A Little Background Reading:
Go go over to Dave Arnold’s many articles on clarification at the Cooking Issues site (www.cookingissues.com): HERE and HERE are my favorites. He goes into helpful detail about the process and tools needed to clarify juice, with lots of tips. You don’t need a centrifuge at all to do this, but I sure do love mine.
Check out our step-by-step clarification process, completely stolen from Dave. Link HERE.
You’ll also notice that we’re using an immersion circulator to cook the vanilla syrup. A little background on controlled-heat syrups can be found HERE. The official recipe for our Vanilla Lactic Syrup is HERE.
And to get all those bubbles in the final mix? You’re gonna need a way to carbonate. Please don’t waste your money on a Soda Stream. Check out Jeffrey Morganthaler’s post on how to make a killer homemade version HERE.
Gear To Get:
- Immersion Circulator and Chamber Vacuum Machine: Polyscience
- For high quality refurbished centrifuges: Ozark Biomedical
- A great source for seltzer and beer equipment: Micromatic
- Carbonator Caps are key: Amazon
- The cutest little bottles: Midwest Supplies (look for your closest home-brew supply source)
Centrifuges & Impractical Soda-Pop Fun
The Most Labor Intensive Orange Cream Soda, Ever
In laying out Honeycut, our massive disco-dance-party-meets-cocktail-bar in Downtown LA, it became clear that we needed to find a way to crank out drinks quick. Tap cocktails were just starting to sprout up, and as I researched more it seemed the only way to make consistent draft cocktails and use the freshest ingredients was to buy a centrifuge to clarify fresh juice for carbonated cocktails. I’ve made some frivolous purchases in my day, but buying a huge piece of lab equipment is not one of them.
The centrifuge has since become a part of the family, vital for daily prep at the bar (syrup clarity, infusions – more on this to come), but my favorite ingredient is still one of the first we tried: clarified orange juice. After unboxing the centrifuge, we started spinning everything in sight, and it didn’t take long before we juiced some oranges and spun out all the solids. Delicious. Other spins? Salad dressing. Not delicious.
Clarified orange juice is a trip. It has all the aroma of the original fruit, but a completely different texture. Which makes sense, as we’re spinning the juice around at such high speeds that solids are pushed out of solution, leaving behind the flavorful clear water that makes up the bulk of the juice. It’s recognizable as coming from an orange, but missing a part of what makes fresh orange juice taste so recognizable. It’s not dull in the least, but smooth, lively and, we found, extremely versatile. It may have come from an orange, but it didn’t take long for us to disassociate the clarified juice from the original; they’re completely different ingredients in flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel.
I’ve always steered clear of OJ in cocktails — even a half ounce seems to deaden the overall ingredients in an unproductive way. This homogenizing effect can make for some pretty boring drinks, and while that can be a good thing when masking the taste of shitty tequila, our general goal is nuance, subtlety, and constructive combinations, cocktails made from ingredients that collaborate together for a heightened composition. With the clarified orange juice, I was struck by how elegant it was alone, and so we flipped through the compendium looking for inspiration. I eyed the Monkey Gland, a vintage cocktail made from gin, OJ, grenadine, absinthe – a drink I’ve always hated. Sub in clarified OJ, play with the proportions a bit, stir it like a martini, and suddenly you have a refined drink worthy of any sophisticated cocktail haunt.
This got us thinking about other uses for clarified OJ outside the classic canon. A favorite childhood memory is Orange Cream Soda, but either because I’m no longer a kid or all this highfalutin drinking has skewed my perspective, I can’t get on board with most commercially available versions. They’re nauseatingly sweet, a headache in a bottle. So I set out to see if we could make a better version using all fresh ingredients, and thanks to some background reading courtesy of Darcy O’Neil’s Fix The Pumps, we assembled The Most Labor Intensive Orange Cream Soda, Ever. Check out the video at the top of this article and the recipe below (VIMEO link HERE).
Is this recipe practical for your bar? Nope, not even a little bit. But in working through the details, a lot of ideas have found their way into our drinks — a big win for a non-alcoholic soda.
How It’s Made
What To Do:
- Clarify Orange Juice
- Make Vanilla Lactic Syrup
- Mix Together
Because it takes the longest to make, we start first by making the Vanilla Lactic Syrup. The use of carefully applied heat helps speed up the extraction of vanilla while not changing its flavor, and the addition of lactic acid brings a creamy acidity to the party.
Vanilla Lactic Syrup
- 250 grams Filtered Water
- 250 grams Palm Sugar
- 1 Tahitian Vanilla Bean, split and beans scraped out
- 2.5 grams Lactic Acid
- Combine water, sugar, and lactic acid; stir until granules are dissolve
- Vacuum Seal In Bag
- Place in a water bath set to 145F for 30 minutes
- After 30 minutes, remove from heat and fine filter
Scraping the Bean
Cooking The Syrup
Clarified Orange Juice
- Oranges (preferably with sweet juice)
- Pectinex Ultra SP-L (found HERE): this helps the solids in the juice clump together so they’re easier to separate
- Juice Oranges
- Strain juice, remove pulp
- Measure liquid
- Add Pectinex: 0.2% of OJ Volume
- Stir and allow to sit for 15 minutes
- Weigh out final liquid
- Add to centrifuge bottle
- Weight out equal amount of water to a second bottle
- Double check your weights! (You don’t want the balance to be off. Bad times.)
- Spin at 4500 rpm for 10 minutes
- Strain out solids.
Pectinex Ultra SP-L Glory Shot
Clarifying With A ‘Fuge: It’s All About Balance
Make The Soda
- 500 grams Clarified Orange Juice
- 100 grams Vanilla Lactic Syrup
- Combine Clarified OJ and Vanilla Lactic Syrup together
- Place into carbonating bottle, remove air and seal
- Submerge in a water bath until very cold
- Carbonate with CO2 at 50 PSI
- Slowly open carbonator cap to release gas
- Repeat carbonation once more
- Place back in ice bath for 10 minutes, allowing the CO2 a chance to dissolve into the liquid
- Meanwhile, gather your bottles and caps
- Carefully release pressure from the carbonating bottle and pour slowly into the bottle. Leave only 1/2″ of headroom.
- Cap as quickly as possible. Place in a refrigerator and enjoy at your leisure.
Combining Clarified Orange Juice & Vanilla Lactic Syrup (the soda base)
Bottle & Cap: go quick before you loose all those delicious bubbles
How It Tastes
Really fucking good. Highly recommended with Amontillado sherry, vodka, or gin as a hi-ball.