At The Theodore, at NorthPark Center, bar manager Hugo Osorio enjoys making a good egg white cocktail – from the time and attention it takes to its silky, foam-layered result. But while some of his regulars like to try new things, “when I give them a Whiskey Sour, they’re like, ‘I can’t. I’m vegan.’”
Then he discovered aquafaba, an ingredient that has vegans swooning over its accessibility and versatility. A portmanteau combining the Latin words for bean (faba) and water (aqua) it’s, as Bon Appetitput it, “the translucent viscous goop you probably rinse down the drain when you open a can of chickpeas.”
In other words: Chickpea water. Now, in Dallas and around the country, aquafaba is becoming part of the bartender’s toolkit – and while patrons might struggle to tell the difference, bartenders say it offers distinct advantages over egg white.
As detailed on his site Aquafaba.com, it was Indiana software engineer Goose Wohlt who sparked aquafaba’s popularity in 2015 after finding a French chef’s video showing how the liquid from beans, or hearts of palm, could be used, in tandem with starch and gum, to make a vegan meringue for a chocolate mousse. After some experimentation, he found that chickpea liquid could be used all by itself to achieve the same effect – and posted his discovery to a popular vegan Facebook page.
It’s since spawned a fervent vegan following and a persnickety, fast-growing Facebook group with 83,000 members who share and celebrate aquafaba’s culinary possibilities. “Please don’t thank us for adding you to the group!” reads a post pinned to the top of the group’s discussion page. “Posts like that will be deleted, and a comment on this post only clutters up the questions people may have. Thank us by diving into your kitchens and creating something AQUAFABULOUS!”
At Uptown’s Standard Pour, assistant manager Reid Lewis came across aquafaba after feeling compelled to seek egg-white alternatives “with the surge of veganism and healthy eating and people being conscious of all that.”
She started using it for Whiskey Sours and even the painstaking Ramos Gin Fizz, but it didn’t actually appear on a menu until By Any Other Name, a New Year’s Eve menu option including gin, sweet vermouth, lemon and pink peppercorn.
At Shoals Sound & Service in Deep Ellum, bar manager Omar Yeefoon, who is vegan, has made aquafaba a firmly embedded feature at his classic-cocktails-minded bar. There, it helps make the Pisco Sour – anchored by gorgeously floral Caravedo Torontel pisco – a silky swig of beauty.
In cooking, egg whites are added for texture, generating a mix of airiness and lift that enhance the dish. In cocktails, they produce a layer of velvety foam that’s visually striking and soft on the palate, one that can be garnished with a splash or swirl of bitters, or a sprig of thyme. “The fat from eggs soaks up flavor,” Yeefoon says. “That makes a Sour (cocktail) soft and nice.”
But egg white has its disadvantages, and not just for vegans: One shortcoming is a faint, off-putting aroma that some compare to wet metal or even wet dog. That’s easily counteracted with a splash of aromatic bitters, or an herb or floral garnish, since the foam layer doubles as a convenient canvas. It’s a happy union.
Aquafaba, like egg white, acts as an emulsifier and a foaming agent. But bartenders say it freezes well and offers better consistency and efficiency without altering the taste of the drink.
“It’s almost hard to tell the difference,” Yeefoon says. “The texture is nice, without that fat blocking a lot of the sharp edges. It doesn’t interfere with the other ingredients as much as egg white does, either.”
With an egg-white cocktail, bartenders start with a “dry shake,” shaking the egg white and ingredients without ice to start the emulsification. Some begin by shaking the egg white solo, then adding the other ingredients, except for the ice, and shaking again. Then the ice is added for a final shake before straining into a glass.
With aquafaba, the process is much the same. Osorio actually skips the dry shake altogether, shaking the aquafaba, ice and other ingredients simultaneously. And most say the process doesn’t take as long as egg white, using anywhere from one-third to half an ounce of aquafaba per drink.
Christine Farkas of Canada-based IHeartFood consulting uses aquafaba mostly for cooking, but she’s dabbled in cocktails as well, preparing her foam with sugar before combining it with the rest of the ingredients for shaking. (Her recipe for a Pineapple Pisco Sour, which includes a lime aquafaba preparation, can be found here.)
