A few months back we were asked to come up with a unique beverage to host an event in town that incorporated our savoury Garden Party Bitters and neutral grain spirits (Vodka or Gin).
Our Garden Party Bitters is a savoury bitter comprised of Cucumber, Celery, California Basil, Thyme, Rosemary and other garden goodies.
We had also been playing with juices at the time and thought it would be an excellent time to craft a cocktail with a clarified juice.
Off to the lab we went!
So what does it mean to clarify a juice? Juices have suspended particles in them (i.e. lime juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, apple juice etc). This prevents the juices from being translucent.
Clarifying a juice removes the particles and leaves a relatively clear liquid behind. It separates clear liquid from cloudy solids. The clarification also changes the texture of the juice. Think back to the orange juice example. Clarifying orange juice would remove the particles and leave behind a clearer version of the juice. Clarifying can also affect carbonization levels when mixing with soda.
There are a variety of methods to clarify a juice. Some involve: freezing/thawing, filters, boiling water, introduction of enzymes, a fining process, or the use of special equipment like centrifuges.
We opted for a simple method that we could do relatively quickly, right in our kitchen, without introducing special equipment or complicated methods. Our chosen method was to use boiling water with the use of an ingredient that would bind to the suspended particles in the juice that we could later separate out and leave behind a relatively translucent liquid.
For the binding ingredient, we decided to go down the path of using either a Gel or Agar. Gel is typically sourced from egg whites or meat. Alternatively we could use Agar which is a gelatinous substance obtained from various kinds of red seaweed and used in biological culture media and as a thickener in foods. Given that we did not know who we were serving our cocktail to, we opted for Agar as the ingredient to ensure we were providing a cocktail with wide appeal (i.e. Agar would be more appealing to vegetarians and not affect the final product).
On a side note, Agar is a natural vegetable gelatin counterpart. White and semi-translucent, it is sold in packages as washed and dried strips or in powdered form. It can be used to make jellies, puddings, and custards. For making jelly, it is boiled in water until the solids dissolve. Sweetener, flavouring, colouring, fruit or vegetables are then added and the liquid is poured into molds to be served as desserts and vegetable aspics, or incorporated with other desserts, such as a jelly layer in a cake.
Note that Agar, unlike Gelatin, requires a lot of heat and needs to be boiled. Agar (i.e. heated Agar) can present challenges with some liquids that are delicate in nature (some juices don’t react well to heat). However it did not present a problem for the juice we were ultimately going to choose.
We purchased a small bag of Agar in powder form from a nice little store across form Aspen Landing in Calgary called Blush Lane. You can purchase Agar at most health food stores.
We also knew that we had limited time to serve the cocktails at the event (i.e. very little prep time) so it was important that we clarify the juice of choice in advance so that we could chill it prior to serving.
The goal was to pair the juice with a neutral grain spirit and then with our savoury Garden Party Bitters. As such, we picked tomato juice for the clarification, and we then paired it with with Stolichnaya Vodka (Russian Vodka). The cocktail we were crafting would be a play on the Bloody Mary and we would call it a Mended Mary. “Mended” signifying the clarification or reduction in redness of the juice. As noted, the clarified tomato juice changes in texture. We then garnished it with a long lemon peel, and sprinkled with Amola Garlic & Rosemary Salt.
Below is summary of how you would do this in your kitchen for a smaller serving. Scale-up as necessary:
This needs to be done in advance;
Creates 200 grams of clarified tomato juice;
Hydrate 0.4 grams of Agar (0.2% of the 200 grams) in 67 grams of boiling water (1/3 of 200 grams);
Bring water to a boil for 3 minutes;
Place tomato juice in a glass bowl and slowly whisk warm Agar mixture into it;
Place glass bowl of tomato juice and Agar into an ice bath (place this glass bowl into another larger glass bowl filled with ice);
Let bowls sit for 30 minutes;
Once loose gel forms, separate by stirring gently with a whisk and then pour mixture into strainer to separate the suspended particles bound to the Agar from the juice;
This process may need to be repeated to increase the clarity of the tomato juice; and
Refrigerate clear tomato juice
The final product was a lot of fun to work with. The Mended Mary was a very flavourful and unique cocktail that paired clarified tomato juice with our savour Garden Party Bitters and Lemon and Garlic and Rosemary Salt. The name of the cocktail is a great conversation piece when serving the cocktail. Guests would ask “Why is this called a Mended Mary”. We responded saying it was “a play on the Bloody Mary with less mess!”. This was a great lead into explaining the clarification process with the tomato juice.
For further reading on the history of the Bloody Mary see Imbibe for Hail Mary: Everything you ever wanted to know about Bloody Marys but were too afraid to ask.