Cocktail Texture: Clean, Crisp, Refreshing
NYC’s Duane Fernandez Jr. talks cocktail texture. Part 1 of a 5-part series.
Within the hustle and bustle of NYC, Duane Fernandez Jr.’s got one of the most busy bartending schedules: Opening and running Donatella Arpaia’s new DBar in Chelsea, crafting the menu with colleagues for the soon-to-open Theater Bar, and holding down the fort at his first love, the West Village bar with the neighborhood vibe, Entwine. We caught up with him on some down time to talk texture in cocktails. This first installment covers what goes into drinks that are clean, crisp and refreshing and includes his signature recipe for the rosemary fresca.
served raw: what are the components that make up a clean, crisp, refreshing cocktail?
Duane Fernandez Jr.: The components I look to for crisp cocktails are spirits, citrus, bubbly and fresh herbs. The spirits are usually light-colored spirits like vodka, gin and tequila. I would combine these spirits with fresh lime or lemon juice … with citrus juices there’s something that brings out the elements of the spirits, something that makes the spirits pop — the acidity will bring out the botanicals of say, gin or tequila.
I also usually always add some kind of sparkling … champagne, prosecco, club soda. It brings a whole new element to the drink. Using fresh lime or lemon juice gives any spirit a wonderful vibrant flavor on the palette, while the sparkling gives a wonderful bubbly texture in the mouth. When we think about clean and crisp, you want to have some texture to it as well, minus the sugar so club soda, works too.
what flavors always achieve “clean, crisp, refreshing” textures?
Yesterday I was at Yerba Buena in NYC, they’ve got a gooseberry cocktail that’s absolutely fantastic and refreshing. The gooseberry was tart with a slight sweetness, there’s just a little bit of flavor from the berry that can add to the cocktail and I thought it’s a fantastic fruit that I’d love to work with. Opposed to a strawberry, when you muddle it, it makes the drink sweeter.
Herbs also play a huge role in creating something clean and crisp. Rosemary in a cocktail, to me, is the epitome of refreshing. Mint too. But not tarragon, which has a stronger anise-forward flavor. Last year I made a cranberry caipirinha last year that went over very very well. Donatella’s pastry chef made me a cranberry gelée — it was a little bitter and had a tartness, when you added fresh juices and sweetness, plus sparkling, the drink and even the color alone was absolutely wonderful.
what classic, modern, or your own signature cocktails fit this profile?
I make a rosemary fresca, which is essentially a rosemary champagne margarita. I also think classic margaritas or a classic daiquiri with just rum, citrus and simple, shake and pour. It’s so simple and refreshing. One of my favorite classics is the corpse reviver, it’s one of those classic cocktails that’s very crisp with so much flavor involved, and I absolutely love absinthe.
can you recommend any great food pairings for clean, crisp, refreshing cocktails?
At Entwine, we’re a cheese and meat kind of place and three cheeses stand out as a great pairing to my rosemary fresca: La Tur, a pungent sheepsmilk cheese from Italy, manchego goes really well, and Bucheron which is soft, dense and not as pungent as La Tur.
- 1 1/2 ounces Innocente Tequila
- 3/4 ounce St. Germain
- 1/2 ounce rosemary syrup
- 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
- Fresh rosemary, for garnish
- Shake first four ingredients, strain over ice into a tall collins glass. Top with proseco and garnish with a fresh rosemary stem.