Hot and Cold: Spicy cocktails, blended drinks on display at Manhattan Cocktail Classic

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Nation’s Restaurant News attended the sessions to bring top tips to restaurateurs’ bartenders or mixologists

The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, a recent four-day long celebration of cocktails and New York City bars, explored how new texture and flavor frontiers trending in the food world can be translated to mixed drinks.

Two topics from seeming opposite ends of the spectrum, spicy drinks and blended cocktails, were part of a series of seminars geared toward foodservice professionals that took place at Andaz Hotel in New York.

Nation’s Restaurant News attended the sessions to bring top tips to restaurateurs’ bartenders or mixologists.

The craft of blended drinks

“I think the blender has a pretty bad reputation,” said Kim Haasarud, an author and beverage consultant who has experience creating drinks for restaurant groups such as P.F. Chang’s and Z’Tejas.

In the age of gourmet cocktails that call for fresh ingredients, the blender automatically conjures up images of outdated, overtly sugared drinks made from mixes in both the minds of professionals and today’s educated consumers.

Haasarud said a restaurant can easily counter such preconceived notions.

First, Haasarud noted the importance of knowing how blenders work. The blades of most blenders work by drawing in larger solids from top and pushing the smaller blended parts back upward. This means that when using a blender, one needs to be conscious of properly layering ingredients. Haasarud suggested adding liquids first, then solid ingredients such as pieces of fruit, and blending these before adding ice and blending a second time.

For example, when making a blended margarita, Haasarud first put in tequila, orange curacao and Aperol into the blender. Then, rather than adding fresh citrus juice, she used fruit that had been peeled with as much of the outer pith removed as possible. After blending the liquids and fruit, Haasarud then added ice for another turn in the blender so she could control the texture of the drink.

Haasarud mentioned that blenders could be played around with to create different textures, it just required trying out different ratios of ice to liquid with blending speeds and times. In the case of the margarita, she wanted small pieces of ice to give the drink a little refreshing crunch, so she added 25-percent ice, compared with the volume of liquid, and blended the drink at 15-percent speed for between 20 and 25 seconds.

“I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is the ratio from ice to liquid and understanding the sugar content,” Haasarud said in an interview with NRN. “You can make anything in a blender. You can make a Cosmopolitan or a Manhattan, you just need to add extra sugar to bring the flavors through that ice.”

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