If you read this blog and stop by Metrovino for a cocktail, you might notice some recurring themes. The drink menu starts with a beer cocktail and ends with one featuring Bols Genever. In between there’s Farigoule, three different brands of gin, Smith and Cross rum, plantains, Chartreuse and chocolate, and clarified citrus juice. If that sounds like the kind of menu I would put together, that’s because it is. I’ve happily ended up playing a larger role in the bar program there than initially expected. I’m joined behind the stick by another Carlyle alum, Jason Karp, and a new arrival from Los Angeles, Elizabeth Foley, most recently at Wolfgang Puck’s Cut and Sidebar at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Part of the fun of being behind a bar regularly again is getting to put into practice some of the things I’ve been working on only for fun or for special events during the past year. Among these is agar agar clarification. The method for this was developed by Dave Arnold at the French Culinary Institute and it’s not too hard to work into one’s prep, yet as far as I know no one in Portland is doing much with it yet. We have two cocktails on our new menu using clarified juice as an ingredient.
The first of these is the Crystal Caipirinha. The Caipirinha is one of the world’s great cocktails, a rustic affair with cachaça, limes, and sugar. Traditionally one would muddle this drink. With clarified lime juice you don’t have to. You can stir it instead, and serve it up for a more refined presentation. From the appearance it could be a boring vodka Martini, which makes it all the more surprising when one gets the strong flavor and aromatics of cachaça and lime.
This way of making the Caipirinha is very spirit-forward, so it’s important to use a good cachaça. My favorite Novo Fogo is wonderful here. We served it in this cocktail at Teardrop Lounge recently and again at the Science of Cocktails event in San Francisco. Sugar cane really comes to the forefront in this take on the drink:
2 oz Novo Fogo silver cachaça
1 oz clarified lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
Stir, serve up in a cocktail glass, garnish with a lime twist. It’s important to cut the lime twist over the drink; this isn’t just a visual garnish, it’s there to incorporate the citrus oils that would get released during muddling in a traditional Caipirinha.
The other drink we’ve put on our menu with clarified citrus is a take on the classic Aviation, the Cleared for Departure (possibly my favorite thing about clarified juice is all the clarification puns it opens up). According to one story, the Aviation is named for the sky-like color given to the drink by crème de violette, a liqueur flavored with violet petals. It’s a fantastic cocktail, but shaking it with ordinary juice clouds its appearance and takes away some of the violette’s striking hue. By substituting clarified citrus and stirring instead, you get a drink that’s crystal clear and has beautiful color.
When I make this at home I use the Beefeater Summer Edition gin, which has floral notes that are just perfect for this drink, and the Deniset-Klainguer crème de violette. It’s delicious but I can’t get either of those ingredients in Oregon right now. However the locally made Aviation gin and Rothman and Winter crème de violette work well too, so that’s what we use at Metrovino. And yes, I know that the Aviation cocktail is usually made with lemon, but lime also goes nicely here.
2 oz Aviation gin
1/2 oz clarified lime juice
1/3 oz maraschino liqueur
1/3 oz crème de violette
Stir, serve up with a lemon twist.
So far both of these drinks have been fairly easy to work into our cocktail menu. The execution is simple and the preparation isn’t as time-consuming as it might at first appear. One can juice early, let the agar agar set while doing other work, then filter right before service. I’d like to see what other bartenders would do with the process.