“When it comes to aquafaba, you can’t over whip it,” says Farkas, who I met at last year’s International Association of Culinary Professionals’ annual conference. “You can whip it up; it has structure. And if it deflates, you just whip it up again. It’s one of those cost-effective ingredients, a byproduct we would normally be tossing out.”
It’s no coincidence, then, that a chickpea salad sandwich appeared on Shoals’ minimalist menu soon after Yeefoon started using aquafaba. While he prefers canned chickpea water (for the preservatives), Osorio of The Theodore, which also offers hummus, procured raw chickpeas from the kitchen and let them sit in water for a couple of days, oozing proteins, to make his own.
Reaction has been positive. “People find it really cool that you can work around their lifestyle,” Lewis says. “It’s nice to have that flexibility behind the bar and make sure there’s something for everybody.”
Both Standard Pour and The Thedore plan to add aquafaba cocktails to their spring menus. Osorio’s, shown above, features mezcal, lime, agave syrup, Yellow Chartreuse, orange blossom water, tarragon and a few dashes of a beet-ginger cordial.
“People are really surprised,” Osorio says. “Especially the vegans. Because when you make things their way, they get excited.”
Here’s how to make a Whiskey Sour using aquafaba:
2 oz bourbon
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/3 to 1/2 oz aquafaba
Add ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds. Strain into a glass (iced, if you prefer) and garnish with half an orange wheel and a maraschino cherry.
As 2017 got underway, it wasn’t insane to wonder if the local craft-cocktail scene had lost its mojo despite its expanding influence around the region. Sure, Hide had just opened in Deep Ellum, with its fancypants behind-the-scenes gadgetry elevating its ambitious alchemy, and well-etched torchbearers like The Standard Pour, Atwater Alley, Bolsa, Jettison, Black Swan, Bowen House, Thompson’s Bookstore and Industry Alley (to name a few) powered on, doing what they do.
But even as cocktail lists sprouted like bluebonnets throughout North Texas – in Frisco, in Lewisville, in Trophy Club, for god’s sakes – too many of the area’s proliferating iterations emerged uninspired or even unhinged, seemingly designed more to ride the trend than to propel it forward. Overall, creativity seemed stifled by malaise. Had things finally peaked?
Then July brought Shoals, the soulful, back-to-basics cocktail lounge in Deep Ellum, and Fair Park’s Las Almas Rotas, whose heartfelt ambience admirably sated Dallas’ growing thirst for mezcal. And as the year pulled to a close, Bourbon & Banter appeared down the rabbit hole of downtown Dallas’ Statler Hotel, sprinkling its craft savvy with photogenic dashes of Wonderland whimsy.
DFW did get its groove back, and then decided to make a night of it. In 2017, a wave of low-proof cocktails met the need for an evening’s worth of social nectars without the boozy kick that might send one home early. Low-alcohol cocktails dotted menus at Hide, Uptown’s Standard Pour and sherry-focused Jettison in Oak Cliff; Yayoi, in Plano, made its Wasabi Bloody Mary with Japanese shochu, while Bourbon & Banter’s excellent Undercut put Cynar, an Italian bitter liqueur, in the spotlight.
Hide also blazed tasty trails with savory cocktails, employing mushrooms in its magnificent Champion, bananas in its Tally Man and chicken stock in – well, more on that later. At Bourbon & Banter, Kyle Hilla topped two of his stellar cocktails with small spoonfuls of savory goodness. Meanwhile, green chilies surfaced as a popular flavor as bartenders toyed with a pair of newly arrived ingredients, poblano-driven Ancho Reyes Verde and St. George’s multi-peppered green chile vodka; elsewhere, Hatch green chile syrup ignited Skyler Chastain’s Santa Fe Smash at The People’s Last Stand at Mockingbird Station.
