How One Man Makes the Most of His Citrus Zester

Four ridiculously delicious recipes from Harper’s’ Clark Moore.

 Chances are, you already have a zester somewhere in your kitchen. It’s the small hand tool with the perforated, angled head that has drifted to the back bottom of a drawer. If that’s the case, then you are no different from Harper’s storied barman, the elegant Clark Moore, who, when confronted with his own zester, wasn’t quite sure how to use it.

“When Harper’s first opened in Dobbs Ferry, Southern [Wine & Spirits, a liquor distributor] gave us all this swag. We had Plymouth shakers and Plymouth strainers and this zester that was sitting there for, essentially, two and a half years. One day, I just picked it up and said, ‘What the hell is this?’ When I realized what it did, I started using it for drinks.” 

The zester, which cuts shallow filaments from the aromatic, oil-filled skins of citrus fruit, is designed to avoid the bitter white pith that lies closest to the flesh. That said, according to Moore, using a zester “is not the same as squeezing the zest over the drink. The oils are there, for sure, but, with a zester, the aroma is more in the air.” And, Moore says, “because of the nature of the shreds, the scent lingers in a different way. I’ve been getting into this thing where, if I’m carving off a larger piece of the zest that I squeeze over the drink, I no longer add it to the drink. I think the big slab of zest is clumsy and just sort of looks dumb. Instead, I squeeze the zest over the drink and then I get rid of what remains.” He adds, “But, with the thin shreds of zest, I think it’s more fun to leave them there. When you put the drink to your nose, you get the freshness of the rinds.”

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Then there’s the novel way that the colorful threads look lying on the ice, a single, monolithic rock. “For certain cocktails, I like a really maximalist effect, and you can just go crazy with a zester. I like the zested stuff that looks all hairy and frenetic; it just makes the drinks a lot of fun.” 

Since stepping behind the bar at Harper’s, Moore has become a local icon. But, while the bushy beard is something of a signature, it was the quality of Moore’s craftsmanship that won him admiration from local chefs (most notably, from The Cookery’s David DiBari). For Moore, mixing drinks was more an avocation than a gig. “I knew that I was always going to be in this business; I never took it casually,” he explains.  “I said to myself, ‘What’s the most fun part of any restaurant?’ It’s the bar, obviously. And it drew me because you can be creative. I never took classes. I did it all by watching what the bartender did. One day, when the bartender called out sick, I said to the manager, ‘I’ve got this.’”

Moore contends that “there’s something that’s just kind of poetic about making drinks. If you take the separate ingredients and you mix them together, you get something that you don’t have when they’re isolated and alone. I find that compelling—there’s artistry in it.”

Each recipe makes one cocktail.

Pimmacle Plummet (Top right)

Says Moore of the Pimmacle Plummet, “I like this cocktail because it’s not only delicious [fruity, spicy, lively, and sparkling], but it’s also a looker. It’s a jeweled purple from the Beach Plum Gin Liqueur, and the zest adds extra colorful aromatic dazzle.

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ν 2 oz Greenhook Ginsmiths Beach Plum Gin Liqueur
ν ½ oz Pimms No. 1 Cup
ν ½ oz The King’s Ginger Liqueur
ν ½ oz lime juice
ν 1 dash The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter bitters
ν Sparkling wine
ν Orange, lemon, and lime zest

MAKE THE COCKTAIL: In a mixing glass, combine all the ingredients except the wine and zest. Fill the glass with ice. Shake until the glass is frosty, then strain the mixture into a Collins or Highball glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling wine. Zest the orange, lemon, and lime directly onto the ice. Serve.

Clark Collins (Right)

“This is a variation on the first cocktail I ever made when I was 17 years old. This is what I named it back then—I would not normally name a cocktail after myself today. At the time, I used Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda. This has been appropriately updated. The cocktail has a beautiful, ethereal green color that comes from the syrup.”

ν 2 oz Beefeater Gin
ν ¾ oz fresh lime juice
ν ¾ celery syrup* (recipe on page 36)
ν 2 dashes Scrappy’s Celery bitters
ν Q Tonic
ν Celery zest

MAKE THE COCKTAIL: Add the gin, juice, syrup, and bitters to a mixing glass. Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins or Highball glass filled with ice. Top with tonic, and zest fresh celery over the ice. Serve.

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*To make the celery syrup, add ½ cup of sugar to a pot. Add a large stalk of celery, chopped, and muddle into the sugar to release some of the juice. Add ½ cup of water, and bring to a boil, while stirring to dissolve. Remove from heat, strain, and allow the syrup to cool before using.

Postcard from the Volcano (Right)

According to Moore, “The name of this cocktail comes from the title of a Wallace Stevens poem. I think it’s cool for a couple of reasons. First of all, the name is evocative of the volcanic tropics (coconut, rum, and smoke from the bitters). Second, it’s really cool to look at—the liquor itself is dark, and the cube is also dark. The contrast with the white zest is arresting.”

ν 2 oz Coconut-infused Gosling’s Black Seal Rum*
ν ¾ oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
ν ¼ oz Sorel (spice liqueur)
ν 1 dash Old Men Smoke Gets In Your Bitters (Lapsang Souchong bitters)
ν 1 large black-cherry ice cube**
ν Coconut zest

MAKE THE COCKTAIL: Combine all the ingredients except the zest in a large stirring vessel. Add ice and stir the liquid until it is chilled. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with a single, large black cherry ice cube**. Zest strands of fresh coconut atop the ice. Serve.

*To make the coconut-infused rum, shred a half-cup of fresh coconut, add it to the rum, and allow it to macerate for a week or so, turning it over every other day to mix it. Strain and reserve the rum. 
**For the black-cherry ice cube, Moore freezes 100-percent natural black-cherry juice in 2-inch ice cube trays. 

Celery Sazarac (not shown)

“This is an interesting take on a traditional Sazarac,”says Moore. “The flavor of celery plays really nicely with the rye, Herbsaint, and lemon.” 

ν 1 barspoon Demerara sugar
ν 2 dashes Scrappy’s Celery bitters
ν 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
ν 1 lemon peel
ν 2 oz Sazarac Rye
ν Atomized Herbsaint 
ν Celery zest

MAKE THE COCKTAIL: In a large stirring glass, add the sugar, bitters, and lemon peel. Lightly muddle the ingredients to release the oil and dissolve the sugar. Add the rye and ice and stir until the mixture is chilled. Using an atomizer, spray a chilled Old Fashioned glass with Herbsaint to coat. Place a single, 2-inch cube in the glass. Pour in the rye mixture and zest the fresh celery directly onto the ice. Serve. (It is pictured on page 26, in Clark Moore’s portrait.)

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