Sarasota’s Brunch Club
Story and photography by Debi Lander
Sarasota’s Brunch Club elevates an egg white-topped cocktail to masterpiece status.
Egg white-topped cocktails with their creamy complexions and foamy heads always seem to impress, but the Brunch Club cocktail may be one of the most beautiful drinks ever created. Inventor and master mixologist Cliseria Padilla-Flores of Sarasota, Fla.’s Sage Restaurant has created a masterpiece with her gin and raspberry-infused drink topped with a swirl of floral delight.
“The key to the topping comes from shaking twice,” said Padilla-Flores.
She recommends adding all of the drink’s ingredients into a cocktail shaker, including an egg white, and then giving it a vigorous “dry” shake, a bartender term that means shaking ingredients at room temperature without ice. The first shake allows the egg’s protein to form a foam without being diluted by the ice.
Padilla-Flores then follows up with a 30-second “wet” shake by adding ice to the cocktail shaker, allowing the beverage to cool and strengthen the foam. She then pours the concoction through a fine sieve and into a cocktail glass.
Padilla-Flores decorates the top with drops of Peychaud bitters to cut the sweetness and, like an expert barista, swirls the dots to form heart-shaped designs with a toothpick. An edible flower in the center delivers the cocktail’s touche finale.
The Brunch Club, a seasonal cocktail selection, has proven so popular that it’s been added to the year-round menu. However, brunch dining at Sage Restaurant will move across the street to its sister property, the Bijou Café, starting in the fall.
Padilla-Flores, otherwise known as “Clio,” welcomes guests to Sage with her colorful personality and green highlighted hair. She hails from Aguascalientes, Mexico, but moved to Sarasota with her family at age seven. She’s never left, claiming her love for the Gulf Coast city.
Her experience comes from the bottom up. Padilla-Flores went from bussing tables to server and bartender at various Sarasota restaurants, honing her mixology skills by mentoring with previous bosses, attending online courses, and relying on her favorite book, “The Food Bible,” for fruit and vegetable pairing inspiration. Padilla-Flores has since risen to become Sage’s bar manager.
Among the tantalizing new concoctions she created for the fall is a squash-infused cocktail that emphasizes her love of working with an array of mixers that includes various bitters and botanicals.
Sage occupies the historic Sarasota Times Building, built in downtown Sarasota in 1926 within the Theater Arts district. The restaurant opened its doors in 2019 and, even though the pandemic made 2020 a tough year for the business, the staff is working again in the eclectic, antique-filled dining space.
The Brunch Club
1 1/2 ounce of Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice Gin
1/2 ounce of house-made vanilla-raspberry syrup*
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce rose-infused Carpano Bianco Vermouth (you may substitute any white botanical vermouth that is not dry.)
1/2 ounce or 1 egg white
Directions: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with no ice. Shake vigorously. Add ice and shake again, about 30 seconds. Double strain using the shaker top and a fine mesh strainer. Garnish with drops of Peychaud Bitters, then blend with a toothpick to create designs. Top with an edible flower.
*The vanilla-raspberry syrup is made from boiling raspberries, water, sugar, and vanilla bean, then straining into a glass container.