Ever-flourishing agave-based spirits drove some of the year’s best drinks. Smoky mezcal danced with Ancho Reyes Verde and lemon liqueur in Brittany Day’s Prolific Poet at Thompson’s Bookstore in Fort Worth; at High and Tight in Deep Ellum, it partnered with cinnamon-infused whiskey to amp up the smoke in Austin Gurley’s solid Smokey Bandit. And at East Dallas’ Lounge Here, Brad Bowden flexed aged tequila’s guns in Dirty D’s Thang, his tribute to an aging dive-bar ladies man in long-ago New Orleans.
Gin sparkled in Sprezza’s Julieta in Oak Lawn, in George Kaiho’s Sylvan at Oak Cliff’s Jettison and in Chad Solomon’s remarkable Screwpine Fix at downtown’s Midnight Rambler, where it was infused with lemongrass and paired with Bolivian pisco. And Robbie Call used Gracias A Dios’ agave-based gin and his own vanilla-spiced tonic for a smoky Spanish Gin Tonic, a short-lived gem at since-shuttered Filament in Deep Ellum.
Finally, the force was strong in 2017’s classic covers, with solid spins on drinks like the Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Bijou, Last Word and Pina Colada. At Black Swan, Gabe Sanchez’s Calvados-anchored Sidecar was a thing of beauty; Scandinavian aquavit fancied up The Keeper’s gimlet in Plano; and at the Theodore in NorthPark Center, Hugo Osorio’s falernum-spiked Bee’s Knees and Big Stick Mojito, juiced up with raspberry coulis, were as pretty as they were delicious.
My tastes are my own, of course. I love the botanicals of gin and the smoke of mezcal, the warm comfort of whiskey and the bittersweet beauty of European amari; I’m drawn to flavor combinations that lure me to unfamiliar territory and drinks that go down like great train rides, where every ingredient is visible along the way.
Here were my 15 favorite cocktails of 2017.
LA JOYA (Jason Long, Abacus)
Tequila reposado, Green Chartreuse, sweet vermouth, Port, orange bitters
At this cozy upscale lounge welcoming patrons of the celebrated Knox-Henderson restaurant, Long’s agave-driven play on a classic Bijou (French for “jewel”) was a bouquet of caramel, grape-y sweetness. Eager to make a drink honoring a tequila-loving colleague, Long tinkered with the floral Bijou, subbing smooth, aged tequila for gin plus a touch of Port. The name is the classic’s Spanish translation and an equally perfect gift for somebody special.
DUE SOUTH (Jeremy Koeninger, Parliament)
Rum, coconut, pineapple, orange, jalapeno, nutmeg
At Parliament, Koeninger put a Texas spin on the tropical Painkiller, itself a spin on the Pina Colada. “I wanted something a little less tiki,” he says. “And being from Texas, I like the combination of spicy and sweet.” So he added jalapeno and called it the Due South for the happy coincidence that any south-of-the-border spirit works as well as rum – except for, apparently, cachaca. (What up, Brazil?) Pisco in particular is fantastic. As you might expect, it’s a great warm-weather refresher, with its creamy pineapple, cool citrus and nutty spice, with some lingering heat on the tongue to boot.
MAMBO MORADO (Jonathan Garcia, Jose)
Blueberry/lavender-infused sotol, sunflower seed orgeat, lime, Campari, Crème de Violette
The drinks at this Highland Park gem naturally lean agave, and Garcia drew upon a pisco-based concoction he’d made for a local competition and funked it up by subbing little-known sotol, distilled in Chihuahua from desert Spoon, an agave cousin. Hacienda de Chihuahua’s delicately smoky sotol gets the tiki snow cone treatment here, draped it in floral, fruity and slightly nutty tones with a splash of bitter Campari to rein in the sweetness.
A few years ago when Slater was helming the bar at Spoon (now closed), he wowed with an off-the-cuff, darkly bittersweet creation he ultimately named Blue Moon, and he’s been riffing on it ever since. Though he’s since left his brief post as bar director for the members-only club at Trinity Groves, his latest spin on the drink was a winner: Still mining the bitter mint depths of Fernet, it subbed blackberries for blue and a ginger-forward bitter liqueur for less aggressive Averna, taming Fernet’s harshness while retaining its flavor; gorgeous Amer Gingembre does the same with ginger. Think of the Malta as a boozy berry detox juice with a dollop of licorice-like sweetness.
