For the uninitiated, clarified cocktails are a broad subcategory of mixed drinks that are strained to remove any sediment or impurities created by mixing and muddling ingredients. The result is a clear beverage, lacking the cloudiness frequently found in other cocktails.
Suppose, for example, you wanted to try a milky cocktail but without the curdling effect that occurs when adding cream to acidic elements like citrus. Once clarified to remove the cloudy separation, you’ll have a clear cocktail that contains whey. This is known as a milk wash.
Some ingredients, like peanut butter, are definitely more appealing for their flavor than texture, and this is where clarification really shines.
Any cocktail could be clarified, simply by straining it, although clarifying agents are sometimes used as well). What are some of the most popular additions to this category of complex libations? What should be on your radar if you own a restaurant, bar, or canned cocktail operation?
What Not to Clarify
In a word, the classics. Certain drinks have stood the test of time, and there’s a reason. You don’t mess with perfection.
A well-made Mojito, Manhattan, Negroni, or White Russian that retains its flavor but loses its signature color or texture during the clarification process becomes a different drink. While you might bill it as such, you wouldn’t necessarily want to advertise it as the real deal and leave patrons puzzled or, worse, perturbed.
Gin and Tonic and Vodka Martini
While these beverages could definitely be deemed classics, they’re fairly clean drinks to begin with. Both feature clear liquor to start – gin and vodka, respectively. From there, the former is enhanced by fizzy tonic water and a lime wedge for garnish, while the latter features a small amount of dry vermouth and olives or lemon twists.
By clarifying already clear cocktails, all you’re really doing is making them smoother and easier to drink, which will likely appeal to those who already love them. This isn’t to say you’d want to clarify a dirty martini, necessarily, as this drink is designed to be cloudy, and people order it with this effect in mind.
However, clarifying clear cocktails is really just a step up in presentation and palatability.
Bloody Marys and mimosas have long dominated the adult breakfast beverage market, although witbiers are perfectly acceptable in many parts of the world. Bar Tesouro, a popular bar and restaurant in South Goa, India, had a different idea when they started offering Midnight Brekkie.
This clarified beverage consists of peanut butter-washed gin, vermouth, malic acid, fresh watermelon juice, and strawberry puree. It’s sort of a liquid PB&J on steroids that’s meant to serve as breakfast in a tumbler.
The drink may look like weak tea, but it packs a flavor punch that perfectly displays the appeal of clarification. This is no doubt how the drink attained local and worldwide cult status after being introduced during pandemic lockdowns.
Clarified Milk Punch
Often considered to be a great way to upgrade less expensive spirits, milk wash cocktails are known to strip some character from liquor, which makes for a mellower beverage. That said, adding whey creates outstanding frothing potential, and the use of flavorful additives more than compensates for the loss of alcohol overtones.
Clarified Milk Punch is the classic example, featuring rum, black tea, lemon juice, and sugar, often with the addition of one or more spices found in pumpkin pie (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, etc.). Naturally, it also features cream or whole milk, although no one would be the wiser following clarification.
Perhaps the most notable advantage of this recipe is that it’s so easy to alter. Dozens of variations featuring different liquors and ingredients are easy to come by, so mixologists can experiment and make this beverage their own.
Clarify for Added Appeal
While clarifying won’t work for every beverage or appeal to every bar patron, the process is currently trending, and it’s a wonderful way to switch up your drink menu and entice old and new customers alike.
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