Last week I wrote about patios, and how wonderful it is to find a kind one for spring sitting. I want to continue this line of magical thinking by extending these thoughts to other things that go along with spring: readying up our homes with spring cleaning, pulling covers off patio chairs and maybe inviting some friends over for refreshing cocktails among a backyard bloom.

While I do love a cocktail, the art of mixology evades me. I tend to stick with simply-made drinks, my go-to's being the Aperol spritz and Cocchi Americano. Both come from Italy and both involve an
orange. Simplicity!

The Aperol spritz is one of the most popular drinks in Italy; an easy-to-make, easy-to-drink aperitif. It's made mostly of flowers and rhubarb and has a wonderful, rich, herbal flavor. Aperol is similar to Campari, but with a much lower alcohol level, 11%, making it perfect for sipping away the day.

The Aperol spritz makes a great spring drink because it's easy to put together. You simply pour equal parts Aperol and prosecco over ice, in a large wine glass, add a dash of seltzer water, and garnish with an orange peel.

In the same vein as Aperol is Cocchi Americano. Cocchi is an aperitif that bridges the worlds between liquor and wine, as it is technically wine with a small amount of bittered—or "amaricato"—alcohol. In this case, the herb and spice infusion includes a similar mix as Aperol, but also includes bitter orange peel and elderflower, among others. Cocchi Americano is best served over ice, with a spritz of seltzer water and an orange peel garnish.

Another spring-friendly spirit is cachaça, the main ingredient of Brazil's famous caipirinha. While it's actually the third-most consumed distilled spirit on the planet, in America, it's used mainly as a mixer. My favorite brand is Novo Fogo, which produces seven varieties of organic cachaça, from light to dark, responsibly made from hand-harvested sugarcane in a zero-waste facility.

Since you've already got Cocchi American and Aperol on your mind, add Novo Fogo to your shopping list, as this drink combines all three! For those who know a bit about mixology, Novo Fogo's Santa Catarina is a twist on a classic Negroni. For the rest of us, it's just plain delicious: Simply stir together equal parts Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça (a 30-ml shot for one serving), Cocchi Americano and Aperol with ice. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a citrus peel. Ai está!

I would love to learn about crafting more of these tipsy concoctions, but where to start? How lucky for us that we have our very own "Liquid Muse" in town. Her name is Natalie Bovis and her goal is to change the world, one boozy drink at a time.

Courtesy Natalie Bovis

Bovis, a Santa Fe native and onetime SFR columnist, has traveled the world exploring the art of the cocktail. She has authored various books on mixology and appeared on television, in podcasts and more, teaching "the spirited, liquid element of gastronomy." Bovis is also a co-founder of OM Liqueurs, an award-winning line of organic spirits. In other words, this woman knows her shizzle.

A few years back, noting that Santa Fe had "world-class chefs and cuisines, but a cocktail culture that wasn't quite on par," Bovis created the New Mexico Cocktails & Culture Culinary Festival as a way to teach people, both professionals and at-home practitioners, more about the art of mixology. Held May 31 through June 2 at the Drury Plaza Hotel, the overall goal is to grow mixology as part of Santa Fe's
culinary scene while giving back to the
local community.

"We've come a long way in Santa Fe cocktail culture, but to be on par with big cities we still have a ways to go," says Bovis. "This is an affordable and fun way for us as a community to get there."

Now in its sixth year, the festival offers classes for professionals and hobbyists as well as fun events including the popular Taco Wars (which sold out, but there's a waitlist at nmcocktailculture.com) and the Chef & Shaker challenge ($95), pairing cocktails and food by some of Santa Fe's best.

"It started as a passion project and is now probably the thing I am most proud of, because it shows off both my home town and its truly impressive culinary industry," Bovis tells SFR.

The festival is followed by New Mexico Cocktails & Culture culinary week (June 2-9) where selected restaurants offer special food and cocktail pairings. If you're more into staying at home, Bovis offers up a favorite spring drink of her own. Bottoms up!

Bubbles & Blooms

By Natalie Bovis, The Liquid Muse

  • 1 1/2 ounces OM Vanilla & Rose Liqueur
  • Top with sparkling rosé
  • Splash cranberry juice
  • Garnish with twirled lemon twist

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail glass. Lay twist across rim of glass.

Note: Aperol is available at most grocery stores. Other brands mentioned can be found at specialty stores including Owl's Liquors (913 Hickox St., 982-1751) and Susan's Fine Wine and Spirits (1005 S St. Francis Drive, 984-1582).