No summer cookout or get-together is complete without a cool, crisp cocktail – the more fruit, the better. The last weeks of summer mean a flourishing farmers market, so we asked Heather Bragg, the bar manager at OHMS Café & Bar at Sixth and Tyler downtown, to craft a few summer cocktails using fruits and vegetables currently in season. “I wanted something that was refreshing for summer, and these definitely fulfill it,” she says of the assignment, noting that mint is a key ingredient in two of the recipes. “Mint makes everything more refreshing.” From Bragg’s watermelon margarita to her strawberry spritzer, the results are sweet, delicious, and perfect for a backyard party.
Recipes created by Heather, Bragg, OHMS Café & Bar
Strawberry Summer Spritzer 2 strawberries, sliced ½ teaspoon simple syrup 1 ounce vodka 1 ounce Riesling or Champagne Combine strawberries and simple syrup in a shaker and muddle together. Add vodka and ice and shake to combine. Pour into glass and top with Riesling or Champagne. Garnish with a fresh strawberry.
Makes 1 serving
Watermelon Margarita 2 cups watermelon, cubed 1 ounce silver tequila ½ ounce Cointreau Juice of 1 ½ limes 2 tablespoons powdered sugar 3 mint leaves (optional) 5 blueberries (optional) Salt Puree watermelon in blender or food processor and add 1 ounce to a shaker with tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, powdered sugar and ice. Shake and pour into salt-rimmed glass. Add blueberries and mint for garnish.
Makes 1 serving
Cucumber and Mint Gin Gimlet 1 ½ ounces gin Juice of 1 ½ limes 3 tablespoons powdered sugar 3 fresh-cut cucumber slices 4 mint leaves Muddle cucumber slices and mint in a shaker with a few ice cubes. Add gin, lime juice and powdered sugar and fill with ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into martini glass and garnish with cucumber slices and mint leaves.
Makes 1 serving
OHMS Spicy Margarita 1 ½ ounces infused spicy tequila Juice of 1 ½ limes 2 tablespoons powdered sugar Salt This is a multi-step cocktail. Begin by infusing tequila. Pour a bottle of blue agave gold tequila in a jar. Add 4 to 5 sliced jalapeños and a handful of cilantro. Cover and let sit for about three days. Strain before using. Combine tequila, lime juice, sugar and ice into a shaker. Shake to combine. Pour into a salt-rimmed glass and garnish with lime.
Makes 1 serving
Meet the Cook: Heather Bragg of OHMS Café & Bar
Like most bartenders, Heather Bragg didn’t spend her childhood dreaming of a job mixing drinks. In fact, she entered college at West Texas A&M University intent on pursuing a career in sports. “I was big into athletics and sports growing up, and wanted to do anything sports-related,” she says. Bragg counts off potential fields of study that eventually fell by the wayside: “A sports psychologist, a sports nutritionist, a personal trainer … I didn’t finish because I changed my major about six different times.”
Eventually she became certified as a trainer at Gold’s Gym, but continued to be drawn to the service industry jobs she’d worked while in college. “I was a server at several different restaurants and then moved up to bartending,” she explains. Bragg felt more comfortable behind the bar than almost anywhere – “I liked having a bar between me and everybody else,” she says – and spent time at restaurants like Hoffbrau, Bourbon Street, and the Olsen Boulevard dive bar Coconutz before landing at OHMS four years ago.
Today, Bragg doesn’t just tend bar at OHMS, but manages it as well. She says the work suits her personality. “I talk to people easily. I can take any stranger, whether I’m at work or not, and become fast friends with them,” she says. Her ease in building relationships brings the same patrons back over and over to OHMS. “I look forward to seeing my regulars. It’s even at the point where if I don’t see them at the designated time they’re normally there, I get worried about them. I know everybody’s name, I know what they’re going to have when they walk in the door. I love it,” she says.
Bragg admits she’s always had great people skills, but in the early days those skills were pretty much the only thing she brought to bartending. “When I first started, I knew how to open a beer. That was about it,” she laughs. Things have changed. Today, Bragg is known for creating unique cocktails and infusions, including OHMS’ popular Spicy Margarita made from jalapeño-and-cilantro-infused tequila. “It’s fun to keep coming up with new ideas of things to infuse,” she says. Bragg indicates a new rosemary-infused gin she’s been testing. “I’ll see how that works out.”
Once she’s satisfied with the infusion, she experiments with other ingredients to add to the mix. “Adding mint, or juices – that, for me, is a lot of fun. A lot of people come in just to see what I’ve been working on,” she says. For this month’s issue, she based each of her hand-crafted cocktails on fresh fruits or vegetables in season at Golden Spread Farmers Market, combining strawberries, vodka, and champagne for a sweet spritzer and mixing pureed watermelon with mint, lime, and tequila for a refreshing margarita. The creative mixology, Bragg says, “keeps it entertaining for me. I’m not just coming to work and doing the same thing every day. I’m having a good time and keeping it different.”
by Jason Boyett
Jason is a journalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, and the author of more than a dozen books. His most recent is “12 World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity's Most Influential Faiths”, published by Zephyros Press. Learn more at jasonboyett.com.