It was actually Sam Gillespie of The Mitchell, in downtown Dallas, who recently introduced me to the notion of a Sazerac built on smoky mezcal rather than the classic rye or cognac. His simple switch of spirit was solid and satisfying – but then, the very next day, I happened to drop by the Theodore, the NorthPark Center lair where barman Hugo Osorio has been unspooling impressive off-menu creations in his spare time. When I asked for something new, he said: “How about a mezcal Sazerac?” Osorio made the drink his own by adding the wintry cinnamon spice of tiki bitters and replacing sugar with a bit of sweet tawny port, serving up a spectacular sipper for the season.
God bless Jesse Powell’s grandparents in small-town Osage County, Oklahoma, for supplying him with all the sarsaparilla sweets a little boy could eat, because otherwise we might never have had this bodacious burst of root beer candy in a glass. When Powell visited them again not so long ago, “they had the same exact candy, and I was like, I want to come back and make a cocktail like that.” The infused rum pairs with earthy fernet and cola to echo herbal vanilla root beer with a hint of licorice and a drink that makes you feel like a kid in a candy store.
WINNER WINNER (Scott Jenkins, Hide)
Ford’s gin, chicken broth, clarified lemon, thyme
Why did the imbiber cross the road? To get to this drink at Hide. Though the bar’s beverage director, Scott Jenkins, is a fan of savory cocktails, he knows consumers don’t always warm to the idea. But once the menu’s magnificent mushroom-driven Champion earned a following, he knew he had license to do more. One day, as he was looking for something to complement gin and thyme, a thought occurred: What about chicken stock? “I gave it a try,” he said, “and I was, like, yeah. It’s got that saltiness.” Before you pooh-pooh the idea, know that Brits drink something called a Bullshot, a Bloody Mary alter-ego mix of vodka and beef consommé. (Midnight Rambler’s Pho King Champ shot is not far off, either, with a little oloroso sherry thrown in.) In Jenkins’ yummy Winner Winner, the broth grows more robust as you drink – offering a much-needed remedy for flu season.
All the drinks at Brick and Bones are named for occasionally obscure cartoon characters, and this one pays homage to Speedy Gonzales’ acceleration-challenged cousin. While its namesake might be slow, this drink is a carefree rush of floral sweet with a dash of heat, with exuberant hibiscus the life of the party. With citrus-y blood orange liqueur and sweet amaretto, “it’s like a Margarita without the acid,” Cantu says.
At The Cedars Social, the pioneering craft-cocktail joint just south of downtown, bar manager Sturdivant is always up for a challenge. For a good while, the bar menu featured a terrific drink called the No. 4, a creation of former Tanqueray Gin rep Angus Winchester. “People would order it all the time,” Sturdivant says. Then, this year, “I was trying to impress a girl at the bar who ordered one, and I told her I could do one better.” His botanical re-do, poured over flamed floral Chartreuse, is somewhere between the original and the classic Bee’s Knees (gin, lemon and honey): On the palate, it’s candied lemon tailgated by a mambo of lush botanicals, aromatic sweet celery and a pleasant, lingering burn.
FLEUR DE FEU (Austin Millspaugh, The Standard Pour)
St. Germain elderflower liqueur, Ancho Reyes Verde, Angostura bitters, cream
Austin Millspaugh, you so cray. This creamy off-menu knockout at Uptown’s Standard Pour, with a name that means “flower of fire,” is a low-proof treat, a deceptively sweet drink that actually turns out to be more savory. After the first three ingredients are mixed and poured into a nifty Nick and Nora glass, Millspaugh tops it all with a thin layer of cream, then torches it for a burnt marshmallow effect and a stunning contrast between the foamy top and wine-clear body below. “You think it’s going to be sweet,” he says. “But your notions are debunked the second you sip it.” The creamy fats add texture and depth to a beautiful mix of floral and spicy flavors with smoky overtones.
