Beverage Director Lara Creasy of No. 246 and JCT Kitchen & Bar - Atlanta, GA
"Floral, but in a dried flower kind of way; sweet from the honey, but balanced with the citrus; boozy, as it's mostly spirit; and with a slightly bitter edge, as the chamomile and fennel pollen both have a little bitterness to them."
Valentine’s Day is like cocktail Christmas for Godiva liqueur fans, but for serious cocktailians, it's more like a booze Black Monday (or Tuesday), all because of two dirty words: sweet and feminine. Valentine’s Day cocktails are notoriously saccharine and almost cartoonishly effeminate (last year we explored, or insisted upon, a few manlier drink choices). That “feminine” flavors exist is debatable—we had a lively (boozy) discussion at last year’s ICC. But taking for granted that the truffle-turned-tipple abominations of St. Valentine’s Day don’t represent all female tastes, we went in search of something that could prove it—that the seductive, “feminine” cocktail has as much sophistication as its counterparts, studly and otherwise.
We found a martini glass-full of proof at No. 246 in Atlanta, where Beverage Director Lara Creasy boldly embraces girlie flavor profiles. Creasy counts typically feminine ingredients like “elderflower liqueur, rose water, jasmine … blueberries, strawberries, and pears” among her bar staples. “So I get that feminine label a lot.” The results of this supposedly prissy predilection are cocktails like the Fields of Gold, an exquisite update on the classic Bees Knees. Named after the Sting song of the same name—“which evokes such a calm and sunny feeling”—the Fields of Gold combines the citrus-and-florals-heavy 209 Gin, honey, lemon, Creasy’s own chamomile-infused dry vermouth, and a final herbaceous touch of fennel pollen. The finished drink is the cocktail equivalent of the Lady in Knee-Length Red: seductive enough to lure you in, but classy enough to be gentle on you once you get there.
Gold (fennel) flecks in the ladylike Fields of Gold at No. 246
And in today’s power-cocktail culture (which Creasy describes as “male-dominated” and decidedly “brown and bitter”) that’s allure in and of itself. “We often feel to be taken seriously we have to beat the male bartenders at their own game rather than changing the game,” says Creasy. “It’s one of those weird things that happens in our society: women cultivate their femininity, almost to a fault, until it comes to someone accusing them of ‘throwing like a girl’ or ‘making chick drinks.’” But there’s a silver lining to bucking the boozy-bitter stereotype. “If anything, it makes my drinks stand apart from the crowd of more ‘masculine’ drinks,” says Creasy. “And that's OK by me.”
It’s OK by us, too. (And not just because some of us are female imbibers who, like Creasy, enjoy every gender stereotype of the cocktail spectrum.) On Valentine’s or any other day, the Fields of Gold won’t only feel like the long, slow, cocktail make-out session you desire, it’ll provide a refreshing paradigm shift, helping us avoid rote "masculinity" in a cocktail culture that is, at its core, unapologetically romantic.