The Friday Tipple: Arctic Char

Arctic Char

It’s time for a reality check, Boozers. Reality television, that is. We enjoy curling up on the couch on a cold winter night to watch the sordid machinations of complete strangers trapped together in an alternate reality. Who’s in, who’s out, who came up with the snarkiest comment about a fellow castmate. Ah, guilty pleasures.

This week, we were captivated, as always, by Top Chef, and particularly intrigued by the burnt lemon garnish whipped up by the kindly and unassuming Sheldon for the Quick Fire Challenge. Pulverized into dust, he claimed it would have a concentrated smoky essence of lemon. How could we resist?

Turns out, “citrus charcoal” is an ingredient found in the Mid East and Asia, and, as you can imagine, is pretty easy to make, and, when mixed with agave nectar, has exactly the same flavor as the lovely charred skin of roasted marshmallows, with a lightly citrus undertone. Inspired by the recent snowfall in our area, we wanted to create a cocktail that was both bright and smoky, able to combat the frosty chill: the Arctic Char. Because life is a reality show, Boozers. Drink up.

Arctic Char

To add to the smokiness of this cocktail, we roasted several pieces of orange over an open flame. We used Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, an unaged whisky: its warm bite provides the right counterpoint to the sweetness of fresh orange, and unaged whisky, or moonshine, is readily available these days from small distilleries across the country. 

3 ounces smoked orange juice (technique below)

1/2 ounce triple sec or Cointreau

1.5 ounces unaged or white whisky

2 – 3 drops of bitters (The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters adds a nice dimension)

1/4 teaspoon orange charcoal (technique below)

1/2 teaspoon light agave nectar

Wheel of roasted orange for garnish (just quickly roast over open flame)

Put the smoked orange juice in a cocktail shaker with the triple sec and set aside for 15 minutes. In the meantime, mix the orange charcoal and agave nectar together into a paste and put in the bottom of a cocktail glass. Put the strained juice, whisky, and bitters into a clean cocktail shaker with a single ice cube, stir, and strain into the glass. Garnish with a wheel of roasted orange.

Orange Charcoal: You guessed it: Citrus charcoal is made by burning citrus peel (we used orange, but lemon, grapefruit, etc. will also work). This can be done fairly quickly by holding pieces of the peel with a pair of tongs over a flame; the peel will spark slightly as the natural oils in the skin heat up. As you burn each piece to a crisp, set it aside to cool slightly, then pulverize the pieces in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle until fine.

Smoked Orange Juice: Peel an orange and hold each section over an open flame for 15 seconds per side or until it begins to lightly char. Put warm sections into a glass or cocktail shaker and muddle thoroughly. Add the fresh juice of another orange and set aside for 30 minutes before straining thoroughly (you may want to use cheesecloth).