Kitchens are repositories of paraphernalia, equipped with an endless array of gadgets, gizmos and appliances that often have frustratingly specific jobs. It’s time to free those lonely kitchen tools and put them to work somewhere a lot more fun: your bar.
The Vitamix line of blenders is an ultra-powerful, if pricey, kitchen tool. Its blades can blend ice, fruits and veggies for the coldest, smoothest smoothies and process hot pureed soups, and these blenders can do a lot more behind the bar than help serve up a round of Frozen Margaritas during happy hour.
Aerating and Emulsifying
After learning the results of a study that showed citrus juice that’s several hours old tastes best, Will Hollingsworth began using the Vitamix to aerate citrus for cocktails. “As it gets a little air into it, it opens up just like everything else,” explains the proprietor of the two locations of The Spotted Owl, in Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. “Obviously, if it's too old it gets astringent, bitter [and] oxidized, but if it's too fresh, it's too tight—basically, just like wine.” Before every shift, his staff uses the Vitamix aerating container to bring citrus juice to a perfect level of oxygenation that remains from happy hour to last call.
The Vitamix is used for the quick emulsification of a Ramos Gin Fizz at Wit & Wisdom in Sonoma, California, a drink that generally requires up to several minutes of dry-shaking by hand to generate its signature foamy head but mere seconds in the device. Bar supervisor Jason Duck adds Old Tom gin, lemon, simple syrup, egg white, heavy cream and orange flower water to the container, blends for 10 seconds, adds just enough ice to chill and dilute the drink and processes again for 20 seconds. A few ounces of soda water are added to a tall glass, and the blended contents are slowly poured on top. “We’re basically whip-shaking with a blender,” he says.
Infusing and Flavoring
A further application, says Duck, is using the Vitamix to make infused oils, a technique he picked up from David Guilloty, formerly a chef at the recently closed Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, California. Duck measures out equal amounts by weight of a neutral oil and an herb and adds the oil to the Vitamix first, slowly adds the herb, then turns the motor up to high and runs it for seven to 10 minutes until the oil is visibly emitting steam. He then strains the oil through a cheesecloth, places it into piping bags and allows the water and oil to separate, after which he snips the bottom of the bag, lets the water drain and quickly pinches the bag to retain the oil. “Now, you have a highly extracted oil that tastes and smells like the ingredients you’re using,” he says, adding that using equal parts of oil and herb is essential to coaxing out optimum flavor from the herb.
Zyren Mae Posadas, the senior food and beverage manager at FireLake Chicago, blends spirits with fruit, especially dried berries, to make infused spirits quickly. “Dried fruits generally have more concentrated flavors, which release into the spirit as the alcohol is absorbed,” she says.
Will Talbott, the bar manager at The Standard, High Line hotel in New York City, blends ginger and white sugar for a ginger cordial that’s used in three cocktails at the bar. Fibrous ginger root, specifically, can be difficult to fully puree in a traditional blender, but the Vitamix makes quick work of the root.
Hollingsworth uses Vitamix's Wet Blade container to make all of the syrups at The Spotted Owl. “The heat rises from the machine, and the blades help dissolve the sugar,” he says. “But because it's a closed environment, we never have to worry about the mixture getting too hot and having wildly variable brix from batch to batch due to evaporation.”
Similarly, making oleo saccharum from citrus juice and zest is a cost-saving way to reduce waste behind the bar. The Vitamix efficiently breaks down the citrus zest while equally dispersing it throughout the sugar, maximizing its surface area contact with the sugar to get the most flavor extraction from the citrus peels, according to Duck.
“A riff on this technique is to add liquor to the mix,” says Hosey. “The end result is a cocktail in and of itself: lemon, sugar and vodka or lime, sugar and tequila.”
A Vitamix admittedly isn’t an inexpensive initial investment, but it pays off in spades, says Duck. He remembers trying to mix an infused oil in a cheaper blender he purchased to save a few bucks; it was the motor, not the oil, that started smoking. “I haven’t used anything else since,” he says. “There’s really nothing else like it out there.”