Mastering the Clover Club with Julie Reiner

In "Masters of X," we spotlight bartenders chasing perfection in one drink. Here, Julie Reiner on honing the Clover Club, the pre-Prohibition-era cocktail for which she named her now-iconic Brooklyn bar.

Improving on the original recipe, Julie Reiner has developed the Clover Club cocktail into a modern classic.

The additions of dry vermouth and fresh, cold-macerated raspberry syrup add nuance and depth to the historic drink.

A reverse dry shake contributes an especially frothy texture.

The finished cocktail is garnished with a skewer of fresh berries. [Recipe.]

“The Clover Club, first of all, is a delicious drink,” says Julie Reiner, owner of the namesake Brooklyn bar that she founded nine years ago. Though the Clover Club had existed for more than a century, having been first introduced at Philadelphia’s Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in the 1890s, it’s Reiner who turned it into a modern classic.

“Even now, even since we’ve opened this bar, you would think that more people would look to us for what the recipe should be,” she adds, wryly.

Admittedly, her nuanced take on the famed pre-Prohibition-era recipe (a combination of gin, egg white, raspberry, lemon, simple syrup, and dry vermouth) is a far cry from many of today’s grenadine-tinged examples, known at times for being overly fruity and lacking in complexity. But Reiner’s subtle changes to the original formula—chief among them, the addition of dry vermouth—lend sophistication to the historically crowd-pleasing drink.

Ironically, the choice to add vermouth is more in line with the cocktail’s history than many of today’s recipes would suggest, a discovery that Reiner credits to historian David Wondrich, a friend and neighbor.

“I was here, playing around with different specs,” she explains, “and Dave comes running in and says, ‘I’ve found the oldest recipe for the Clover Club cocktail ever in print . . . and there was a half an ounce of dry vermouth in it.’”

In the context of the the drink, the vermouth—a long lost addition to the original recipe—works as a balancer. An additional swap, that of raspberry syrup in place of whole, muddled berries, adds a bright, hyper-concentrated fruit flavor.

“We tried making the raspberry syrup in different ways,” says Reiner, who’d initially heated the fruit with the sugar and water before cooling and straining. “We realized that if it gets too hot, you get that cooked pie kind of thing, cooked berries, rather than that bright, fresh raspberry flavor.” The staff now muddles the fruit directly with the sugar and allows it to macerate for 30 minutes before adding warm—not hot—water to dissolve before fine straining the mixture through a chinois.

As for her final tip, to employ a reverse dry shake, Reiner stresses that it’s optional. “It’s kind of splitting hairs, it’s kind of up to the bartender and it kind of depends on what you’re going for in your drink,” she says. But the unorthodox method of shaking the drink with ice first, then straining it and re-shaking it without ice, does result in a notable textural difference. “It gives it that extra frothiness,” explains Reiner, as she slips a garnish on top—a skewer of two fresh raspberries.

An undeniably pretty drink, it’s no surprise that the Clover Club has made an easy transition back into favor, a fact that’s no secret to Reiner: “If you’re going to have a drink that your bar’s named after,” she says, “it really should be a drink that 99 percent of the population likes.”

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