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Cocktails get an herbal makeover

Courtesy of Gabi Porter

A bartender serves up the Snow Miser's Cooler, garnished with cucumbers.

Has the reign of the appletini and chocotini come to an end?

Cocktails are currently trending away from sugary sweetness and toward garden-freshness -- that is, in the form of herbs, flowers and veggies. Drinkers are starting to prefer the compelling bitterness of the Negroni to the milkshake quality of the Mudslide. And whether it's rosemary in tequila, lavender in gin or cilantro in a jalapeno drink, don’t be surprised if you spot a small herb garden growing on your local bar.

At last weekend’s Manhattan Cocktail Classic, where the world’s best mixologists gathered to show off their hottest creations, cocktail glasses were teeming with unusual ingredients.

Tequila Don Julio garnished their drink with a sprig of rosemary, while Beefeater Gin included sage in their Beefeater 24 Almond Iced Tea (Beefeater 24, almond syrup, lemon juice, green tea and sage). Even drinks that did include fruit tempered the sweetness with a savory bite. Tanteo Tequila made a Watermelon Paloma -- but tempered the sweetness with lime juice, cilantro and sea salt (plus jalapeno tequila and agave nectar). 

Simon Levine

This cocktail features Beefeater Gin and is garnished with sage.

The folks at Leblon Cachaca (cachaca is a Brazilian liquor made from fresh pressed cane juice) created a pineapple drink that was garnished not with more fruit or paper umbrellas, but with nutmeg.

The most prevalent ingredient: cucumber. Whether it was juiced, muddled or used as garnish, every few feet someone was mixing a cuke cocktail. 

Cucumbers are actually used in the process of making Hendrick’s Gin, so it made sense that they garnished their Snow Miser’s Cooler (St. Germain elderflower liqueur, strained lime juice, simple syrup, lavender bitters and soda water) with mint and cucumber. The floral notes from the elderflower and lavender combined with the sweetness of the cucumber, mint and simple syrup to make the perfect drink for a hot summer night.

One of the most popular drinks, though, was the classic Italian summer staple: the Negroni. Composed of equal parts Campari (which is infused with herbs), gin and sweet vermouth and garnished with an orange rind, it's prized for its bitter notes and deep red color. So much so that one partygoer enjoys it as an accessory: She told me she drinks it for the color.

Tell us, what's your favorite new cocktail?