Behind the bar: ‘Wash’ out for these super techniques!
Priya Pathiyan takes you behind the bar to understand the new techniques that are raising the bar for mixology the world over.
You’re hearing the word ‘washing’ being bandied about the bar quite regularly now. And although you know it’s a particular favourite of technique-forward mixologists, you don’t quite know what it means except that it usually translates to a three- or even four-figure price on your cocktail! Here’s the low-down for those who want to get to the bottom of what’s in their glass…
Clarified cocktails, clarified
For the curious, the ‘new’ technique of milk washing, has actually existed since the early 18th century, when the British were treating their spicy punch to give it a clear appearance and crisp character. And all the scientific patter that you’re hearing aside, the fact is that almost any cocktail can be given this treatment quite easily, even in your own home! You just mix the drink and add milk. The mixture will curdle, and the heavier, more bitter bits will get separated. These can be filtered out to give your drink that shiny, new, ‘clarified cocktail’ edge.
Trying it at home? Understandably, your cocktail needs to have a citrussy or astringent base for the milk to curdle. Allow time for the milk to do its thing. You’ve done the overnight oats… now do the overnight cocktail wash! If you’ve tried making a cold brew at home, you will be familiar with the patience required for proper filtration. A watched batch doesn’t filter as quickly; it needs the four to six hours you’ll take to binge watch the latest series.
Sample it: At Mumbai’s Slink & Bardot, head mixologist Santosh Kukreti has a variety of milk-washed creations. Kukreti, who has been clarifying cocktails since his days at Thirsty City 127, and possibly the first mixologist in India to have used the technique, makes a brilliant Bombay Buck, using white rum, ginger, citrus, almond, and coconut seltzer in a milk wash.
Fat’s where it’s at
Back in 2007, when speakeasies were coming back in style in the USA, Manhattan mixologist Don Lee created history of sorts at PDT. Inspired by something called a ‘fat-washing technique’ he had noted at a restaurant specialising in molecular gastronomy at the time, he decided to infuse some fine bourbon with high quality bacon, adding a hint of maple syrup and orange zest, to create breakfast in a glass. His Benton’s Old Fashioned became an iconic drink that inspired bartenders across the world.
Trying it at home? It’s basically about combining liquid fat with alcohol, leaving the mixture in a sealed receptacle for a few hours, then freezing it overnight until a layer forms at the top of the liquid. This layer needs to be removed and the entire contents strained to reveal a spirit that has been infused with the flavour of the fat, which is strong enough to be experienced even after it is used in a cocktail. The process often adds a richer, silkier texture to the drink as well. While bacon and duck fats are commonly used for washes in the west, Indian mixologists prefer to use butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and peanut butter keeping in mind vegetarian patrons and Indian taste preferences.
Sample it: Much has been said in praise of the Bar Tesouro created by mixologists Arijit Bose and Pankaj Balachandran with restaurateur Donovan Vaz, in Colva, Goa, and their most popular libation, the Midnight Brekkie, which features peanut butter-washed gin, watermelon juice, strawberry puree, vermouth, and a splash of citrus. The fact that it comes under their aptly named ‘Mad Sciencey Stuff’ section doesn’t deter newbies and regulars from copious consumption.