A fan of the bitter spice turmeric, Hilla wanted to feature it in a cocktail at the speakeasy-style bar where each of his house cocktails features a little razzle-dazzle. He muddled actual turmeric root rather than using the familiar powder, but its tannic earthiness was too overwhelming for tequila, and smoky mezcal was too strong, so he went half and half and added bitter Suze for some botanicals. As with all the bar’s hairstyle-themed drinks, Hilla put some thought into the Rat Tail’s picture-perfect presentation, serving it in a capita and capping it with a spoonful of avocado, cilantro and Basque Espelette pepper, whose mix of flavors both complement and counter. Marked by turmeric’s orange-yellow hue, it drinks like an earthy, slightly bitter Margarita.
Texas this year saw the coming of Italicus, a lovely bergamot-forward liqueur from Italy, and in this low-proof libation it pairs with Suze, an equally lovely French gentian liqueur. Ruiz initially set out to produce a Suze “sour” – a category of cocktail built on spirit, citrus and sweetener –and when bar manager Scott Jenkins brought Italicus to the shelf, Ruiz had his tools in place. With a few tweaks brainstormed with his colleagues, Ruiz’s result is soft bitter orange: Bittersweet bergamot and sweet maple balance Suze’s earthy bitterness with the abundant citrus – hence the name – playing off the drink’s orange notes.
COLADA NO. 2 (Chad Yarbrough, Armoury)
Cachaca, lime, orgeat, soda, coconut balsamic
This tangy tiki tipple, an obvious nod to its classic predecessor, was conceived as Yarbrough was browsing 1890 Marketplace, the most excellent olive oil and vinegar shop that at the time had just opened a few blocks away on Main in Deep Ellum. Having discovered the shop’s coconut balsamic vinegar, “I tried it and I was, like, we have to do something with this,” he said. Thus was born the Colada No. 2, a sweet and nutty mouthparty tempered by a tantalizing tang. Tangs a lot, Mr. Yarbrough. Tangs a lot.
Nothing at Hide is simple. They just make it look that way. Mostly when you’re not looking, spirits are “milk washed” and relieved of their harshness, citrus juices are clarified for a pure veneer and soda and tonic water are eschewed in favor of a lighter-handed carbonating device. The radiant Delight – Jenkins’ low-proof, bittersweet ballet of Italian aperitifs tamed with soft grapefruit and elderflower – is perfectly crisp and flavorful, whirled in a Perlini device for a delicate fizz that curls up on the roof of your mouth like a cat settling onto a sunny windowsill.
For a time, LARK drifted into a bit of a tailspin, but with Trevino at the helm, the drinks, at least, have regained their footing. This was the finest of his new additions to the menu, a play on the Last Word – a classic which, full disclosure, I adore – that drinks like candied apricot in a glass. Trevino says when he first tasted the fruity, spicy notes in this American-oak-aged whiskey, part of Johnnie Walker’s Blenders’ Batch series, “I immediately thought of apricot,” he said. “We didn’t have anything on the menu that was like a Last Word, so I built it that way.” With whiskey standing in for gin, lemon for lime, Yellow Chartreuse for Green and apricot liqueur for maraschino, it’s a handsome, honey-gold humdinger with bold autumn flair.
Yes, it might be fall, but summer don’t care. It’s decided to linger around North Texas and deliver one last beatdown, with temps in the mid-90s until early next week.
You don’t have to sit there and take it. Because when life hands you lemons, you make Sidecars, and when it hands you unbearably hot weather, you’re going to fight back with cool, refreshing cocktails.
Here are six drinks you should enjoy before autumn finally sets in.
BIG STICK MOJITO, The Theodore, NorthPark Center
First of all, just look at this. This is a gorgeous drink. And the Big Stick Mojito – the “big stick” a reference to the famous “speak softly” quote from the president this NorthPark Center restaurant is named for – is as fun and delicious as it appears, a visual feast of green, white and red from bartender Hugo Osorio.
