As bartending trends keep changing and evolving, both mixology professionals and cocktail aficionados are on the lookout for ways to upgrade their mixology skills. However, there’s one technique that stood the test of time in the bartending world and is worth learning about – clarification. Even though it’s a method that has been used for centuries, it remains as popular as ever thanks to new technologies and interests.
While the process behind the crystal-clear liquids may seem complex, all it really takes is learning basic mixology science and working with what you already have. So, if you’re eager to step up your mixology game and learn more about clarified cocktails, read on.
The history of clarified cocktails
In essence, clarified cocktails are clear liquids that have been put through the process of clarification where the solid components have been removed by employing different clarification methods. The practice has its roots in the kitchen, as it was employed for hundreds of years by cooks who have been using various clarifiers such as meat and egg whites to clarify their stocks. Soon, this practice found its application in mixology.
Why and how chefs started to clarify their stocks is still uncertain. On the other hand, cocktail historians claim that certain cocktail clarification techniques such as milk washing have been used in the early 18th century in order to diminish the impact of acidic drinks on the stomach, with milk being a powerful ingredient for combating the acidity of punch while also resulting in a creamier taste, smoothness, and clarity of the drink. Nowadays, thanks to the rise in popularity of craft cocktails, there are a plethora of clarification techniques to experiment with.
The most popular clarification techniques
While gel clarification does require some expertise, it’s also one of the most effective ways of clarifying cocktails. For clarifiers, you want to use either gelatin or activated agar-agar, and employ one of the two methods. The first method is the freeze-thaw method, where the gel is frozen then melted, which can be time-consuming. The ‘quick gel’ method is a method where the clarifier is dispersed into the beverage (activated agar-agar is a better choice for this method). Once it reaches room temperature, it sets into a gel which is then broken down by whisking. Both clarifiers have good gelling properties, although agar-agar can produce more stable results, aside from being vegan-friendly.
Similar to the previous clarification method, protein clarification relies on specific ingredients (in this case milk or eggs) to trap the particles that cloud the cocktail. Classic drinks such as Milk Punch are great examples of how effective milk can be as a clarifier. Because of the acidity of the drink, the Ph levels of the milk drop which leads its proteins to coagulate and curdle. This helps separate the particles from the mixture and clarify the cocktail. Egg whites have been used for the clarification of stocks hundreds of years, but they’re equally effective cocktail clarifiers as milk.
This next cocktail clarification technique we’re going to discuss is called filtration. Simple and rather inexpensive, this method doesn’t require too much equipment other than the coarse filter and paper coffee filter. The former helps get rid of chunkier particles from the drink (muslin cloths are quite effective), while the latter further purifies the drink as it is finer. Although it can be time-consuming, it’s a simple method for yielding a clarified cocktail.
Different clarification techniques require different levels of expertise, and if you need some inspiration, browse for some recipes and tricks online. New York, for example, is one of the world’s cocktail capitals, and home to numerous iconic drinks and skilled bartenders. Given how experts for mixology in NYC use advanced skills to prepare delicious drinks, their recipes and videos may be a great source of mixology tips and tricks you can apply yourself. From simple to more complex cocktails, learning from the pros is your safest bet for stepping up your mixology game.
The reasons for cocktail clarification
The idea behind clarified cocktails is creating a beverage that packs all the different flavors that are perfectly balanced and in harmony while removing insoluble particles and clarifying the beverage.
So, why is this important? Leaving insoluble matter in drinks will affect how it tastes in the mouth, what its flavor is like, as well as what it’ll look like when presented. On the other hand, by employing the process of clarification, you can remove the cloudiness of the cocktail that’s caused by the particles, which allows you to alter the texture of the cocktail, enhance its flavor, as well as improve its overall visual appeal. Furthermore, the clarification process cocktails go through significantly prolongs the cocktails’ shelf life, which is yet another reason why clarified cocktails are so appealing.
As food technology becomes more and more intertwined with mixology, bartenders are able to use their creativity and expertise while applying new techniques in order to come up with tasty drinks. And while a number of trends have swept through the bar industry, fine-tuning the drinks through the process of clarification still remains as one of the go-to methods of many, and by the looks of it, it won’t be going away anytime soon.