Clarifying citrus juice is a great way to up your home cocktail game with an elegant presentation not even on the radar of many cocktail bars. Clarifying citrus juice allows you to make clear cocktails with lemon or lime juice, and allows you to stir those cocktails so you don't have to worry about bruising your liquor. Clarified citrus juice takes some prep work, but following that it keeps for a couple days and you can use it as you would normal citrus juice.
To clarify citrus juice, you'll need powdered agar (also called agar-agar). Agar is a jelly-like substance that is derived from algae. You can find it at most specialty food markets or online. You can clarify whatever citrus juice you wish, but we have typically used lemons or limes.
First, juice your citrus, then strain through a mesh strainer and measure the volume. Measure 1/3 tsp. of agar powder per cup of juice you have. Add 1/3 of the citrus juice to a saucepan and add the agar. You can use more agar powder to make straining easier later, but you'll reduce your yield.
Put the saucepan on the stove on medium heat and whisk constantly. You need the temperature of the juice to be above 35° Celsius for the agar to work, but you want to avoid boiling the juice. You can also heat the juice in a double-boiler if you prefer. Add the rest of the citrus juice in batches, making sure to keep the temperature above 35°, and continue to whisk for a minute after all the citrus has been added.
Prepare an ice bath by adding ice water to a large bowl, and placing a smaller bowl in the ice water. Add the juice to the smaller bowl and whisk for one more minute. Allow the mixture to set — this could take 15 minutes or longer depending on temperature. The agar should congeal around the citrus particulate and the mixture should take on the consistency of wet cottage cheese. Err on the side of waiting longer rather than straining your citrus too soon; you'll get a better yield if you wait.
Wet several pieces of overlapping cheesecloth and place them over a mesh strainer. Pour the mixture through the cheesecloth mixture to strain the citrus juice. Gently squeeze the mixture in the cheesecloth to get more of the juice out. If there's still some particulate in your citrus juice after straining through cheesecloth, you can further strain the juice through a coffee filter.
Now you've got some clarified citrus juice, why not try making a cocktails that deserves it?
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