen (aka Dozfy), a talented Seattle-based artist whose preferred medium is pen and ink on menus, to make this year’s print come to life. “I love how an abstract form of meat and vegetables is manipulated from its original source,” says the artist of what inspires his work. “Extending from the visual aspect, the smell and taste takes the audience on another journey derived from the life experiences. This is exactly what I want my art to do.”

The Brimmer & Heeltap team first connected with Dozfy during one of his visits to the restaurant. While enjoying dinner with his wife, the artist completely transformed one of our menus in his signature style. Since that night we’ve been huge fans of his creative food-inspired artwork; we couldn’t think of a better artist to help us create a print to commemorate another year in business.

In addition to creating the 2017 commemorative print for the restaurant, Dozfy will also be participating in an event we’re hosting to benefit Arts Corp next month. A reservation to this event will ensure you delicious food and drinks, a live performance by one of Arts Corps’ student artists, a meet and greet with Arts Corps new Executive Director James Miles, and a custom piece hand-painted by Dozfy. Save the date: Thursday, February 9th for this fantastic (and tasty!) opportunity to support Arts Corp, or better yet, RSVP today by emailing

You can keep up with Dozfy’s work by following him on Instagram. We love displaying these beautiful prints at the restaurant, so be sure to ask us all about them on your next visit!

Blog author: Caitlyn Edson 

Menu Ch-ch-ch-changes

At Brimmer & Heeltap, we love change. We embrace it. Change isn’t scary – it’s rad! For us, change means new menu items, beers we’ve never tried before, and the uncorking of unfamiliar wines. There are so many uncertainties that come with being inspired by the Pacific Northwest’s seasons and its whims that we think it’s best to just have fun with it. Here’s some ch-ch-ch-changes to our menu that you might not have had the chance to try just yet.

There are two words that best describe our current menu: creativity and comfort. Chef Mike Whisenhunt and the culinary team have been getting seriously creative with everything from the ingredients they’re using to the plating of our many delicious dishes. Not one to ever play it safe with his flavors, Chef Whisenhunt has been blowing our minds with recent additions to the menu.

Smoked ahi tuna with koji pimento broth, black sesame, and charred scallions. 

Smoked ahi tuna with koji pimento broth, black sesame, and charred scallions. 

The smoked ahi tuna served with koji pimento broth, black sesame, and charred scallions is a perfect example of this. Subtly smoky, and with deep flavors that play off of one another incredibly, this is easily one of our new favorites at the restaurant. We recommend kicking off your meal with this beautiful dish as a way to awaken your palate and ready yourself for more bold tastes to come.

Chef Whisenhunt's delicious lamb shoulder fried rice. 

Chef Whisenhunt's delicious lamb shoulder fried rice. 

Another phenomenal new menu item is the lamb shoulder fried rice. Rich and comforting, this play on a banh mi features warm spices, pickled chiles, carrots, daikon and mint. It’s everything you want to eat when it’s cold outside.

The kitchen isn’t the only place whipping up all kinds of new treats to get excited about. Our fantastic bar manager Brian Hibbard and the rest of our super talented bar team are embracing all kinds of new, unexpected ingredients to make drinks that will knock your socks off. The “Scandinavian Mustache” is a great example of this. Made with Krogstad Aquavit – a flavorful spirit mainly produced in Scandinavia – Cynar, lemon, egg whites, and lavender bitters, this cocktail offers a flavor profile that many of us were unfamiliar with (and instantly gushing over).

Brian prepares the Scandinavian Mustache, a phenomenal new cocktail on the list. 

Brian prepares the Scandinavian Mustache, a phenomenal new cocktail on the list. 

If you’re more into beer and wine than cocktails, our ever-changing offerings definitely won’t let you down. Brian has been doing his part to keep a rotating list of fantastic locally-made brews on tap, so if you love beer from Holy Mountain, Stoup, Avery, E9, Georgetown Brewing Co. and many other amazing local breweries, you will definitely not be disappointed.

We L-O-V-E beer at B&H! Come in soon to try something local and tasty!

We L-O-V-E beer at B&H! Come in soon to try something local and tasty!

Our wine list is also thoughtfully curated, and boasts a beautiful selection of old world wines and bottles from the Pacific Northwest. Proprietress Jen Doak is particularly excited about the 2014 Occhipinti SP68, a super-limited vintage produced by badass female winemaker Arianna Occhipinti. Bold and elegant, this bottle is just one of many that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with much of Chef Whisenhunt’s menu.

