The Ranch Bartender Kristin Markley Shares Tips for Using Fresh Fruit and Herbs

The Ranch Restaurant in Anaheim is acclaimed as an upscale steakhouse, but it is so much more than that. The award-winning chefs have mastered an irresistible season-driven menu. And at the bar, bartender Kristin Markley often uses fresh produce sourced from the restaurant’s impressive farm in nearby Orange.

The Better With Sage cocktail employs fresh blackberries from the farm, as well as sage leaves to flavor the made-from-scratch sugar syrup. Markley “sage slaps” an additional leaf to use as a garnish, smacking the leaf between her palms to release flavor and aroma.

In addition to the muddled berries and sage-spiked simple syrup, she adds fresh lemon juice and gin. She explains that there are many great gins in the marketplace but prefers Nolet’s gin for this cocktail. It has notes of rose and peach that complement the other ingredients and hints of pine that bring out the sage. It’s a beautifully balanced cocktail. She says that her favorite dish to eat with it is a juicy pork chop.

She has been a part of the mixology team working in The Ranch’s Renegade Bar for more than seven years, helping to develop the bar program that includes switching up the menu each season and developing cocktails for weddings and special events. Often those occasions require creating a cocktail using the event’s color scheme. Cheerfully she reveals that guests have very interesting requests, and they work together to find a drink that fits the occasion and makes parties special.

She grew up in Long Beach and attended Woodrow Wilson High School. She is a certified sommelier (CMS II), and during her 33-year career has developed bar menus while working at several Orange County restaurants, including Memphis Café in Costa Mesa and Oysters and A Restaurant in Newport Beach.

Mixology Mentors: Chefs, such as Dave Rossi at Oysters (now executive pastry chef at The Ranch Restaurant) and Diego Velasco at Memphis, influenced her drink-making early in her career. She started following their trends and that led her into using fresh produce and herbs in her drinks.

Awards: Winner of Cointreau Bartending competition (2004) that earned her a full-page spread in Vogue magazine; winner of Iron Bartender competition (2005); guest judge on Bravo Network’s “Top Chef” Season 2 (2006)

Woof Woof Collection: She has three dogs – a 16-year-old pit-Lab mix who is afraid of tiny bunnies, a 2-year-old Jindo-Collie mix who is fearless and got rid of the bunnies, and a puppy that’s a German shorthaired -ointer-Lab mix who points and is full of fun.

Drink of Choice: Reposado tequila, neat in a snifter to sip on. No training wheels.

Inside Info: As teens, she and her sister bartended at her parents’ cocktail parties.

The Ranch Restaurant (The Renegade Bar is the main bar) is at 1025 E. Ball Road, Anaheim.

Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.”


The Ranch’s Better With Sage Cocktail

Yield: one cocktail

Sage sugar syrup: 2 cups water, 2 cups granulated sugar, 10 large fresh sage leaves

4 fresh plump blackberries

3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

3/4 ounce cooled sage sugar syrup

2 ounces Nolet’s gin

Small ice for cocktail shaker

One large ice cube for serving

  1. Prepare sage-spiked sugar syrup: Bring water to a boil. In a small saucepan or heatproof bowl, combine sugar and sage leaves. Pour boiling water on sugar mixture. Stir to dissolve sugar; allow to rest for 1 hour. Strain; discard leaves. (Leftover strained syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for future use.)
  2. Add blackberries to cocktail shaker and vigorously muddle (mash). A muddler is a handy tool for this, but you can use a pestle (or wooden spoon, although it will take more time and effort). Add juice, cooled sugar syrup, gin, and ice. Cover and shake vigorously.
  3. Double strain; she first uses the strainer on the cocktail shaker, then pours through a fine-mesh strainer into a bucket glass with a large ice cube. Slap a large fresh sage leaf between palms of both hands and float it on top. Serve.

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