Friday, April 06, 2012

Cocktail of the Week: The Clover Club

I can’t in all honesty say that I’ve ever gone into a cocktail bar seeking a drink with egg in it. (Leaving aside, obviously, the prime nog season of the holidays.) But whenever I have one – or watch a skilled professional build a Ramos Gin Fizz – I’m reminded of what this ingredient brings to the party. The addition of egg white gives a cocktail a silken texture, a fullness on the tongue. I may not always remember the taste, but I’ve never forgotten it.

In my home experimentation, I’ve never worked with eggs. What better time than the run-up to Easter to start?

Not wanting my maiden voyage to be scuttled, I opted for simplicity. The Clover Club was born at a regular gathering of journalists at a Philadelphia hotel around the turn of the last century, but like many a stage musical or TV weatherman the drink didn’t hit the big time until it made it in New York. There’s even a namesake bar in Brooklyn. I had the ingredients. I also had a question. How, exactly, did one work with eggs?

Apparently with the vigorous application of elbow grease. David Wondrich’s Imbibe! gets right to the point: “Like all drinks using eggs, this one will have to be shaken extra hard.” A 1989 bartender’s guide even made mention of a blender. The PDT Cocktail Book suggested another option: dry shaking. Prompting another question. What, exactly, was dry shaking?

A misnomer, for starters. Explain to me how combining liquid ingredients without ice can be considered dry shaking. But the process allows the egg proteins to emulsify. It’s a scientific innovation that, as cocktail guru Gary Regan discovered last year, is actually decades old; a 1951 book by the former publicist of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel – coincidentally the same establishment that helped put the Clover Club on the map – suggested this step because it gave the finished product “a nice ‘top.’”

So I dry-shook (?) my Clover Club, assembling the ingredients, shaking sans ice for several seconds, then avec ice for twice as long. The resulting drink did indeed sport “a nice ‘top’,” crowned with a gossamer froth that admirably maintained its consistency to the last drop. First time out of the gate and I already know that wet-shaking (??) isn’t for me.

But there are still other methods. Earlier this week I watched Ben Perri, one of the resident wizards at the Zig Zag Café, make a pair of Ramos Gin Fizzes. After depositing the egg white in the bottom of a Collins glass he used a thin whisk to aerate it before adding the drink’s other elements. “Does the same thing as a dry-shake,” he said, “but with a lot less work.” Lesson learned. Whisk to be ordered.

The Clover Club

2 oz. gin
¾ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
1 barspoon grenadine
1 egg white

Shake the ingredients without ice, then with. Strain. No garnish.