thesecondsection “Drink chef” Allison Perewitt at the Derailed lifts the glass on a smoked Kentucky Campfire (which, incidentally, also contains bacon.) Other new twists in the cocktail world include fat-washing and croptails (think white cheddar popcorn martinis.)/Photo by Stephen Eginoire
Adventures in cocktailing Move over sh** ice, here comes fat washing, gastrotails, custom cubes & drink chefs by Donna Hewett
t was an off-hour in the afternoon. We stepped inside a 100-plus-year-old downtown bar not far from the train. The atmosphere was muted, shadowy. A young bartender in a bow-tie pulled at his beard. “Do you wash your spirits here,” I casually ask, thumbing through the drink menu. His eyes widen. “Uh, we smudge them with sage every once in a while, but I don’t think it’s working.” Poor darling. I was thinking more in terms of a duck-fat washed bourbon. Even better, an avocado-oil washed gin with house-made lime tonic. The “new” bar craft scene, sodden with painstakingly eccentric techniques, results in noisier cocktails, even more abundant in detail and flavor. You’d think that after 20 years, the bitter, old-fashioned drinks of the giddy, retro Prohibition era had met critical mass. But that’s not the case. Nowadays, a “post-modern renaissance” is bubbling over with bent terminology and farmer’s market ingredients. Like fat washing. It has nothing to do with ghosts or the dish pit, as some might think. It’s a more twisted
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version of booze infusion. A tasty trick that was created by a NYC pastry chef and perfected at the famous speakeasy PDT (Please Don’t Tell) circa 2007 with its bacon fat-washed old fashioned. Alcohol binds to fat, which takes away the harsher elements of say, rye. It adds flavor and a barely detectable texture, giving a new dimension of thickness. Almost anything can be used to wash a spirit, animal fat, nut oil, even a grilled cheese sandwich. And it’s pretty simple. For the mixologist in your house: pour 1 ounce of coconut oil (browned butter is good, too) into 12 ounces of your favorite rum. Place in a mason jar. Close tight, shake vigorously, let it rest. Place in freezer until the fat has solidified, two or three hours. Scrape fat off; strain the liquid through a cheese cloth-lined funnel into another mason jar, and voilá. Your beautiful fatwashed rum is ready for lime and ice, and whatever else you can imagine. Another relatively new pet on the mixology scene is the gastrotail. A typical recipe would entail something like honey-crisp apple-infused vodka, hand-torn sage and a handful of whole peppercorns shaken over ice with lime and house-made vino-blanco wine syrup. Whew. In a similar vein is the croptail, but be fore-
warned: it’s not as healthy as it sounds. It’s a savory cocktail that may require a fork to finish. Vodka on the cob – sweet vermouth vodka garnished with a skewer of white cheddar popcorn – is one example. Sip and munch or dip first for a different effect. To further muddy the alcoholic waters, croptails and gastrotails should not be confused with wellness drinks – alcohol-light cocktails made with a cornucopia of organic plants, sometimes referred to as vegetables. Go ahead and drink your salad. Think of a kale martini, lemon champagne, greenhouse sage margarita or a “skimlate,” made with the Voli Lyte vodka. Arugula and snap-pea syrups are fashionable, as are carrot soda and turmeric. Lots and lots of turmeric to soothe a simmering gut. Or maybe to alleviate the guilt of (gasp) drinking. Draft craft cocktails are also on the front end of the industry. Listing CO2 as an ingredient may prove a talking point, but like draft beer, draft cocktails – batched at the bar or pre-filled – come fresh from a keg through a gas-powered tap. Batched retro cocktails have bar owners’ full attention. The cocktail renaissance, trending from a specialty bar setting to the clubs, pubs and restaurants of today, have left the industry with a real skills shortage. Rather4
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