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Clearing the Palate with Consomme Cocktails

Molecular gastronomy makes a splash at The Rabbit

by Jennifer Burns Levin

Molecular gastronomy, from inspired to silly, has been the rage in American high-concept restaurants for the past few years. But the gels, shavings and foams that add intrigue to dishes often do not translate to the cocktail glass. The Rabbit Bistro and Bar’s chef Gabriel Gil, with the able assistance of bartenders Amy Hand and Richard Geil, is trying to shake up the scene with a series of new cocktails made with clarified juices. 

These beauties are made with citrus juices — orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime. To make what Gil calls “consommé,” the team strains the juice with agar agar, a tasteless seaweed-based substance often used in brewing and Asian desserts. Like the delicate soup for which they are named, the consommé juices are crystal clear and refined. After the clarification process, which leaves all of the pulp behind, even orange juice is magically transformed into a slightly viscous, clear liquid. 

And they are a hometown original. Bartender Geil credits Chef Gil’s innovation for the consommé juices, noting that although other bars experiment with gels, “none come to mind that use clarified juices on a regular basis.” 

The consommé process creates drinks with lovely pale hues that reflect only the coloring of minor ingredients. It also creates an unmistakable but slight slipperiness on the tongue. Consommé cocktails appear bracing and fresh, but the agar agar smoothes out the citric acid, which often makes a drink harsh, without adding extra sugar present in gomme syrup, a similar silkener. 

Geil explains that the clarity can even transform old standards like the tequila sunrise. “The last minute addition of grenadine provides the only color,” he says, “and it swirls down the glass. It looks fantastic and gets an entirely new twist.”

Hand and Geil serve up any drink made with citrus juice as a consommé cocktail; just ask when you visit the bar. Essentials to try: The Witch, a house specialty made with lemon and orange consommé, strega, rum and amaretto; a quirky Hemingway martini with grapefruit and lime consommé, rum and maraschino liqueur; and Geil’s fantastic margarita, which is completely transformed by silky lime consommé. Less successful but still interesting is a lemon consommé French 75, with its powerful combination of gin, champagne and lemon somewhat tamed on the tongue.

Check out the consommé cocktails seven days a week at The Rabbit Bistro & Bar, 2864 Willamette; 541-343-8226.

Jennifer Burns Levin blogs about gastronomic adventures in the Willamette Valley at culinariaeugenius.wordpress.com.

 

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