Cocktail Clarification Basics

Clarification is something that most people don’t consider when they’re getting ready to make a drink unless they’re a total “cocktail snob”. You know the type – someone who used to bartend in NYC or LA and now they know everything there is to know about every single ingredient on the planet.

Truth is, a lot of the advanced techniques in cutting-edge mixology are culinary ideas adapted to include alcohol, and they’re not all that complicated. Clarification is one of these techniques. It’s the same method used to make a clear consomme

What is Clarification?

clarified grasshopper

Clarification in its most basic terms is the process of removing “impurities” from a liquid. If the target impurities are large enough, like muddled mint leaves, we can simply strain them out. But, to remove impurities at the molecular level, we need a little science. 

The clarification we’re talking about with cocktails is a biological reaction between proteins, triggered by changes in temperature or pH. Take the consomme example – to clarify consomme, protein-rich egg white is added to the broth and slowly heated up. After some time, the rising temperature causes the proteins to start binding together and rising to the top of the pot. As the proteins bind, they also trap impurities – tiny particles of fat and spices. This “froth” at the top of the pot can then be scooped out, leaving a clear broth behind. 

Now, when we clarify cocktails and punches, we’re using completely different ingredients than a consomme chef. Cooked eggs might not be part of the flavor profile you’re trying out. That’s ok. We can use other high-protein ingredients to clarify cocktails – cow’s milk being the most common.

What is Milk Clarification?

When an acidic substance (alcohol, citric acid, fruit juice) is introduced to milk, the pH is lowered and the proteins in the milk bind together to create curdles. Just like in the consomme froth, the curdles trap other impurities amongst the protein. The curdles can then be easily strained out, leaving behind a clear liquid. 

This is where mixologists can really nerd out. There are a lot of different “perfectly clarified milk punch” recipes out there – all with their own precise temperatures and procedures. You can get as scientific as you like with clarification, and some strategies really help, but you definitely do not need to go there. At the end of the day, if you get the ratio right, the milk is going to curdle, and the leftover liquid is going to be clear.

Milk punch after & before straining

I like to substitute cow’s milk for organic coconut milk – it makes the resulting cocktail much more accessible to different diets. It doesn’t curdle the exact same way as cow’s milk, but it still does the trick. In my experience, almond milk does not work. 

If you’re ready to do your own clarification, try out this recipe for a Froot Loop Daiquiri. It’s the perfect introduction cocktail for anyone getting into milk punch.

Clarified Froot Loop Daiquiri 

This recipe has a few steps, but don’t be intimidated. They’re all super simple. 

Step One: Make Cereal Milk

This might seem obvious, but to make cereal milk just make a bowl of cereal (1 part cereal, 1 part milk), let it sit for 30 minutes, and strain out the cereal. Taste it to make sure it has a good cereal taste to it. You need 8 ounces of it for this recipe. Really, you can use any cereal you like, but I always make it with Froot Loops. 

Step 2: Combine Ingredients

Slowly pour each ingredient into a clear container in this order:

  • 8 ounces of cereal milk
  • 6 ounces of Bacardi Superior
  • 3 ounces of fresh lime juice

Gently stir. Now leave it alone.

Step 3: Curdles! 

Your mixture should start separating right away, but you want to wait at least 30 minutes before moving on to the next step. For best results, leave this mixture in the refrigerator overnight.  

Step 4: Strain

After allowing curdles to form throughout the entire mixture, pour through a cheesecloth to remove the solids. The liquid left over will be rum, whey water, and clarified lime juice – a cocktail ingredient I like to call Loopy Rum

Loopy Rum clarified with Coconut Milk

Step 5: Serve

To finish off your quest into clarification, use your Loopy Rum to make a daiquiri:

In a shaker with ice, combine:

  • 2 ounces Loopy Rum
  • .75 ounce simple syrup*
  • .5 ounce fresh lime juice

Shake it up, and strain it into a coup. Garnish with a couple pieces of cereal or a slice of lime. 

And there you have it, a quick way to add a little science and mystery to your next happy hour. I hope you use this recipe as an inspiration for new ideas. Share your cocktails with me on Instagram @ladybeerdrinker. Cheers!

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Published by Emily Anderson

Freelance Writer. Beer Drinker. Plant Lover.

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