Although using fresh fruit is the ideal, notes Paul Sevigny, managing partner and owner of the Miami-based cocktail consultancy, Splash, sometimes it just isn’t practical from an operational standpoint. This is where prepackaged purées shine, he says. “They allow bartenders to extract a huge amount of flavor. Three quarters of an ounce of Boiron raspberry will give you the same flavor as muddling six raspberries.”
Word of mouth that top chefs were using Boiron spurred interest from Paul Westerkamp, director of beverages for Boston-based 33 Management Group, which owns contemporary American eatery 33 Restaurant & Lounge and the global fusion concept STIX Restaurant & Lounge. “I thought, if it’s good enough for Thomas Keller [of the French Laundry], then it must be good,” says Westerkamp, who makes his molecular mixology-inspired edible cocktail, Cane Boiron Raspberry Sashimi, using Boiron Raspberry Purée. He prices it at $15.
Consistency is one reason purées are useful behind the bar. Then there’s price. “Operators are able to better keep track of their costs because the prices of our fruit purées remains stable, regardless of season,” notes Laurène Bourges, brand and business development manager for the Valence, France-based Boiron.
Perhaps even more important is the time savings, however. Time is a precious commodity behind the bar, and there is no need to chop, de-seed, mash, muddle or double strain with a purée, giving bartenders the time to concentrate on other aspects of mixology.
“Using a purée makes my life a lot easier,” says mixology consultant Israel Nocelo. “I’m able to focus on making my own syrups and infusions instead.”
It is a house-infused jalapeño tequila that goes into Nocelo’s Vallartini cocktail at the Mexican restaurant Tequilas in Philadelphia, priced at $11, which also calls for Boiron Guava Purée, orange juice, fresh squeezed lime juice and agave nectar served in a cocktail glass, rimmed with a salt and dehydrated rose petal and hibiscus garnish. Nocelo also uses Boiron for the Rhone Passion cocktail, menued at Positano Coast in Philadelphia for $11 and made with Square One Organic Vodka, Combier Liqueur D’Orange, Boiron Raspberry and Passion purées, lime juice and a house-made hibiscus syrup.
Boiron’s purées, like many others, are flash-frozen to keep fruit colors intact. While the freezing process may benefit the flavors of the purée, waiting around for it to defrost tempered its usefulness. Recently Boiron launched a line of 17-ounce squeeze bottles for seven of its top sellers, however, eliminating the hassle. “The new squeeze bottle is definitely targeted to on-premise,” agrees Westerkamp. “Before, we were defrosting the purée and then transferring to a squeeze bottle. There was always some waste in the process.”
London-based Funkin takes a different tact with its purées, which are made primarily with fruit and cane sugar. Instead of freezing the purées, the company uses a squeeze bag.
Todd Appel, the bartender at Crimson Lounge, a hotel bar and nightclub located in the 354-room Hotel Sax in Chicago, appreciates the convenient packaging. “We get slammin’ busy on Friday and Saturday nights, and using a purée saves a lot of time,” he says. “Purées are great for any kind of business that does high volume.”
“We’ve had great success using quality purées,” adds Patricia Richards, mixologist for the 2716-room Wynn Las Vegas and the 2034-room Encore, two sibling resort-casino hotels owned by Wynn Resort Limited and home to multiple restaurants, bars and clubs. “Our cocktail production is on a mass scale. Personally, I don’t have the time to be chopping and squeezing. Purées are as fresh as you can get. The fruits are picked at their highest peak—at optimal ripeness,” she says. Richards has created several cocktails using Funkin, including a Lychee Blossom Martini, $15, using lychee purée, and The Pear-ed Ginger, $14, which employs the company’s pear purée.
Purées go a long way, making them economical, too. “They allow easy portioning,” says Michael Alexander, director of marketing for Monin, which recently launched a range of colorful fruit purées. “Just two ounces will flavor most frozen beverages, and one ounce will flavor most iced beverages. It is a perfect alternative to muddled fruit.”
The New York City-based Loews Hotels chain uses Monin’s Raspberry Fruit Purée for its Blushing Bubbles alcohol-free cocktail at its 19 locations. The cocktail, developed by corporate creative director of food & beverage Ellen Van Slyke, is made with Monin Açai Syrup, fresh lemon juice, raspberry purée and ginger ale.
