Wine is DEAD I was told at the CIA Flavor Summit, and cocktails hour is back—especially retro cocktails, and everyone wants to make, muddle, shake and emulsify them. We want to recreate our favorite drinks from the Prohibition Era, yet someone has to mass-produce this stuff so the casual dining chains don’t miss out on all the fun!

But before I jump into figuring out how to make cocktails for the masses, I first need to learn the gold-standard methods. Luckily, last week was cocktail week in San Francisco the annual celebration of our dynamic beverage culture, and I won a ticket on BiteClub to attend a two-hour class with H. Ehrman, chief cocktail ambassador and owner of Elixir Bar in San Francisco. During these two hours, I picked up lots of useful cocktail-making tips, such as how to: shake and stir, slice a lime in half, use a lime squeezer and make a frothy egg white top.

To my surprise, H. Ehrman (don’t know what the H. stands for) got very scientific on us and demonstrated how raw egg whites are used in cocktails to make a frothy foamy top, while giving body and viscosity to the final beverage (viscosity = thickness = mouthfeel, in case there is still confusion on this word!). I also learned all about gum arabic syrup, which can be bought and added to cocktails to, again, help with viscosity. “What exactly is in gum arabic sugar” someone asked from the back of the room … and I am sorry to say that the culinologist in the audience, despite having taken Gums 101 with Alan Freed from Gum Technology back in 2005, did not remember exactly what gum arabic was. I so much wanted to stand up and say: “Gum arabic, also known as gum acacia, chaar gund or char goond, is a natural gum made of hardened sap taken from two species of the Acacia tree. The gum is harvested commercially from wild trees and is a complex mixture of polysaccharides and glycoproteins that is used primarily in the food industry as a stabilizer.” But, of course, I only know that because I just looked it up on Wikipedia… At that moment in the Elixir Bar, my mind went blank and I was not able to show off my Culinology knowledge!

Other food-industry opportunities were brought up. (Of course, our teacher didn’t know that, he just thought he was giving out good cocktail-making advice!) In the cocktail world, lime juice should be squeezed and prepared as close to the final service time as possible because there is a huge difference in flavor (even when refrigerated) over a 5 to 7 hour timeframe. Orange juice flavor lasts longer because of the additional sugar but, in general, fresh is best. I say, just call Vita-Pakt and get their concentrated frozen citrus juices and thaw out what you need a few minutes before the night begins, but that’s just me, thinking R&D-like!

There are other ways industrial types can make mass-produced drinks taste just as good as what those fancy San Francisco mixologists make. How about using some of the shelf-stable blends from Giraffe Food& Beverages? They do custom, they have their own line and their stuff is really fresh-tasting. Their strawberry could easily be used to duplicate The Rouge, (the cocktail recipe with muddled strawberries that I posted the other day) and they also have all the up-and-coming, exciting superfruits like açaí, lychee and blueberries.

In addition to all the food science that I picked up in this class, I also learned how to shake, pour, strain, slice limes and squeeze limes in a citrus juicer. All good stuff for real mixologists, but industrial, well, we have our own shortcuts… Is this bad? No! It’s reality! Not everyone can afford the $14 Barbary Flip, the official cocktail of San Francisco cocktail week, so why should only the rich get to have fun?! Traditional flavors that are available for the masses—that’s what we do, that is our mission!

I left my Cocktail 101 class with a copy of Imbibe magazine. This magazine is a great way to become fully immersed into cocktail mania! I also learned which is the best grenadine brand (Stirrings) and which is the worst (I won’t say, you will have to buy the magazine or go online to find out!), and I found out about Cynar, Italian ARTICHOKE liquor, which, by the way, is one of those vegetables that wine people are always having trouble pairing with!

Cocktail culture is here, enjoy it, drink it, and industrialize it!

The Barbary Flip

1 oz. Sagatiba Velha cachaça
¾ oz. Sky Infusions pineapple
½ oz. Bénédictine
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 fresh egg white
Strawberry slice and Angostura bitters

Combine all the ingredients in an ice-filled shaker and shake for 20 to 30 seconds, or until well chilled. Strain through a fine strainer into a chilled champagne coupe glass and garish with a thinly sliced strawberry that has been doused with the bitters.

About Rachel Zemser