Build-A-Bar Goes Non-Alcoholic and Gets Juicier With Pears and Parsnips

Categories: How To

Oxford_Comma.jpg
Photo by Nicholas L. Hall
The Oxford Comma: Good for recovering alcoholics, my pregnant wife, and kids.
My wife is pregnant. It's our third time in the barrel, and as unexpected a ride as the prior two. We (think) we know what we're in for this time, though, so it should be smooth sailing. To help ensure pacific waters, I'm (mostly) teetotaling in sympathy with my wife for the next 40 weeks or so. That seems like a pretty good reason to revisit my semi-abandoned nonalcoholic "cocktail" experiments. Drink along with me.

I have to admit it: I don't get the whole juicing thing. I figure, if I want an apple, I'm going to eat an apple. I guess my wife doesn't get it either, because she's never used the juicer I bought her a couple of years ago.

I had let it lay dormant, figuring it would be gauche to use her present before she did, like the guy who buys his wife a new laser-level as an anniversary present (insert your own relevant cliche here). I started doing research on "mocktails" (Please, can we come up with another name for cocktail-like beverages without alcohol? I absolutely hate the word "mocktails."), and came across mostly tea, lemonade and soda variations. Boring. In many of the drinks that did capture my attention, I noticed a common thread of unusual juices.

As I've mentioned before, creating your own ingredients is a great way to help make non-alcoholic beverages with a unique and captivating character, and freshly juiced ingredients that fall out of the narrow range of "normal" juices are a great step in that direction. It ensures that you're working with extremely fresh ingredients, gives you more control over the flavor and texture of those ingredients, and offers a wide area of options for innovation and experimentation.

First thing's first, I asked my wife if it was cool with her if I co-opted her gift. She said yes, of course, because she doesn't suck (love you, honey). I started brainstorming through flavor combinations, drafting shopping lists, and juicing everything in sight. I juiced green apples and celery (stay tuned; still tweaking that one); I juiced parsnips and pears; I've got my eye on watercress and fennel. So far, I've got one solid drink out of the trials, and it came into my head more or less fully formed.

With root vegetables about to take a more central spot in my kitchen, I'd had them on the brain. Parsnips have been a fascination of mine for the past few years, and I thought that their sweetly earthy, slightly grassy, slightly bitter flavor would work well in a drink. To soften it, I settled on pears.

I could taste the combo mentally, and wanted to make sure I kept the sweetness in check, so I went with a 50/50 blend of Bosc and Bartlett pears. A bit of good vanilla for depth, and tarragon for a hint of anise to lift and highlight everything, and I was on a roll. The vanilla and tarragon also helped to temper the vegetal flavor of the parsnip, adding a nice roundness to what was otherwise a sharp-tasting combination. A bit of Lactart helped further restrain the sweetness, adding a hint of acidity for balance.

While my wife didn't much care for the drink, I found it quite fetching. The kids were split, screwing their faces up into the visage of perplexed indecision. Since I'm usurping my wife's gift for my project, though, I figure I better get back to the drawing (juicing?) board and make something she really loves. In the meantime, I give you the

Oxford Comma

1.5oz parsnip juice
1.5oz Bosc/Bartlett Pear Juice
8 drops good vanilla extract (I used Rancho Gordo)
1tsp Lactart
Two sprigs tarragon

Combine all ingredients in an iced shaker, and shake briefly. Double-strain into a rocks glass over one large ice cube. Top with tonic, stir briefly, add 2-3 more drops of vanilla on top of ice cube (for aroma), and garnish with a sprig of tarragon.


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