Every year about this time, those of us in the northern hemisphere get cranky. Heat and humidity do that to folks. As summer shifts into high gear, bar chefs and veteran bartenders are again faced with the seasonal challenge of slacking the nation’s thirst and doing so with flair, flavor and attendant profits. Selecting the right tools is crucial to the effort.
“Having a good blender behind the bar is invaluable. It allows you to take advantage of a diverse range of ingredients when crafting cocktails, everything from fresh herbs and garden vegetables to caviar to every fruit imaginable,” says Junior Merino, master mixologist, educator and proprietor of The Liquid Chef, a New York-based consultancy. “There’s often no other way to infuse a drink with particular flavors than by preparing it in the blender. Its creative potential is unlimited.”
As evidence, Merino points to a summer creation of his dubbed the Mezcal Avocado. The specialty drink is prepared with Scorpion Mezcal, Agwa Coca Leaf Liqueur, Cointreau, lime sour and fresh avocado. He uses a basil sprig loosely wrapped in a lemon peel spiral as the finishing touch. “There’s no other way to make this drink properly without a blender.”
Merino adds that these drinks are especially attractive because of the higher margins they yield. Like super models walking the runway, blended specialties are tall, statuesque and make everything they wear look like a million bucks. Little wonder why they command higher prices.
Next time you’re in Rotorua, New Zealand, have dinner and drinks at You and Me, a hip downtown eatery featuring the cuisine of celebrity chef “Kaz” Yamamoto. One of the specialties of the house is the Green & Gold Daiquiri, a frosty concoction made with silver rum, fresh lemon sour and green and gold Zespri kiwis. The fruit is peeled and blended along with the other ingredients. Few cocktails this easy to prepare are this delicious.
The third summer standout — the Watermelon Kiwi Batida — is a fresh fruit variation of the Brazilian favorite. It’s a delightfully refreshing cocktail made with Leblon Cachaça, frozen watermelon chunks, peeled kiwis, condensed milk and sugar. Batidas are tailor-made for the hot weather in Rio de Janeiro and all points north.
The Liquid Postres is a signature drink at the Spanish Kitchen in Los Angeles. Admittedly, its primary mission has little to do with quenching thirst, unless of course you’re thirsting for something irresistibly tasty. Best described as an adult milkshake, the specialty is a blend of Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur, Kahlúa, Cointreau, Baileys Irish Cream, vanilla ice cream and freshly brewed espresso. On the other hand, sipping the drink is perfectly fabulous when it’s crazy hot outside.
‘But There’s Booze in the Blender...’
Jimmy Buffett certainly knows a good thing when he drinks it. The Margarita has quietly, steadily become an international phenomenon and, according to the readers of Gourmet magazine, it is now the most frequently requested cocktail in the United States.
As is the case with the Martini, every great bar needs to perfect the recipe for a truly sensational Margarita. It’s simply too popular of a cocktail not to. Perhaps a fresh, housemade mix or the combination of a super-premium tequila and ultra-sophisticated modifier, such as Grand Marnier Cuvée du Cent Cinquantenaire, will define your Margarita. Regardless of the particulars, perfecting the Margarita is a requisite step to attracting a following.
A large portion of credit for the Margarita’s popularity can be attributed to advances in blender technology. Today’s machines are capable of thoroughly crushing ice into minute particles, thereby homogenizing the ice with the drink ingredients. The result is Margaritas that won’t separate as often happens with drinks made in underpowered or poorly maintained blenders. Separating is an all too common occurrence where the crushed ice rises to the top of the drink and the other ingredients sink to the bottom.
Armed with an electric blender, you can puree any fresh fruit to enhance the flavor of your specialty Margaritas. Examples in nature abound. The Raspberry Margarita is a delicious and remarkably creative concoction. It’s made with a blend of Cuervo Especial tequila, Grand Marnier, Chambord, fresh lime sour mix and raspberries. Instead of blending the Chambord into the Margarita, however, create a Meltdown Margarita by serving the Chambord on the side and letting your guests pour the liqueur themselves. The liqueur will slowly wind its way down through the drink adding the marvelous flavor of raspberries and creating a striking presentation.
The Blue Moon Margarita is made with añejo tequila, blue Curaçao, lime juice and lemon sorbet. Another blended Margarita worth promoting is the Giggling Margarita, a flavorful concoction made with tequila, Disaronno Amaretto, blue Curaçao and fresh pineapple.
Where’s it written that you can only use one style or brand of tequila in your signature Margaritas? The objective behind splitting the tequila base in the drink is to give it more character by pairing two or more complementary styles of tequila.
For example, the Three Amigos Margarita is made with equal parts of Sauza Conmemorativo Añejo and Hornitos Reposado tequilas and finished with a float of Sauza Tres Generaciones Añejo. Each tequila contributes greatly to the cocktail’s flavor and alluring presentation. Another recipe that illustrates the technique is the El Conquistador Margarita, which thrives on a split base of El Tesoro Silver and Añejo tequilas.
Make every Margarita you serve a blended work of art. Involve your staff and clientele in the process of devising a signature Margarita or two. Promote it as a special event. Once the winners have been selected, don’t keep their recipes a secret. Great Margaritas are meant to be shared
Created by Junior Merino, The Liquid Chef.
Liquid Chef Dehydrated Cactus-Lemongrass Salt
1½ oz. Scorpion Mezcal
¾ oz. Agwa de Bolivia Coca Leaf Liqueur
½ oz. Cointreau
1½ oz. fresh lime juicea