It is always a pleasure to be in the company of old friends who challenge your way of thinking. I believe in everyone’s lives, there will always be a few people whom which we can openly exchange ideas with no offence taken nor blows held back. Honest conversations like these are invaluable to us improving as bartenders and challenges us to hone our craft and knowledge.
I had the pleasure of doing a mega class at Culinaryon Singapore recently with some old colleagues from Bar Stories. They have since set up their own event bartending which has in a few short years become the foremost name in the event bartending space. Congrats Roger and team!
The mega class took up three studios and I had the opportunity to be one of the teachers. However today’s topic isn’t about the event, it was about conversations that we had while waiting for the event to start. Roger and Joel are established bartenders in their own right and we happened to be talking about straining cocktails.
The cocktail in question is the clover club cocktail. A classic thing of beauty, made of raspberries, lemon, simple syrup, gin and egg white.
Question: with an egg white cocktail, does it require double straining? And what about the mashed up raspberries?
We all had a different approach!!! And the interesting thing is none of us were wrong, neither were we right. Confusing? Let me explain through excerpts of our conversation over chilli crab pasta. (The words in parentheses indicate the aspects of the cocktail craft.)
Roger: I personally love having the little bits of mashed up raspberries in the drink not unlike how I like passion seeds in my cocktail which adds a great texture and uniqueness to freshly made cocktails. (concept) To prevent the ice shards getting into the drink, I am able to control the hawthorn strainer (equipment) well enough such that minimal ice shards fall into the cocktail. (technique)
Joel: Well, for me I prefer to double strain with an additional tea strainer (equipment) if I am using a coupe glass like the classic serve. But if it were up to me, single strained into a highball and served without straws. (concept) By just single straining it, I know the ice shards will get into the drink, (technique) but when it is served over ice in a highball, the perception of the icy texture to the guest is then a lil different, almost a more welcome.
Myself: Even with egg white, I’ll double strain (equipment) into a coupe and fresh raspberries as a garnish for texture. Double straining to remove the ice shards and pulp to give a clean (technique), refreshing and luscious cocktail. (concept) (nothing too different from a classic clover club I know, haha, but it is really perfect the way it is!)
1Our’ preferred technique, a fine strainer together with the shaker’s in built strainer
As it can be seen, we all have different concepts and different levels of technical expertise. For Jo and I, we are not confident of holding back the ice shards and prefer to use a tea strainer to help us. Roger is not unlike many customers and they do really enjoy the little bits in their cocktail. The concept of the drink is so different when done by three different bartenders even though it is the same cocktail and with the same ingredients! Amazing right! That’s why we all love cocktails! #cocktailnerdgamestrong
Cocktails give a certain amount of free play to the bartender to customise them to each customer. From our days at Bar Stories, we have been taught to challenge the traditional recipes and come up with unique cocktails that are distinctly us. We may have different concepts but all are fantastic in their own way. Our ideas were wrought from our experiences, our personal likes and dislikes.
Most importantly, there must be a reason for everything we do. Stand by your choice of equipment, concept or technique!
To all home bartenders who try to follow recipe books religiously, maybe the real question to ask is, how I would like the drink to be served not how some famous bartender says it should be. You are your own brand, and you own your craft, never forget that!
May our glasses never be empty, cheers and talk soon.
1Image courtesy of http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/dam/assets/130606153406-23758-001-0053-horizontal-gallery.jpg