This mojito sweetened with tropical pineapple features a brilliant raspberry coulis that rests at the bottom of the glass, perfect for slurping through a straw while simultaneously offering balance in taste and texture.
“We wanted this cocktail to be super approachable,” says Kyle Hilla, bar director for Turn The Tables Hospitality, the group behind The Theodore as well as Bolsa, Smoke and other restaurants. “And on top of that, we wanted something incredibly stunning to look at.”
You’re probably not surprised to see a snow cone on the list. When it’s hot out, your body naturally craves snow cones. It’s science.
However, you may be surprised to know this snow cone comes from Fat Chicken, the fried chicken joint at Trinity Groves. One of a trio of frozen drinks designed by Stephen Halpin, global mixologist for Patron tequila, the Raspberry-Watermelon Freeze is summery and fruity with a bit of DIY mischief: The mix of Patron silver, watermelon and lemon juices and muddled raspberries is presented in a small carafe that you get to pour into the heaping glass of Hawaiian shaved ice presented alongside. (Though I’d recommend first using your straw to dig out a shaft into which the liquid can descend so it doesn’t end up all over your table.)
“I wasn’t sure when I got here if people would want to drink their drinks out of a snow cone,” says manager Christopher Garrison. “But they love it.”
MEET YOUR MATCHA, Yayoi, Plano
When Lyndsy Rausch took over the bar program at Yayoi in Plano, shochu – the featured spirit at Japanese izakayas – was a natural starting point. “Adding matcha to it was really the first thing that came to mind,” she said, “because I wanted something earthy to match the complex flavors in shochu.”
A low-proof liquor distilled from rice, barley or sweet potatoes, shochu likewise is earthy; Rausch paired Iwai barley-based shochu with matcha powder, added citrus-y yuzu and mint to cut the bitterness, and topped it off with club soda. The result is radiantly green and highly drinkable, a liquid hammock to lay your thirst in when temperatures climb.
FROZEN GIN AND TONIC, Harlowe, Deep Ellum
It’s got gin.
It’s got tonic.
And it’s frozen.
There’s much to like about Deep Ellum newcomer Harlowe, including the brunch-time lobster waffle and an expansive rooftop bar, but the simplicity of the Frozen Gin and Tonic is nothing short of genius on a 90-degree day. With nothing but a bit of star anise stranded atop the blindingly bright tundra of its surface, it’s a stone-cold certain way to punk that nasty summer-like warmth.
DUE SOUTH, Parliament, Uptown
Another way to beat the heat is to fight fire with fire. At Parliament, bartender Jeremy Koeninger’s Due South puts a Texas spin on the tropical Painkiller, adding jalapeno to the tiki staples of rum, coconut and pineapple with a dash of orange and nutmeg. “Being from Texas, I like the combination of spicy and sweet,” he says.
Presented with a jalapeno coin atop the foam, Due South is a terrific hot-weather refresher, showcasing creamy pineapple, cool citrus, peppery heat and a nutty finish. (I’m always surprised at how well coconut and jalapeno pair up, which is probably the one reason I never get tired of watching Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray in Lost In Translation.)
The name of the drink, Koeninger says, refers partly to the happy coincidence that any south-of the-border spirit – except for cachaca – works in the drink; pisco, in particular, is excellent.
ABSINTHE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER, The Cedars Social, The Cedars
It might be hard to imagine absinthe as the basis of a soothing refresher, because unlike shochu, it’s notoriously anything but low proof. The Cedars Social’s Absinthe Makes The Heart Grow Fonder is a drink to ease the pain of a sweltering summer night, or a starry starry night, or in this case, an autumn night that still feels like summer.
Copper & Kings’ 130-proof absinthe is the star of this show, backed by a remarkable pecan-based orgeat and a chorus of soda. A fortifying fusion of licorice and pecan, it’ll almost make you wish the hot weather would linger a while longer. Almost.
Booze news and adventures in cocktailing, based In Dallas, Texas, USA. By Marc Ramirez, your humble scribe and boulevardier. All content and photos mine unless otherwise indicated. http://typewriterninja.com