Mixing it Up
The Perfect Purée of Napa Valley has been selling frozen purées to chefs for twenty years, and recently they turned their focus to the bar.
“We were originally based in a culinary application,” says Dana Bruner, the director of sales operations. But, she says, “about eight years ago, when the cocktail Renaissance emerged, I noticed bartenders were using our products.”
In response, Perfect Purée decided to launch Beverage Artistry, a line of eight beverage mixers that only requires the base spirit. The company consulted with noted mixologist Adam Seger on several of the flavors, including El Corazon, made with passion fruit, blood orange and pomegranate, Yuzu Luxe Sour, a combination of yuzu, lemongrass and kaffir lime, and Passion Colada, a mixture of passion fruit, pineapple and coconut.
“It cuts out the necessity to source ingredients. How many of us have the time to find things like yuzu, lemongrass or kaffir limes,” asks Seger, mixologist and general manager for Nacional 27 in Chicago. “One out of every two drinks features sour mix. Use the Yuzu Luxe Sour instead and you’ve immediately elevated your cocktail.”
Mixers have come a long way since their additive-heavy predecessors.
“I have guests asking what’s in my Mojitos all the time,” says Nicole Mparmperis, head bartender at Nobu Malibu in Malibu, Calif., which uses a Purista mix as a base for its Mojito, $15. “These newer mixers are made with real food ingredients, and are not over-processed.”
Lack of space and cocktail know-how is another reason to reach for mixers. The Bethesda, Maryland-based Marriott International operates or franchises 3,300 hotels worldwide. They are in the process of revamping the roughly 800-unit Courtyard hotel brand to include a small lobby bar that offers five different cocktails, such as the Cosmopolitan and the Mojito, made with Stirrings mixers and priced from $6.50 to $8.
“With limited experience and space, we wanted to be able to execute at the highest possible service with limited effort,” explains Daniel Hoffman, director of equipment and beverage specifications for Marriott. “So far, we’ve introduced the program at 40 of our Courtyard hotels, and the response has been positive. There is such an ease of execution, and our servers don’t necessarily have much bartending experience. In many cases, the same people preparing our cocktails also are preparing food for the bar. Still, we are able to offer the excellence of a full-service bar.”
A Tonic to What Ails
A new spate of high-end tonic waters also is bringing innovation to the business and helping operators jazz up even simple drinks like the gin and tonic. Some of the same suppliers also are rolling out other fizzy mixers such as ginger ale and ginger beer.
Gotham Bar and Grill, a modern American restaurant in New York City, uses the London-based Fever Tree’s mixers. “A gin and tonic with a great gin and Fever Tree tonic water, along with a nice, fresh lime, truly is a little slice of heaven,” says beverage director Rick Pitcher.
Pitcher also uses the company’s ginger ale. “It is so full of flavor, it is almost like ginger beer,” he says. “We are currently doing a Pimm’s Cup with it,” which he prices at $13.
Another unique tonic water comes from New York-based Q Tonic. Brahm Callahan, the beverage director at the Rialto, a regional Italian cuisine restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., uses it in several of his drinks. “We’re using it across the board, regardless of whether the drink is a specialty cocktail or standard tonic drink like a gin and tonic. It offers better quality and a cleaner flavor. There is a huge difference between Q Tonic and tonic from a soda gun,” Callahan points out.
One aspect of the new tonics that makes them a step above the soda gun is their use of single-serving bottles. It’s like offering guests their own individual, mini-bottle service, and the mixers are guaranteed carbonated.
“I think there are more products on the market [now] that are designed to meet the needs of mixologists, and at the same time the mixologist’s creativity is bringing in new ingredients that may not have been used before,” notes H. Joseph Ehrmann, who uses Funkin and Q Tonic as proprietor and mixologist a Elixir in San Francisco.
“Also,” he adds, “the improved quality of purées and mixers becomes more enticing as my schedule gets more difficult to make some of these things myself. As an operator, I want to put out the freshest ingredients possible—balanced with the ability to get the drinks out efficiently and profitably.”
Pameladevi Govinda is a New York-based wine, spirits, travel and lifestyle writer.