Ghost of Cocktails Past

[by Mike]

Could you identify this drink? Transparent, white spirits... maybe a martini? Would you guess a margarita?

Yesterday a friend forwarded me a link to Cooking Stuff, the writings of two technically minded staff at the French Culinary Institute who spend their time playing with food science (and rapidly becoming my favorite blog). Reading through a few of the entries I came upon Stupid Simple Agar Clarification: a straightforward, completely vegetarian technique for clarifying all kinds of liquids. I'll leave the details to the original post, but the short story is that technique allows for the removal of solids suspended in any solution to leave a strikingly clear liquid with all of the original flavor.

Besides requiring no specialized hardware and being extremely simple, the agar clarification is fast: you can have a clarified liquid within a half hour. Other techniques, which require on the order of a day to complete, can't be used with perishable liquids such as citrus.

Once I read about clarified lime juice I was sold. Sneaking out of work this morning, I ran down to Chinatown to pick up some agar and began to clarify as soon as I made it home in the evening.

The excitement implied by the Cooking Stuff post and the past few paragraphs may sound hyperbolic, but I cannot overstate how amazing the whole process is. In fact, the only downside is that the clarification is not total. Some opacity remains, and the transparency fades when looking through enough liquid.

The applications are many, and my mind is still racing with the possibilities. After margaritas I threw together a Mexican Firing Squad for my testers (particular thanks to Leo, who also provided photography coaching), a drink that becomes hard to distinguish from one based on rye based on sight alone.

There's just something pleasantly devious about stirring a margarita, don't you think?


  1. I'm confused, what did you clarify?

  2. Citrus juices are naturally opaque, so any drink that you make with them will be cloudy. The agar clarification removes much of the fibers in the juice that are responsible for the opacity, so you're left with a translucent juice with all of the flavor that you can use in entirely new ways.