The 2014 Occhipinti SP68 is just one of many beautiful wines we're offering by the bottle right now. 

The 2014 Occhipinti SP68 is just one of many beautiful wines we're offering by the bottle right now. 

Another exciting addition to the beverage menu is our just-in-time-for-the-holidays homemade 5-month aged eggnog! Since the early summer months we’ve been excitedly awaiting the release of this seasonal treat, and now that it’s here, we’re all feeling a little more prepared for the cold, damp winter weather we’ve been awaiting. Supplies of this excellent batch are limited, so be sure to cozy up to the bar soon to try it for yourself!

Combine eggs, cream, milk, nutmeg, tequila, scotch, and sherry, wait five months, shake and serve on ice with bourbon and an orange twist and...voila! We give you our over-the-top delicious homemade aged eggnog.

Combine eggs, cream, milk, nutmeg, tequila, scotch, and sherry, wait five months, shake and serve on ice with bourbon and an orange twist and...voila! We give you our over-the-top delicious homemade aged eggnog.

This is just a small sampling of what’s new and exciting on the menu right now. Because our food and beverage offerings change often, what we’re serving now might not be here for long. So, come in soon to try something new! We promise that this change is a good one.

Blog Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Will Foster Photography

Our Bread and Butter

It’s not unusual for dinner guests to walk into our open kitchen at the end of a meal, happy and full, to thank the culinary team for preparing such special plates of food for them. We love it when this happens, and when new patrons give us superlatives like, “Chef, that was the BEST bread I have ever tasted. No, I mean it - the BEST.” Mike Whisenhunt, Brimmer & Heeltap’s head chef, always smiles and thanks these guests before getting back to work; it never ceases to amaze him, or any of us really, how something as simple and familiar as bread can be such a powerful part of one’s dining experience.

One of the things that defines us as a restaurant is our refusal to take shortcuts. It would be really easy (and probably still tasty) to serve sliced, room-temperature bread and butter to our guests. But for our Chef and his team, opting for the easy route takes the fun out of it completely. Instead, we ask ourselves questions like How can we make something as comforting and delicious as bread taste even better?

The answer to this question is actually pretty simple. By using the best ingredients available to us and putting just as much love into the preparation of this fantastic snack as we do everything else, the bread we serve becomes an instant favorite of new guests and regular diners alike. If you’ve ever noshed on our bread – thick cut, buttered, toasted to order, and garnished with a sprinkling of salt and pepper – you know that it doesn’t really get any better than this. After Seattle Met’s Senior Writer Kathryn Robinson tried it for the first time, she wrote that “if it’s not the wickedest thing you’ve put in your mouth all day, then you’re living the dream.” We’ll cheers to that.

To prepare the bread for our guests, the culinary team first cuts a 1 ½-inch-thick slice from the Como loaves we source from Grand Central Bakery. Next, the slice is slathered with Plugra, a slow-churned, deliciously creamy European-style butter, before being placed under the broiler. The thick slice takes about ten minutes to toast. Once ready, the hot, crisp piece is dusted with fresh cracked black pepper and salt – finishing touches that help elevate this bread experience.

During brunch, guests are given not one, but three different ways to experience our bread: the classic buttered version, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, or slathered with our homemade peanut butter frosting and seasonal jam. Chef Mike gets this incredible glimmer in his eye whenever guests order his take on PB&J; he knows they are in for a serious treat.

To eat the bread, one must use a steak knife to cut into its thick, crispy crust. Doing so reveals the butter-soaked layers of soft bread underneath, warmed beautifully and seasoned to perfection. It’s a massive slice, so it really is best shared among friends.

At Brimmer & Heeltap, breaking bread both symbolically and literally embodies a ritual that is deeply important to us. We like the notion that sharing a meal with your dearest friends, or partner, or parent can start with a simple slice of bread and become something so much more significant than that. We like how comforting and transportive food can be. We’re thankful for the feedback we receive from our guests, and we’re proud that for some of them, our thoughtfully prepared bread is the most comforting, superlative-worthy thing they’ve tried in a while.

We can’t wait to break bread with you soon.


Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Will Foster Photography

A Neighborhood Place

At Brimmer & Heeltap, we adore our neighbors. Familiar faces fill our dining room throughout the year, including folks that used to frequent Le Gourmand and now see us as a new home away from home. We’re a place to gather and break bread, a community space, a comforting respite from the day-to-day - and we’re in great company. One of the things that informs so much of our identity as a restaurant is the neighborhood we’ve made home in. Ballard – West Woodland more specifically – is rich with small businesses that care deeply about their craft, and about being neighborly.

