Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Aviary: Huckleberry

The Aviary, Pg 404

One of the cocktails hailing from The Office, a speakeasy basement bar underneath The Aviary, this seemed simple to assemble with only one bit of complicated machinery: a sous vide.  Also, the presentation alone was intoxicating: a frothy head atop a mauve concoction? Sign me up!


I was able to obtain a chinois at a Goodwill.  The strainer and pestle separates juice from pulp and seeds.  However, the main ingredient is a clove tincture (fancy word for Everclear infused with clove). This required a sous vide as written.  As long as I've heard about them, I have never pulled the trigger on this low temperature wonder-machine (I don't have an instant pot either).  I figured it was time to lay that to rest.

There are plenty of DIY sous vide videos on the internet.  I settled on one that recommended a rice cooker combined with an industrial 110V AC temperature controller instead of a brewer's setup.  The most important part of this setup is the type of heated pot you use.  I couldn't use my crock pot, for example, because it had a digital control.  Every time the power cut off and then back on, it would not return to heating the pot.  My manual-switch rice cooker worked like a charm, however.  Then, for $20 in parts from the hardware store and $20 for the temperature controller on Amazon, I had a safe contraption through which to control my rice cooker and keep a pot of water within 2 degrees of a specific temperature for any length of time (perhaps "safe" is relative; use wire nuts and an electrical box when playing with mains, kids; the picture below shows iteration one with no cover).


The clove tincture was dead simple but extremely smelly.  $1 in bulk cloves and some Everclear got me a half dropper full of the cloviest drops the ever passed your nose. A word of warning: toasting the cloves is a horrendously smokey business.  Do this with a hood on full blast or outside.  We had to open all the windows and run for coffee.  I already had a vacuum sealer so I dumped the toasted cloves into a bag, poured on the alcohol, and dunked it into the rice cooker for an hour.  I decanted the result into an amber bottle with dropper and savored the aroma (which wasn't hard; it was everywhere).


The rest of the recipe was fairly simple.  Huckleberries don't come into season until August, so we went with blackberries from Mexico.  The syrup came together easy with a few gradually finer strainings.  6oz made 166g of juice.  Amaro Averna from Total Wine, Bombay Gin on sale, and Angostura bitters I already had on hand completed the boozy bits.  A quick trip through a shaker came out with a pink foamy pour that gradually separated into mauve and foam.  The bitters and pepper hit our nose, and the herbal hit of the drink completes it.  It's just sweet enough with off-season blackberries to be pleasant without being overpowering.  As we drank, we noticed the colors change and aromas deepen.  Very fun and dynamic drink.



A second round (can't waste syrup, after all) made with vodka toned down the herbal nature.  This will probably be the version I make for myself unless the guests are already gin drinkers.  Too close to 'too much' pine.  A friend suggested ditching the clove and replacing it by painting the glass with Chartreuse.  Either way, this seems to be a reliable cocktail to just have on hand.  Freezing berry syrup during their season in 2oz portions and the huge amount of clove tincture I have left over means it will be quick to assemble with a fun story to tell while we shake it up.

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