Posts filed under Projects

Labwork 3: Fizzy

Once upon a time, I had a notion to write a semi-regular series of posts about exploring this idea of molecular mixology. It's been a while since I did one. The gap isn't because molecular techniques aren't an interesting area of innovation. Way back, I split approaches to molecular mixology into two fairly broad categories - equipment led, and ingredient led. The thing is, a lot of the time, that equipment or those ingredients can be pricy in terms of both money and time. With that said, I've still managed to find a little of both to try out a couple of things. One of my recent acquisitions is a Perlini cocktail carbonation system. It sounds pretty impressive and, seeing as it cost me £150 (they've gotten a little cheaper since I got one), it really should be.


For your money, you get a suitcase that bears a passing resemblance to those handcuffed to secret agents in movies containing a the mutant child of a bell jar, a T-Virus canister, and a three-piece shaker, and a small black gadget that holds a 16g CO2 charger and looks kind of like a sex toy. There's a one-way valve built into the top of the shaker and the process is simple enough: shake your drink as normal and then feed the carbon dioxide into the shaker. Leave for 30 secs and all of sudden, you have fizzy cocktails.

Carbonating cocktails is undoubtedly fun but while a fizzy daiquiri tastes equal parts of amazing and uncanny, I don't know if it's much more than a novelty and it took a while for me to happen upon a good reason to use the technique. Sloane's Gin had started up a cocktail competition and were asking for entries based on the idea of "twisted traditions" and I chose the Gin & Tonic as the tradition I wanted to play with.

It wasn't a totally random choice: Sloane's Gin is named for Sir Hans Sloane, the first medical practitioner in Britain to be granted a hereditary title, a former president of both the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal Society, and doctor to three successive monarchs (Queen Anne, George I and George II) and that fitted in well with gin's origins as medicine. I also remembered that while British colonists were partial to tonic water as their preferred preventative against malaria, French colonists would turn to aperitif wines such as Byrrh and Lillet to get their fix of quinine. The idea came together pretty quickly after that: combine the British - gin - with the French - tonic wine - and use carbonation to present something that's reminiscent of a classic Gin & Tonic but at the same time something new as well.

French Tonic

35ml Sloane's Dry Gin
25ml Lillet Blanc
15ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup

Combine all ingredients in Perlini shaker; shake with ice; charge with CO2 and reserve for ~30 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball and garnish with a twist of orange zest and a twist of lemon zest.

There are a couple of interesting foibles to this recipe; for one, I've generally found that I've had to make drinks a little sweeter than I normally would before carbonating them (hence the 10ml of sugar syrup) and that seems to be down to the carbon dioxide itself. The citrus flavours of Lillet Blanc work really well with the botanicals in Sloane's and provide a nice counterpoint to its dominant vanilla note.

The carbonation is the key part of the drink. It allows me to present something that plays on our expectation of an instantly recognisable drink and that's always an interesting area to play around in. The Perlini system isn't the only way to make drinks fizzy - honestly, it might not be the best way, particularly if you're planning on making them in any great volume but it's turning into a useful tool for me to broaden my horizons.

Posted on April 28, 2012 and filed under Labwork, Mixology, Projects, Recipes.

Fifty One: Relativity

I've posted a lot of recipes based around typical winter flavours over the past few weeks. There is, of course, a downside and it's that seasonal flavours will call that specific season to mind and not everyone wants to think about how cold it is outside all of the time. But then again, one of the beautiful aspects of a mixed drink is that through a trick of the senses, it can transport the drinker from a cold Edinburgh night to, well, anywhere.


15ml Belvedere Cytrus (any citrus flavoured vodka will do)
10ml St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
2 dashes Fee Bros. Peach Bitters
Top with champagne (the drier, the better)

Build in a chilled champagne flute. Garnish with a lemon zest twist and a cocktail cherry.

Posted on December 16, 2009 and filed under Fiftytwo, Mixology, Projects, Recipes.

Fifty: Maple Union

This project is on the home stretch and after forty-nine drinks, it's time to look at the elephant in the room. Over the past twelve or so months, we've seen rum drinks and Scotch drinks and vodka and gin and good God, we've even seen Genever a couple of times. What we haven't seen is bourbon.

Elephant Room by S.A. Young on Flickr

Bourbon was declared as a "distinctive product of the United States" in 1964, but it's stood as the flagship of American spirit production for long before that. There are a couple of key distinctions between bourbon and European (Scottish and Irish) whiskies, not least the sour mash process. Arguably, given that pretty fundamental difference in production combined with the different grain base (at least 51% corn for bourbon versus the traditional malted barley for Scotch), comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. Maybe not so much apples and oranges - oranges and grapefruits might be more appropriate.

Lunch at the Pendennis Club by Southern Foodways Alliance on Flickr.

The natural question at this point is why has it taken me fifty weeks to feature one of the major spirits? Unfortunately, there's no easy answer. For one, dark spirits are not as popular as white spirits in the UK market, and bourbon is somewhere behind rum and Scotch in that category. As such, it doesn't feature in my thinking all that often and while it would be unfair to say that brands don't support their products with competitions and the like - Maker's Mark recently held took their UK finalists to the States and held the final in the Pendennis Club - but these are often a rarity among a calendar filled with events sponsored by vodka, gin and rum producers.

However, even on these distant shores, bourbon is deserving of more than a tip of the hat. Bourbon is the whiskey on which the cocktail tradition is built which makes it impossible to ignore. When talking about it in cocktails, the obvious point of reference is the Manhattan - I'm hearing an imaginary chorus of people shouting about proper Manhattans being made with rye, but if I put my hands just here over my ears, we'll be ok - and the overwhelming urge is to go old school. And if we're thinking old school, the obvious point of reference is the Sazerac and yes, the rye chorus has a point here. It's the aromatic rinse that makes the Sazerac great, and although absinthe pairs well with rye, it tends to overpower the more delicate flavours in most bourbons. It'd be incredibly opportunistic to claim that adding a rinse to a Manhattan constitutes a whole new recipe, so I've opted to add a couple of complimentary flavours from the great American tastebook in the form of maple syrup and Fee Brothers' Aztec Chocolate Bitters. Still incredibly opportunistic, though.

Maple Union

40ml bourbon (I used Maker's Mark)
20ml sweet vermouth (Cinzano Rosso)
1 barspoon maple syrup
1 dash Fee Bros. Aztec Chocolate Bitters
10ml Yellow Chartreuse

Rinse a chilled martini glass with the Chartreuse. Stir all other ingredients with ice and strain into the chilled, rinsed glass. Garnish with an orange zest twist.