On our little corner of Northwest Market Street we’re a stone’s throw from Slate Coffee Roasters and Veraci Pizza, two fantastic locally-owned businesses that many of us frequent. Brunch-lovers from the Veraci team have come by for a meal before starting their workday, and we’re often the first place Slate’s incredibly talented baristas will stop by for a drink at their day’s end. We’ve even collaborated with Slate to create beautiful coffee-infused scotch, joining forces to make something truly special to enjoy after a meal at the restaurant. These folks are our patrons, but they’re also our friends.

We love collaborating with Slate (and drinking their delicious coffee!). Image via  Facebook. 

We love collaborating with Slate (and drinking their delicious coffee!). Image via Facebook. 

Stoup's beautiful beer garden is an amazing neighborhood gathering place. Image via  Facebook . 

Stoup's beautiful beer garden is an amazing neighborhood gathering place. Image via Facebook

If you wander just a few blocks west of Brimmer & Heeltap, you’ll begin to stumble upon an array of truly phenomenal breweries, many crafting beer that we serve nightly on our menu at the restaurant. Stoup Brewing, Reuben’s Brews, Maritime Pacific Brewing Co., and Populuxe Brewing are some of our very favorite breweries in Ballard, and all of them are within walking distance of the restaurant. Lucky us! Ballard now contains more breweries than any other neighborhood in Seattle, so it only makes sense that we would serve many of the same brews that our neighbors already cherish. Right now we’ve got a selection of beers on tap that are exclusively from our wonderful neighboring breweries.

Earlier this month, West Woodland, Ballard, an organization that seeks to “connect neighbors, raise awareness & build community in order to improve the quality of life for those who live, work, & play” in this unique pocket of Ballard, announced the winners of the inaugural Best of West Woodland Neighbor’s Choice Awards. Doing so not only helped shine a spotlight on the many terrific small businesses that thrive in the West Woodland neighborhood, but served as a reminder that there is truly a wealth of exceptional places to drink, dine, and gather in our area. We are honored to be named as West Woodland’s Best Restaurant in 2016; with neighbors like Stock, Café Bambino, the Ballard Food Bank, The Dray, Stoup Brewing, and many others making the Best Of list too, we’re prouder than ever to be part of this thriving neighborhood.

It’s always the people that make a restaurant such an exciting, vibrant place to work and gather, and we owe so much of our success to our neighbors that inspire us through their craft, and the guests that keep coming back for more. We’re part of a living, breathing local ecosystem here in West Woodland, and that’s just the way we like it.

Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Will Foster Photography, unless otherwise specified. 

Meet Us in the Garden

Everyone says that summer in Seattle doesn’t actually start until July 5th, but that sure doesn’t stop us from trying to get outside as much as possible before then.

At Brimmer & Heeltap, we L-O-V-E al fresco dining and we’re kind of obsessed with our garden patio – a charming, beautiful space that feels like a precious secret shared between friends. During their first visit to the restaurant, many guests admit that they never realized our patio existed. Even some of our neighbors and regular diners were surprised to find such a unique outdoor dining area tucked away behind the main part of building. Its secretive nature lends itself to a wonderfully intimate atmosphere, and is one of the things we love most about it. 

Perhaps one of the reasons why so few people know about our garden patio is because it actually hasn’t been there for very long. When Brimmer & Heeltap proprietress Jen Doak first stepped into the newly cleared out Le Gourmand, the restaurant that inhabited the space before it became B&H, she immediately recognized how much more impactful the space could be with some renovations. “Standing inside the vacant walls, I felt an instant connection,” she explains in this blog post. “I could see the potential unfolding before my eyes.”

“Standing inside the vacant walls, I felt an instant connection,” explains Brimmer & Heeltap's proprietress Jen Doak, of the old studio space. 

“Standing inside the vacant walls, I felt an instant connection,” explains Brimmer & Heeltap's proprietress Jen Doak, of the old studio space. 

One part of the property that held significant potential was a one hundred-year-old 400 square foot studio that sits to the rear of the garden. Formerly used for dry storage by Le Gourmand, this studio space has since been refurbished and transformed into a gorgeous dining room that anchors an expanded outdoor dining area. It’s a stunning space that we use for private events throughout the year, as well as additional seating when the weather is warm. 

