"I was a little bit nervous about how people would receive it, but I've had e-mails from all over the world," says Casey, who introduced her H20 cocktails in a seminar conducted with Tony Abou-Ganim and Purity Vodka's Thomas Kuuttanen.
Even hardened cocktail geeks were intrigued by Casey's concoction, which mixes vodka with various flavored waters. The result is "lighter, lower in calories, and all-natural," Casey says, ticking off three adjectives that make contemporary restaurant owners swoon.
"Brown and bitter is a huge thing, so this is the polar opposite," Casey says.
While bartenders have been toying with alcohol infusions for years, Casey says there are advantages to flavoring water instead of spirits. In addition to having a far higher calorie count, alcohol can obscure or pervert the flavors of fruit, so infusions sometimes taste unpleasantly "composty." When water's imbued with fruit--either through overnight marination or a nitrogen oxide shot--Casey claims the resulting beverage is so delicate and clean that bartenders can flip the standard cocktail ratio, "stretching three ounces of vodka over three drinks, instead of one."
Or bartenders can forgo the alcohol completely, she says. When Casey threw herself a birthday party, she served water flavored with clementine, cucumber, and mint over a hand-cut chunk of ice.
"My pregnant friends, my diabetic friends, they loved it," Casey says.
For Tales of the Cocktail, Casey lugged Northwest berries across the country to give conference attendees a taste of freshly flavored berry water. She also set out an array of flavored waters so bartenders could experiment, a spread that inspired one participant to mix celery, mint, and peach waters. "He wanted it to taste like a Bellini, and it really did," Casey says.
Water-based cocktails can also be carbonated, she adds. "I think it's a really cool concept," Casey says. "They're easy and really fun to do."