Creativity
5 Cocktail Recipes Inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe
Georgia O’Keeffe’s boundless creativity extended from her trailblazing painting approach to her carefully curated home and garden. Her organic diet and sleek wardrobe still fascinate art-loving acolytes, but more powerful are her indelible contributions to art history—namely paintings of unfurling blossoms, floating cow skulls, and pulsing landscapes—which continue to inspire younger generations of artists, designers, and other creatives today.
This month, the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh opens a new exhibition, “The Beyond: Georgia O’Keeffe and Contemporary Art,” which celebrates the pioneering American painter’s resounding influence by pairing her works with those of 20 contemporary artists who’ve followed in her footsteps (including , , and ).
To mark the occasion, the museum tapped North Carolina restaurants to craft specialty cocktails inspired by O’Keeffe’s subjects and color palette, as well as the artists she’s influenced, to serve during the exhibition’s run (October 13, 2018–January 20, 2019). Below, we share five of their cocktail recipes and the paintings they take cues from.

Sedano Fiore, inspired by Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 (1932)

Pizzeria Toro, 105 East Chapel Hill Street, Durham

Joey Allabach, a bartender at Durham’s Pizzeria Toro, created a drink to embody Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1. “We knew the simplicity of the subject matter, the colors, and the one centric flower would translate beautifully into a cocktail,” Allabach explained. “We just love this drink. Beautiful color and balance, almost as pretty as the painting itself.”
  • 2 oz Uncle Vals Botanical Gin
  • ½ oz celery/pepper juice (blend, run through cheese cloth)
  • Capful Chartreuse
  • Capful of Luxardo
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • One pretty, edible flower of your choosing
Build in shaker over ice, stir, strain in martini glass, and add flower.

The Sand Hills, inspired by Small Purple Hills (1934)

Littler, 110 East Parrish Street, Durham

The Sand Hills. Courtesy of Littler.

The Sand Hills. Courtesy of Littler.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Small Purple Hills, 1934. Photo by Amon Carter Museum of American Art. © 2018 Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Small Purple Hills, 1934. Photo by Amon Carter Museum of American Art. © 2018 Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas.

Small Purple Hills immediately reminded us of the classic blood and sand cocktail,” noted bartender Michael Kilbridge. “This is our play on it, with a wink to the Pacific Northwest through the rainier cherries, and a double wink to our North Carolina sand hills home, an ancient beach.”
  • 1 oz Ardbeg 10 Scotch
  • 1 oz Auchentoshen Scotch
  • 1 oz Antica Vermouth
  • ¼ oz luxardo
  • ½ oz cherry syrup
  • ½ oz blood orange puree
  • Brandied rainier cherry
  • Orange peel
Add all ingredients to a shaker glass with ice. Shake and double strain into a coupe. Garnish with a brandied rainier cherry and orange peel.

The Beyond, inspired by Petunias (1925)

Iris Restaurant, 2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh

Georgia O'Keeffe, Petunias, 1925. © 2018 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Petunias, 1925. © 2018 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

Steph Caronna, head barista at NCMA’s Iris Restaurant, and Rachel Siegel, the museum’s food service operations business manager, took inspiration from O’Keeffe’s purple Petunias. Their drink, “The Beyond,” created in partnership with Durham Distillery, is a riff on a Tom Collins with Conniption Gin as its base. “Adding sweet lavender syrup gave the Collins a burst of purple, connecting the cocktail to the painting,” Caronna and Siegel said. “The tart lemon juice and tangy ginger ale balances out the drink for a refreshing treat.”
  • 1½ oz gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • ½ oz homemade lavender syrup
  • Ginger ale
  • Garnish: lemon slice or lavender sprigs
Fill a rocks glass with ice. Pour in gin, then lemon juice, then lavender syrup. Top with ginger ale. Garnish with slice of lemon.

Lavender Syrup

  • ¼ cup dried lavender
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons water
In a small saucepan, add half a cup water and lavender. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Strain and discard flowers, leaving a lavender liquid. In a separate saucepan, add sugar and 3 tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 4–5 minutes and then stir in the lavender liquid. Whisk until combined. Remove from heat and transfer to storage container until ready to use.

Datura, inspired by Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 (1932)

Mandolin, 2519 Fairview Road, Raleigh

Datura. Courtesy of Mandolin.

Datura. Courtesy of Mandolin.

“Georgia O’Keefe’s subject matter focused largely on local flora and the landscape, including Jimson weed, Datura stramonium, which grew [near] her studio and she painted often,” explained bartender Peter Marin. “Datura stramonium is a psychotropic plant. It can be lethal, too. This cocktail explores the botanical nature of the desert with the use of succulents, the white-green color palette, and touches upon the simplicity of form to create its presentation. Mezcal reinforces this botanical narrative, since it is produced from a succulent, as well, and peach vodka hints at the iconic fruits of the South East.”
  • 1½ oz Skyy Peach vodka
  • ½ oz Vida mezcal
  • 1 oz aloe juice
  • ¾ oz St. Germain
  • ½ oz lemon juice
  • 3 dashes Crude bitters grapefruit/peppercorn
  • Mandolin Farm egg white
Mix all ingredients. Dry shake to emulsify. Add 4 ounces of crushed ice. Shake vigorously. Double strain into coupe. Add aloe garnish.

Yellow Valley, inspired by Yellow Mountains (2016) by Loie Hollowell

Hummingbird, 1053 East Whitaker Mill Road, Suite 111, Raleigh

Yellow Valley. Courtesy of Hummingbird.

Yellow Valley. Courtesy of Hummingbird.

Loie Hollowell, Yellow Mountains, 2016. Photo by Feuer Mesler Gallery. Courtesey of the artist and Pace Gallery.

Loie Hollowell, Yellow Mountains, 2016. Photo by Feuer Mesler Gallery. Courtesey of the artist and Pace Gallery.

Bartender Coleen Speaks chose the painting Yellow Mountains (2016) by contemporary artist Loie Hollowell as fodder for her cocktail. “The combination of Reposado tequila, Amontillado sherry, elderflower, agave, and grapefruit oils creates an incredibly well-balanced sipper with nutty, floral, and vanilla flavors,” Speaks explained. “Visually, the deep yellow color reflects the yellow mountains in the painting, and the blue space in the middle of the piece—the ‘valley,’ if you will—relates back to the shape of the coup glass the cocktail is served in, and was the inspiration for the drink’s name.”
  • 1½ oz Reposado tequila
  • 1 oz Amontillado sherry
  • ½ oz St. Elder Liqueur
  • 1 barspoon agave nectar
  • Grapefruit Peel
Stir all ingredients together with ice, pour into chilled coupe. Express oils on top from grapefruit peel. Garnish with Nasturtium or other edible flower.
Casey Lesser is Artsy’s Creativity Editor.