Seattle Met Magazine’s Kathryn Robinson describes this section of the restaurant, and the small seating area that leads to it, as an “enchanting hidden courtyard,” adding that it’s “a sun-dappled must on the romance tour.” Eater’s Megan Hill also sings the praises of our patio, calling it “straight up dreamy.” Ever since the expansion of the garden, Brimmer & Heeltap has been included on various lists of the best outdoor dining destinations in Seattle, a nod to the truly special feeling one gets when dining in this beautiful space. Eater mentions B&H in its roundup of great spots for outdoor dining and drinking in Seattle, as does the Seattle Met and Seattle Weekly, to name a few.

In addition to the dreamy annual flora that blooms there, the garden patio and back studio are dotted with special touches that really make this part of the restaurant come to life: One wall of the studio is actually a retractable garage door that helps provide privacy for private dining and special events in the studio, while still allowing guests to peer out into the garden beyond. A fire pit adjacent to the studio serves as a gathering place for friends who want to share snacks and stories in a casually intimate setting. Ceramic sculptures created by local artist Larry Halvorsen blend effortlessly into the garden where they are displayed; these fantastic custom pieces create depth in a way that feels organic. 

If you haven’t yet dined outside in the garden patio, we invite you to join us on the next sunny day. We love seeing our friends, neighbors, and guests breaking bread together outside in the summer air, and with new dishes and cocktails gracing the menu, as well as a brand new brunch menu to enjoy on the weekend, now has never been a better time to come by and dine al fresco at Brimmer & Heeltap.

Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Will Foster Photography

The Summer of Hibiscus

Brimmer & Heeltap's wonderful crew member Nicole Hardy waxes poetic about hibiscus-infused cocktails.

Brimmer & Heeltap's wonderful crew member Nicole Hardy waxes poetic about hibiscus-infused cocktails.

They say once you notice a trend it’s already over. Which I hope is not the case, in the case of hibiscus-infused cocktails—though at first I had serious doubts. I saw hibiscus twice in two weeks on different bar menus, and groaned—still scarred by the year of the pomegranate. Fully dreading another food craze about to take over the world: hibiscus cupcakes, with bacon sprinkles! Hibiscus infused ganache for your cannabis brownies!  

I’d have never ordered a drink as floofy as a Hibiscus Sour without some serious prodding from Max the bartender at Maggie’s on the Prom in Seaside—a restaurant I found only because I was walking on said Prom. It was there, and it was beckoning, with its outdoor tables overlooking the beach.

Gin, Chambord, fresh lemon juice and house-made lavender honey syrup. Sure, it sounded good, but so many specialty cocktails are syrupy. And this one had syrup in it.  

“It’s the first sunny day of spring,” Max said. “Trust me.”

I resisted: I’m a dedicated drinker of bourbon, I said, and suspicious of any cocktail featuring more than three ingredients. But eventually, he convinced me. Max was handsome, and persistent—as so many bartenders are. He was also correct: it was the first sunny day of spring. A time when gin is virtually irresistible.

It was the deep shock of magenta, though, that really won my heart. And with every sip, that cocktail got better. The lavender! The honey! Just enough to balance the tart burst of lemon. The floral taste and scent perfectly complemented the gin, and I could’ve stayed in that chair, drinking Hibiscus Sours all afternoon. I would’ve, had I brought more than $20 when I left for my walk.

And since then, I’ll admit I’ve developed a little obsession. Though I’m far too lazy a bartender to infuse anything. Luckily, a quick internet search led me to hibiscus tea cocktails. A drink easy enough even I, lifetime fan of the three-ingredient drink, could manage to make.

Also, it’s fun to have an alternative to margaritas or sangria—my usual summer go-to, when hanging out with friends in the backyard or at the beach. This pitcher cocktail—gorgeous, refreshing, easy—has already been the hit of the season. One note, though: you do have to plan ahead a bit. The recipe is easy, but takes a couple hours to chill.

Combine a cup of sugar in three cups water in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil until the sugar is dissolved, then remove the pan from the heat, and add six hibiscus tea bags. Let the tea steep for 5 minutes, then take out the tea bags, return the pan to the heat, and cook, until the liquid reduces by half. Chill it for another hour, and add it to a pitcher along with a cup of orange juice, a cup of tequila and half a cup of lime juice. Throw in a sliced lime, a sliced orange, and a bunch of fresh raspberries. Let it chill for another hour, then serve your cocktail over ice, topped with club soda.

Finally, get ready to be very, very popular.

If you’d rather be drinking cocktails than making them, you know where to find us! Pull up a seat at the bar or on the patio and we’ll craft you something seasonal, boozy, and delicious!

Author: Nicole Hardy

Images: Will Foster Photography