Clarification is a process used in traditional cooking in an effort to render a liquid clear, a broth or stock for example.
In cocktails, clarification can be used to create a cleaner looking drink, or to play a visual trick on the drinker, perhaps disguising an ingredient to change one’s perception of the drink. Our preferred method to use is agar clarification.
Agar agar is a powdered form of red algae, used to make gelatin, and very user friendly when it comes to clarification. The most important thing to remember is that you need to do everything by weight, not volume. Pick the liquid you wish to clarify, it could be a citrus juice, carrot juice, fruit blend, whatever – get a starting weight, in grams, and set aside. You will need 0.2% agar to set your gel. For example, if you are clarifying 200 grams of tomato juice (maybe making a see-through Bloody Mary?), you will need 0.4 grams of agar powder. Next, the agar needs to be hydrated in boiling water. The amount of water will depend on the agar. Take 1/3 the weight of the liquid to be clarified and bring it to a simmer. Add the agar and let boil for three minutes, stirring constantly. Returning to out tomato juice example, this would be roughly 67 grams of water, with the 0.4 grams of agar powder.
Once the agar has hydrated fully, slowly whisk the boiling agar-water into the liquid you wish to clarify. Then let it sit in an ice bath for thirty minutes. Once a loose gel has formed, gently break it by stirring gently with a whisk. Carefully pour the now gloopy mixture into a strainer lined with cheesecloth. If you have the time, it is actually best to let gravity do all the work here! If you need the clarified product more quickly, you can ever so gently twist the cheesecloth and massage it to assist in the straining process. You need to be sure to not press or squeeze too hard here, as some of the cloudy particles could slip through, and you would then need to clarify your liquid a second time.
It is important to stress that you will not be left with a totally clear product at the end of this process! There will be a slight tint to the clarified liquid. If you have the time (an patience) you can clarify your liquid as many times as you like to get closer and closer to clear. Also, this method works well for batches of all sizes, but if you are clarifying a large amount, it will need to rest significantly longer in the ice bath as the agar sets into a gel.