Bartenders, while a friendly bunch, can sometimes be a bit competitive. Each season, as new menus roll out across town, there is a bit of cocktail envy that inevitably takes place. With a seemingly endless pool of ingredients to choose from when formulating a new drink—and a similarly endless list of failed attempts to use them—(614) presents Bar Bet, a special cocktail challenge for bartenders to come up with a cocktail using a weird ingredient of their challenger’s choice.
El Ave de Las Tempestades
2 oz. La Caravedo Pisco
.25 oz. Galliano
.75 oz. Aloe Vera drink (available at any Asian or Hispanic foods store)
.75 oz. Fresh lime juice
Fat .5 oz rich simple syrup
2 dashes, Bittermens Hellfire
1 egg white
Add ingredients to shaker tin, shake with ice, then dry shake sans ice, strain into Collins glass, top with club soda. No garnish.
If last month’s cocktail picnic with Rebecca Monday was my yearly introduction to sipping in the sun, then this month’s drink was a reminder of the aftermath of that decision. If you all will remember, Rebecca Monday, of Curio and Mouton, chose to challenge Chris Spinato of Sidebar to craft a drink using an ingredient with which I have a long and storied past. You see I suffer from being an almost impossibly white redhead. So white that I am surprised photographer Chris Casella has not used me as a reflector to bounce light on the drinks he shoots. As a result of my pigmentation issues, I am intimately familiar with severe sunburns and the days that follow containing such highlights as my entire body radiating heat, peeling skin, sleeping in unnatural positions to avoid the pain, and of course liberal applications of aloe vera gel. The cooling relief that comes from covering your entire body in that glorious green gel is somewhere on the level of nirvana for someone of my ilk, and it begs the question of what other beautiful experiences aloe vera might provide. Well thanks to Rebecca Monday’s suggestion, and Chris Spinato’s execution, that question is at least partially answered.
Americans seem to be satisfied with just rubbing the stuff all over our skin in the form of a gel, but some of our more enlightened fellow humans have expanded beyond dermatological applications and into the realm of taste. It is here that I must caution you not to run to your medicine cabinet and take a big swig of the aloe gel bottle. It will not be pleasant. I know because I tried as a small child. Seriously, it’s real gross.
With that warning out of the way, I am happy to report that there is a wealth of edible options to be found if you take a trip to any Asian or Hispanic market. Aloe vera juices, sodas, and nectars can be found in abundance, with or without pulp. It was at one of these markets, where Chris Spinato found his key ingredient for this month’s cocktail, a bottle of Paldo aloe drink. Paldo, a Korean food and beverage company produces a number of products including instant ramen noodles, dumplings, seaweed snacks, shrimp snacks, and ice cream. Additionally, their slogan is “Fun & Yum” which is something I can totally get behind.
Spinato chose to combine the aloe beverage with La Caravedo Quebranta Pisco, highlighting the grassy vegetal notes he finds in the un-aged Peruvian brandy, and Galliano with its signature vanilla and Mediterranean herbal flavors. Fresh squeezed lime juice provides some acidity with egg white, and rich simple syrup, bringing body and sweetness to the drink. Bittermen Habanero Shrub rounds out the mix adding just a touch of heat. In the preparation, he utilized a technique known as a reverse dry shake, first shaking the mixture with ice then straining it, dumping the ice, and shaking again “dry” to produce the silky smooth foamy texture that egg whites provide. Egg whites also reliably provide a particular face I call the “Casella Wince” that appears every time our brave photographer has to drink another cocktail with raw egg in it, which I find to be a satisfying bonus.
This is a summer drink through and through, and the flavors would be at home on a patio or at the pool. The lush, creamy texture is brightened with a burst of acidity that’s balanced with a touch of sweetness and herbal complexity. The aloe shines through, giving a cooling sensation not altogether dissimilar from the gel with which I am familiar. The finish is all about the heat as you transition from the cool aloe and begin to feel a slight burn from the habañero at the back of your throat.
Presented without garnish, this aloe vera fizz is as visually appealing as it is delicious, with its light green hue, topped with a thick layer of foam. The color reminds me of lush green summer lawns that give way to pools filled with redheaded children innocently splashing in the water, blissfully unaware of the searing pain their sunburns will bring, and the relief they will find in the green bottle of aloe soon to become their best friend. From one Chris to another, bravo! You’ve brought the joy and pain of my pale, sunburnt childhood back in the form of drink.
Spinato has challenged a relative newcomer to Columbus, by way of Washington D.C. to create a drink using mustard as an ingredient. Welcome to Columbus, Christina Ganzler. I’m not sure if they made drinks with mustard back in D.C., but apparently we do here. Now make me a drink—I have a sunburn and I’m cranky. •