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Photos by Chris Casella
Photos by Chris Casella

Bar Bet: Avocado

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.

Challengers

Fellow citizens of Columbus, and the world: I come to you with incredible, groundbreaking,
potentially life-
altering good news. But I also come with a bit of bad news.

Which do you want first? The good? Okay, we’ll start with that.

Perhaps the greatest brunch cocktail of all time has been discovered.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute. A cocktail that could dethrone both the Bloody Mary, and the mimosa. A cocktail that could make the Bellini seem as un-hip as the Harvey Wallbanger (which coincidentally, and regrettably, is becoming hip again). This late-morning to early-afternoon cocktail heavyweight could shake the very foundation of champagne flute-based imbibery.

I’m sure you will agree that the news of the creation of such a cocktail is worthy of shouting from the rooftops, and broadcasting across television screens throughout our great brunch-loving nation. Throngs of people will fill the streets marching on in spontaneous parades, as the blaring of trumpets and the beating of drums fill the air, drifting from our downtown core to the furthest reaches of our suburbs and beyond… but wait. There’s the bad news to get to.

Ingredients

It is with much regret and sorrow that I must be the one to inform you that there will be no parades. No people filling the streets double fisting breakfast burritos, nor presidential decrees that our national brunch drink has been discovered. You see there is one problem with our new day drunk king. It’s a bitch to make.

“This drink will never make it on a menu” explained Alex Chien, while spending an inordinate amount of time cajoling a muted green viscous substance through a fine strainer and into a champagne flute. “It really sucks to make.”

When Chien was challenged by Nigal Vann last month to create a cocktail using avocado as an ingredient, he had a lot of ideas, which led to 15 different versions, and his fair share of failures. “I tried making an avocado orgeat [syrup], but you couldn’t really taste or smell the avocado,” Chien said of his early attempts to create a tiki drink. “I wanted to do something really complex, but I just realized sometimes simpler is better.”

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The drink he finally settled upon might be considered simple in the sense that the ingredient list doesn’t read like a novel, however the preparation is anything but. Infusing Dolin blanc vermouth with diced avocado in an N2O-charged iSi canister was the first step, resulting in a vermouth and avocado… sludge, for lack of a better word. This mixture is then combined in a shaking tin with rosemary-infused simple syrup, an additional fresh slice of avocado, and another not so common ingredient: citric acid. Once the mixture is muddled and shaken with ice, the fun part begins.

“Double strain into a champagne flute and then realize you’re going to spend the next three minutes straining,” Chien jokingly narrates as he continues to struggle with the fine strainer. Though he laughs as he says this, for me it conjures up nightmares I’ve had of being “in the weeds” behind a bar, trying to prepare 400 Bloody Marys while angry mobs of brunch patrons on the dining room floor clutch pepper grinders and forks as makeshift weapons. I can’t imagine having to prepare this drink during a busy brunch service.

Once the drink is finally strained, it is topped with champagne, a nod to the French 75, one of Chien’s favorite drinks. Though the cocktail’s designation as a brunch drink is entirely the creation of the writer, Chien did admit that he was going for something that “people can drink all day long,” citing the recent trend toward low proof, “sessionable” cocktails, and with vermouth comprising the entirety of the alcoholic ingredients, there’s no question he achieved that goal. But low-ABV is not the only reason you would want to drink this cocktail all day.

The nose of the drink is unmistakably avocado, with green, grassy, and floral scents that marry well with the dry sparkling wine bubbling on the surface. The entry is surprisingly complex, as the rosemary from the simple syrup and the botanicals in the blanc vermouth create a flavor profile that is almost reminiscent of gin. Citric acid provides a neutral acidity that doesn’t lean towards any specific member of the citrus family, and it’s balanced nicely with a subtle honey sweetness. The texture is where the champagne really shines creating a pleasantly disorienting collision of creamy lush avocado interrupted by bubbles bursting across your tongue. It is both comforting and invigorating, a perfect combination for the first drink of a lazy Sunday brunch.

Were Chien’s creation, appropriately titled “Green With Envy,” easier, or cheaper to prepare (One whole medium avocado only yields two drinks), I truly believe it would be the envy of all brunch drinks to come before it. Alas, I would be surprised to find this drink on any menu soon, but I’m sure glad I got to try it.

Hey Greg Burnett of Little Palace, are you ready to make me a drink using Peeps as an ingredient? I hope so. Bonus points if it explodes in the microwave.

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