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Published April 16 2012

Local bartenders share their favorite seasonal drinks

FARGO – ’Tis the season for mojitos and martinis.

At least, that’s according to local bartenders, who say that with the shift to warmer weather, our tastes for particular beverages have changed as well.

Whether it’s beers, mixed cocktails or even raspberry lemonade (that one’s for you, Marilyn Hagerty), this is the time of year when we’re turning more and more to lighter, fruitier beverages.

And with plenty of warm spring and summer days ahead (knock on wood), we caught up with a few Fargo-Moorhead bartenders to get their seasonal recommendations and to see what else bar patrons are ordering these days.

• 1. Monte’s

220 Broadway N., Fargo

Bartender: Jon Narlock

Spring drink of choice: The Ginger Rogers martini

Created by bar manager Aaron Hanson, the Ginger Rogers is made by mixing a ginger base with vodka and lime, which creates a definite fresh- and light-tasting drink that’s undeniably perfect for warm and sunny weather.

“People love it,” says Narlock.

The Ginger Rogers, he says, is representative of the larger trend this time of year for customers to start ordering clearer drinks with a lighter, fruitier taste. It’s a transition from the darker cocktails ordered at Monte’s during winter.

This happens, Narlock says, “as soon as the sun comes out and people start getting the sun on their skin.”

A “garden” feel in drinks gets to be popular around this time of year too, he says. Garnishes like cucumber add a seasonal flavor to clearer liquors like vodka or gin.

“People are ready for summer,” Narlock says.

• 2. O’Learys

808 30th Ave. S., Moorhead

Bartender: Elijah Larson

Spring drink of choice: Sam Adams Alpine Spring (on tap)

You can’t go wrong with the Boston brewery’s seasonal beer, Larson says, although he advises fans to get it while they can – the early warm weather means that distributors have already started looking at putting out summer beers, like the ever-popular Summer Shandy.

“Everyone’s taking full advantage of not having snow,” Larson says, adding that he’s seeing an uptick in vodka- or gin-based drinks.

The veteran bartender is also currently working on several mixed drink recipes as well, such as a rhubarb or chokecherry vodka-based cocktail, which he hopes to have finished by the end of the month.

“Anything with fruit or ginger ale starts to become more of a spring thing,” he says.

And as spring slowly turns to summer, the gin and vodka will start to give way to rum and more tropical drinks.

“People are ready for summer,” Larson says, echoing Narlock’s words. “With that short winter, we’ve basically had no spring at all.”

• 3. The Hotel Donaldson

101 Broadway N., Fargo

Bartender: Anthony Ryan

Spring drink of choice: Any clear liquor, like gin or vodka, with a fruity flavor like pear or mango (pictured is a Cucular Cali)

Ryan says he’s not sure if there’s one particular drink that exemplifies the spring season, but, like some of his peers say, clearer liquors are definitely a place to start.

“I really like to use pear, mango, fruits that aren’t quite as typical, and try to get some flavors in there,” Ryan says. “I really like to experiment with drinks.”

With the opening of the hotel’s rooftop bar only weeks away, Ryan says the HoDo is “definitely in the spring mood here.”

And, for the first time that he can remember, Ryan says the HoDo is working on a rooftop-specific menu that Ryan says could include drinks like flavored Long Island Teas, flavored punches or other possible concoctions of “stuff that’s refreshing and real clean.”

Kind of like the spring season.

• 4, Usher’s House

700 1st Ave. N., Moorhead

Bartender: Aaron Duma

Spring drink of choice: The Summertime

Invented by a former Usher’s bartender, the drink is made with freshly muddled cucumber, Jameson Irish Whiskey, bitters and homemade ginger ale, garnished with a slice of cucumber, creating a concoction that is refreshing and tastes every bit as its name implies.

In fact, the drink’s name comes from the reactions of people who taste it – “everyone who has it says it tastes like summertime,” he says laughing.

In addition to that cocktail, Duma says mojitos at Usher’s have also become popular in the past few weeks and will stay popular all the way through summer.

And with the patio at Usher’s open on a temporary basis – Duma says there have been a few nights when patrons have opted to sit outside – the transition from darker to lighter drinks is only getting started.

Although seasonal cocktails like the Summertime are quite popular with patrons at Usher’s, Duma says that’s actually becoming a growing trend around the F-M metro area as well.

This, he says, is due in large part to the fact that there are now more local bartenders proficient at mixing drinks. That translates into some excellent options for customers.

“So many mixologists around Fargo are stepping it up and coming up with these made-from-scratch, custom cocktails,” he says. “Fargo’s moving in the right direction, for sure.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535