All Dried Up: Using Dehydrated Produce in Cocktails
Mindfulness — and reducing a bar/restaurant’s environmental footprint — have led many bartenders to seek new techniques for preserving fresh fruits and vegetables.
When Adam Sarkis began designing the cocktail menu for The Phoenix Club, he didn’t want the bar to be like the other hotspots in downtown Milwaukee. “We’re on this block on Jefferson Street where there’s a lot of turn and burn,” Sarkis says. “A lot of bars cut mountains of lemons and limes, and you can’t reuse them the next day.”
So, Sarkis invested in a dehydrator and began drying all his lemon and lime wheels. “I wanted to offer a garnish that’s identifiable, but in a different presentation,” says Sarkis.
Sarkis has also dehydrated lime halves that have been juiced, and he’s used the dehydrated halves as vestibules for fire cocktails. He also dehydrates orange fruits after he uses the peel for cocktail garnishes. The dehydrated oranges garnish alcoholic slushies, and most customers end up eating the chewy pieces. “Your drink looks cool, and they’re pretty delicious to bite into,” Sarkis says. "Plus, when you garnish with a wedge and someone squeezes the citrus into the drink, that throws the flavors and balance off. When you dehydrate, fruits last significantly longer. You’re still throwing a lime on top of a drink, but you’re not being wasteful. You’re being mindful.”
Mindfulness — and reducing the bar/restaurant’s environmental footprint — is what the Perennial bar and restaurant in San Francisco is all about. “As a way to minimize waste, we dehydrate tons of stuff,” says Rob Hanic, bar manager. “If you chop up a lemon or a lime, it’s only good for a day or two. If you dehydrate them, they last indefinitely.”
Besides citrus fruits, Hanic dehydrates berries, tomatoes, beets, mushrooms, artichokes, squash, yams, celery…you name it, he's probably dried it. He’s currently working on developing a Bloody Mary using dehydrated tomato and celery that’s been ground into a powder. “When it comes to vegetables, we mostly make them into powders,” Hanic says, explaining how his staff grinds them into powders using mortars and pestles. Right now, he’s using yam and squash powders for a pumpkin milk punch.
“The main reason we do it is to reduce our carbon footprint, but it certainly affects the bottom line. We spend a lot less on citrus, and it also reduces our workload. We cut garnishes once a month instead of every day,” he says.
The Perennial uses four Excalibur dehydrators, and when they’re filled, the ovens are also turned to low temperatures to dry foods, too.
Clair Sprouse, bar manager at Sunday in Brooklyn, likes to use powders to create flavored salts for drinks. Her pastry chef suggested she dry leftover peach peels after using the peach fruit for a drink. She dried the peels, ground them into a powder and mixed that with salt. “It adds a pop of stone fruit to drinks,” Sprouse says.
Sprouse also takes discarded lime halves that have been juiced, and she dries them at 119 degrees Fahrenheit for three days until they turn black. They’re then ground into a powder to add a smoky, citrus flavor to drinks. “You’re adding a citrus element to a drink without having to add citrus at all,” Sprouse says. “When you dehydrate something, it concentrates the flavors and aromas.”
Sprouse has also dried strawberries that were used to infuse Aperol. “We strained the strawberries off, dried them, and ground them into a powder. Then we used that powder to dust the top of a crushed ice cocktail,” Sprouse says. “It had this great, strawberry aroma.”
Trevor Schneider, Reyka vodka national brand ambassador, adds that bartenders who are just beginning to dry fruits and vegetables should be aware of the shrinkage in size, as they reduce to sometimes a fourth or less of the size of the original. He also recommends flavoring dehydrated fruits — like adding chili powder to mango slices, which he uses to garnish a drink called The Little Devil.
“Cinnamon and cloves can also be added to dehydrated apple chips,” Schneider says. “With apples, make sure you soak them in citrus before drying because otherwise they brown. The key with garnishes is to taste it with your eyes first to make sure it is aesthetically pleasing.”
Schneider says he’s dried starfruit, and he’s dried berries, too. “Dehydrated strawberries are great for Valentine’s Day because they look like lips,” he says.
The Little Devil
- 2 oz. Reyka Vodka
- 0.75 oz. lemon juice
- 0.75 oz. maple syrup
- 0.75 oz. Ancho Reyes chile liqueur
- Top with club soda
- Garnish with chili-dusted dehydrated mango
Pumpkin Milk Punch
- 750 ml. Four Roses Yellow label bourbon
- 750 ml. Tariquet VSOP Armagnac
- 375 ml. Batavia Arrack
- 750 g. ground, dehydrated yam
- Juice of 4 oranges
- Zest of 4 oranges
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Zest of 2lemons
- 5 cloves
- 4 3-inch cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 lb. sugar
- 1.5 cups water
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 1 Tsp ground nutmeg
- .5 tsp ground ginger
- .5 tsp ground clove
- 3 tbsp ground, dehydrated Delicata squash
- 2 oz heavy cream
- 1 oz. Allspice dram
- .5 tsp. Turbinado sugar