Cocktail Challenge: Whey | Cocktail Challenge | Chicago Reader

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Cocktail Challenge: Whey

John Smillie of the Violet Hour has his way with a two-whey flip.


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"I got lucky," bartender John Smillie of the Violet Hour confessed. Challenged by Griffin Benko of Lone Wolf to make a drink with whey, Smillie got a text from a chef friend of his who happened to have a fresh supply of the dairy by-product from making yogurt. (Whey is the liquid left over when milk has been curdled and strained—hence Little Miss Muffet's curds and whey.) Not long after that, Smillie came across a second source of whey when the crew at neighboring Big Star made a batch of ricotta cheese, yielding a savory liquid quite distinct in taste from the slightly acidic yogurt whey.

In the meantime, he'd been bombarded with messages from his friends and fellow barkeeps, many of them suggesting punny names for his drink. But Smillie's dairy-based ingredient had led him "in the natural way" ("there's my pun," he joked) to think of complements like egg and "the traditional accoutrements to a cheese flight," specifically, some "nutty elements" and some "berry elements."

Armed with two different flavors of whey, he decided on a two-part cocktail, a flip comprising a base made with egg yolk and the tangy yogurt whey, topped with a "float" of whipped egg whites and the savory ricotta whey. To provide the berry notes, he turned to a top-shelf cognac, Pierre Ferrand 1840; Palo Cortado, a "rather nutty" sherry with traits of both oloroso and amontillado, continues the cheese-flight conceit. Sugar in the form of two simple syrups, one made with demerara, and a sweet vermouth, Carpano Antica, adds to the drink's boozy luxuriousness. As for the wheys, the cheese-derived liquid gives body to Smillie's top layer, while the mild acid of the yogurt whey "plays well with the silky egg texture"—enough so that he added a touch of lime juice to the base as well. As a garnish he used freshly grated nutmeg.

The result, served in a clear mug to show its layers, could be termed a two-whey flip, but Smillie was resolute when it came to the name: his cocktail's called the All Work, No Pun.

All Work, No Pun

1 whole egg, separated
1 oz savory whey
1/2 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac
3/4 oz Palo Cortado sherry
3/4 oz Carpano Antica
3/4 oz acidic whey
1/2 oz demerara simple syrup
1/4 oz lime juice
Nutmeg, for garnish

In a mixing tin, whip the egg white with the savory whey and simple syrup to aerate. Set aside. In a second tin combine the yolk, lime juice, spirits, whey, and demerara simple syrup. Add ice to both and shake well. Strain the base into a clear mug, then strain the egg white mixture onto the top; it should float, forming a distinct layer. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Who's Next:

Smillie has challenged Henry Prendergast of Analogue to make a cocktail with another dairy by-product—pizza grease.

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