Article by Stephen Hosey, blending application manager, Vitamix®
The made-to-order craft cocktail is artistic, high-end and luxurious. But customarily, there’s been a downside: these recipes may call for an experienced bartender and an extended time commitment.
Nowadays, that’s not necessarily the case. Establishments challenged by labor constraints or unable to employ a highly skilled bartender can still prepare these higher-ticket beverages efficiently. All that’s required for fast craft cocktails is specialized blending equipment, optimized recipes and knowledge of a few insider – but simple – approaches.
The best way to fast-track these premium beverages is to use a high-performance blender to strategically simulate or speed up a variety of mixing techniques that are traditionally done by hand or with the help of highly specialized equipment. For example, the right blender can handle jobs like muddling, aerating and processing frozen ingredients, allowing you to significantly reduce the time and effort required to prepare each drink. Another key tip: Use the blender’s preprogrammed blend settings so you can multitask and increase both efficiency and consistency.
The Quiet One® – made by Vitamix Commercial – paired with one accessory, the Aerating Container by Vitamix, can handle all of these tasks. These products give you a wide array of blending options. Depending on which container you use – the standard Advance® container that comes with The Quiet One or the specialized Aerating Container – you can fully process ice and other ingredients, or you can apply a much gentler touch, which is required for some craft beverage processes.
The Aerating Container is outfitted with a disc-like blade studded with holes that aerates blends as they’re processed. This design opens up a range of options that can rival more laborious techniques, such as whip-shaking, muddling, infusing ingredients, frothing and quick-chilling, depending on the program selected. A side benefit of these automated processes is that establishments may notice more consistent results from one drink to the next.
Let’s look at three options for making craft cocktails with a high-performance blender.
Frozen Slushie Drinks
Icy drinks like margaritas, daiquiris and other frozen cocktails – typically made in high-capacity barrel freezers – are a popular novelty not attempted by all establishments. The barrel freezers used to make them can be a significant investment, and their high capacity essentially limits you to one recipe per machine per shift.
But you can also employ a high-powered blender to make these specialty drinks, and doing so gives you more options. Besides being able to process ice and frozen ingredients, you can also vary flavors and recipes. You can choose from house-made purées you’ve prepared ahead of time, or from prepared mixes kept on hand. An additional benefit of a blender is the ability to process drinks for only as long as desired to achieve different textures and results.
How to make:
- Beginning with liquids, combine ingredients – such as prepared cocktail mixes, fruit purées, spirits, frozen fruit and ice – in a high-performance blender and blend, keeping in mind that speeds and blend times will vary depending on your ingredients, batch size and the consistency desired. Try to use frozen ingredients in place of ice to prevent dilution and increase hold times.
- If using large chunks of ice or frozen and tough ingredients, start the blender on a lower speed setting to incorporate before increasing the speed to high to refine.
- You’ll need to optimize the sugar and spirits content for each recipe, as frozen drinks using ice as a major ingredient may require more concentrated flavors, and stronger drinks are likely to melt faster.
Craft cocktails such as the Ramos Gin Fizz and the Amaretto Sour are typically hand-shaken to produce a pleasantly tart beverage with a creamy top layer of foam. The beverage is normally made by combining spirits, syrups, juices and ice, along with an emulsifying ingredient such as egg whites, fresh pineapple juice or aquafaba. Then, bartenders employ the “whip-shaking” technique, using a bar shaker to aerate the mix and produce the rich, frothy result.
The main drawback to making this drink by hand is preparation time, which may require up to several minutes of vigorous shaking per drink. If the bartender doesn’t shake the drink properly – for example, by rushing this process – it can lead to unsatisfactory results.
However, you can achieve the desired effect quickly and more easily by using The Quiet One equipped with the Aerating Container. The flat blade in the container will aerate, foam and chill ingredients in a fraction of the time it takes to whip-shake. Using the blender also allows for multiple batches at once, and the bartender can attend to other tasks when using the blender’s automated blend settings.
How to make:
- Add all ingredients (except carbonated ingredients) into a high-performance blender fitted with the Aerating Container. Blend speed, time and cycle will vary depending on the ingredients, the number of servings and the level of aeration desired.
- Strain the blended beverage into a glass and top with soda, aromatics or bitters, as desired.
- When blending, use the largest size of ice cubes possible to reduce dilution and prevent them from being processed.
Elevate cocktails to a new level by flavoring them with sweet, aromatic or flavored syrups, made in-house ahead of time. Examples range from the basic simple syrup to syrups infused with the flavor of fresh ginger, citrus, herbs and spices.
Making these syrups without a blender can be difficult to do behind the bar. The traditional 1:1 sugar-to-water combo usually requires both a saucepan and a stove, which may not be available there at the bar. But you can use a high-powered blender to achieve the same results.
How to make:
- Add hot water from the bar’s instant hot water tap (ideally about 180° F) into The Quiet One blender fitted with the Aerating Container. Next, add an equal amount of granulated or raw sugar. It’s important to add the water first, as this promotes better blade movement and can reduce wear and tear on the blender.
- Blend the ingredients on one speed continuously until the sugar has dissolved, about one to two minutes. The blender blades in combination with the heat of the water will hasten this process.
- To flavor the syrup, you can steep herbs, spices or other botanical ingredients in the hot water first, removing them from the water before blending.
Try these tips and tricks and see how surprisingly easy and speedy it can be to replicate these popular craft cocktails using specialized blending equipment.
Stephen Hosey is blending application manager and culinary team member at Vitamix, where he assists commercial customers with kitchen and bar efficiency, recipe creation and menu development. Contact him at email@example.com.