In a year when Instagram has arguably served up more drinks than most in-person bartenders, eye-catching bright colors count. No wonder the snap pea cocktail has become a borderline phenomenon.
Yet, the vibrant green hue is only part of the attraction. Bartenders laud the legume’s bright aroma and earthy, vegetal flavor, which pops alongside a range of white spirits, from gin to mezcal. Often, its perky presence in drinks is underscored by fresh herbs or herbaceous liqueurs like Chartreuse or génépy.
“Snap pea lends itself to bright, refreshing cocktails, ” says Shawn Lickliter, bar director for Los Angeles’ farm-to-table restaurant République. “There’s a freshness, a greenness, a sweetness to it that plays generally well.” Compared to pungent radishes or spicy arugula, snap peas offer a “less aggressive” flavor and aroma, he notes. For his Snap Pea spritz, inspired by a snap pea agnolotti on the menu, Lickliter muddles snap peas with Meyer lemon juice for a bright, verdant burst. He then shakes the mixture with gin, herbal génépy and tarragon simple syrup, and tops the drink with prosecco.
Beyond their visual appeal, snap peas offer a comforting familiarity—a flavor almost everyone has experienced in a spring salad or pasta. “It’s one of the first few things that starts to come in in springtime,” says Washington, D.C., bartender Brad Langdon, now bar director for Albi. When he wanted a “cool, spring-y, vegetal Daiquiri variation” for The Dabney Cellar, he turned to snap peas, which were also being used in the restaurant kitchen upstairs.
“Chef was making sauces with sweet peas and snap peas, and I was tasting through a bunch of things,” Langdon recalls. At first, he tried juicing only the peas, but found them “too vegetal.” Adding the waxy pods yielded more flavor and volume—“there’s a decent amount of liquid retained in the pods,” he notes—as well as a “super-bright, lime green color.”
As savory cocktails have been gaining traction, Caer Maiko, bar manager of Austin’s DrinkWell and co-founder of Daijoubu Pop Up, has found that snap peas can add “a garden-fresh note” akin to celery, without overpowering. She uses a snap pea shrub made with vinegar and mint in her Tendril Loving Care, a Collins-style drink incorporating gin and olive oil–washed blanco tequila, garnished with pea shoots and mint. “The future of cocktails seems to be leaning more and more toward savory items,” says Maiko. “Snap peas can walk the line between sweet and savory in the same cocktail.”
No wonder bartenders are infusing the bright green pods into blanc vermouth for a springlike Martini variation or whirled into a “garden cordial” to green up a Margarita riff. It catches attention, notes Maiko, “without being too weird.”