This is part 8 of a series on Mixology Basics.
The most efficient way to get seasonal fruit into your drink is to own a high quality juicer. I highly recommend them, but they are not essential. It’s true, you will never quite realize your dream of fresh pineapple juice without one, but there are other solutions.
Fresh Fruit Smash
The easiest way to incorporate fresh fruit into a drink is to make a smash. For this technique, you will need a muddler. Soft fruits such as berries are more suited to the muddler than the juicer, even if both are available; firm produce such as carrots are only suitable to the juicer, and produce of medium firmness, such as pineapple, is amenable to either.
Fresh Fruit Smash
1.5 oz base spirit
.75 oz souring agent
.5 oz simple syrup
a small handful of fresh fruit (e.g., ~8 blueberries, 3 strawberries, 2 1″ pineapple chunks)
Using a muddler, thoroughly crush the fruit in your mixing tin along with your base spirit. Add the other ingredients, strain, then shake and strain again. Garnish with unsmashed pieces of the same fruit that you smashed.
It’s also acceptable, in some cases, to leave the drink more rustic. Give your guests big chunks of pulpy fruit floating in their drink, along with little shards of ice. It works well at a BBQ or other outdoor gathering. My favorite combinations are:
- Bourbon, grilled peaches, lemon juice, brown sugar syrup
- Bourbon, pineapple, lemon juice, simple syrup, garnished with mint
- Gin, blueberries, lime juice, simple syrup
If You Own a Juicer…
First, for the sake of argument, let’s say you are fortunate enough to own an electric juicer, perhaps of the masticating variety. Before making a drink with a fresh juice, it is advisable to strain it through your fine mesh before using it as an ingredient. You’re going to have to push it through that strainer one way or the other, and it’s better to do it up-front, before your guests arrive.
You might also take to seasoning your juices with sugars or powdered acids. The two most useful acids to keep on hand are malic and citric, and both are easily available in powdered form. The goal is to find a proper balance of sweetness and acidity. Fruits aren’t always ripe, and sometimes mother nature needs a little boost.
Sometimes, for a truly elegant effect, you might want a clarified juice. Of course, you’ll never be able to get it perfectly clear, but you can get it pretty close. The mad science way to do this is with a centrifuge, but for most people, myself included, a budget option is to let your juice run through several layers of cheesecloth.
Secure several layers of cheesecloth over a large vessel and slowly pour the juice on top. Allow the entire arrangement to sit in the fridge, perhaps overnight. Most of the water will drip through. You can then discard the cheesecloth and the solids.
Many sour drinks call for egg whites, such as the Pisco sour, above. Egg whites are easy to manipulate, but many novice cocktail drinkers are intimidated by an American superstition that if one particle of raw egg touches you anywhere on your body, you instantly die of
Let me assuage your fears. First, you are combining the deadly and neurotoxic and carcinogenic and probably racist egg whites with three times their volume of strong liquor, which almost instantly kills any bacteria. Second, it is quite rare for fresh eggs to actually be contaminated with
ebola salmonella. Third, cocktail drinkers the world over consume drinks with raw egg whites every day, and they don’t get sick. So get over yourself.
The purpose of egg white in a drink is to add froth and body. When handled correctly, the egg white becomes emulsified in the drink, yielding a rich, velvety texture and a pleasant head of foam.
The classic way to integrate an egg white is the “dry shake”, which consists of shaking your drink once without ice for about a minute, and then again, with ice, to chill and dilute it.
This is tedious and laborious, though it is a skill you should have in case you are mixing on the road and you have to get creative. In the ideal case, you will use an immersion blender or a milk frother to perfectly whip and aerate the eggs in a matter of a few seconds.
So of course you are wondering, what can I do with this radical and dangerous knowledge? And my top suggestion is to make Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Amaretto Sour, which I will reproduce here, for posterity:
Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Amaretto Sour
1.5 oz. amaretto
.75 oz. cask-proof bourbon (such as Booker’s)
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
.5 oz. fresh egg white
I tweaked it slightly from the one at Imbibe, because I do not find any additional simple syrup to be necessary. It is also reasonable to use any standard bourbon in place of the suggested cask-proof bourbon, though cask-strength will give you a better drink. How far are you willing to go for mixological perfection?
I will also note that you can substitute almost any liqueur for amaretto, here, and still end up with a tasty drink.
You should treat drinks with milk or cream much the same way you treat drinks with egg whites. Either use a dry shake, or an immersion blender to aerate and whip the milk as much as possible. Milk should be frothy.
3 oz whole milk
1.5 oz brown spirits
.5 oz simple syrup
(optional) 1 dash of vanilla extract
1 dash angostura bitters
Garnish with grated nutmeg
For the brown spirits, feel free to use any combination of dark rum, bourbon, and brandy, as long as the total proportion adds up to 1.5 oz. For the whole milk, feel free to replace as little or as much as you like with heavy cream. It all comes down to mood and personal taste.
Milk is not difficult to work with, but it does have one hidden danger, which is also present in some cream liqueurs: acid will curdle it. That should be abundantly obvious, but it is easy to forget, especially when making original compositions, that fortified wines and even many syrups (such as your raspberry syrup, above) are acidic enough to curdle milk.
Before you add an ingredient to a milk drink, stop, taste the ingredient, and check for the presence of acid.