Molecular Cocktail Hour
Posted by Degan on June 8th, 2012
Mad science meets cool cocktails? That gets our attention! So when we received some sample molecular gastronomy kits from Molecule-R (check back in Tuesday for our molecular dinner party ideas) we got out the lab coats and started mixing.
We made tiny Cuba libres with coke pearls suspended in gelatinous rum, mojito spheres (recipe below) with mint leaves suspended in the liquid inside, and then (because we are whisky people after all) a whole slew of whisky “cocktail” spheres – whisky and coke; whisky with ginger syrup, lemon bitters and fresh grated ginger; whisky with Earl Grey tea syrup and tamarind; and whisky with limoncello. And we’re not nearly finished. We had a dish at Commerc 24 in Barcelona that I want to create as a cocktail. It was balsamic, egg and mozzarella spheres in a bowl with broth poured over that I think would be perfect as a scotch flight. Think a caramel-like Speyside, a mildly peated whisky and an Islay in a bowl with some kind of liquid – maybe Earl Grey tea! since this is a new flavour favourite of mine after this week.
It came from a note in my Flavour Bible and is based on a cocktail called the “Scotty and Tammy” that pairs Scotch, lemon, tamarind syrup and the tea but which we found overly sour. So with a bit of mucking about (we now have tamarind syrup, tamarind concentrate and tamarind paste in the house, not to mention Earl Grey simple syrup) we balanced it out and came up with something palatable. This cocktail went into a sphere but didn’t quite work out the way the mojito did (possibly it needs additional Calcium Lactate to balance out the weight of the cocktail – the spheres kept sinking to the bottom and breaking) but what did work out really well (and which is arguably more fun), was making whisky-only spheres and then mixing the additional cocktail ingredients in the shot glass around them. So this one got a layer of Earl Grey simple syrup on the bottom, an Alberta Premium Rye molecular sphere, then a couple of small globs of tamarind concentrate and a single lemon bitter on top. Fun!
The kits are targeted at hobby chefs and home bartenders who want to try molecular techniques so the actual science is kept to a minimum – additives are almost entirely individually packaged in one-use sachets and video recipes just tell you which ingredients to use. This means a bit of over-packaging and would have preferred an actual shopping list and recipe book instead of videos, but the kits are such high quality that I want to buy one for all my food nerd friends. For $58.95, it comes with some beautiful measuring and stirring spoons as well as pipettes and other tools, and enough additives to keep you going for a while (if you do run out, more are available on their website).
Although we had a relatively high success rate, we did learn some things that are worth noting:
- There is a printable recipe booklet on the CD that will make referring back to directions and ingredients easier than watching the video recipes multiple times.
- Always make sure you clean your equipment (and counters and floors) thoroughly.
- To make perfect pearls, squeeze the mixture slowly and evenly into the bath. Uneven pressure can cause strands and non-circular balls.
- To make perfect spheres, only put a few in the bath at a time (put the rest back in the freezer temporarily). The mixture gels quite aggressively so if the frozen pucks are too close together they will stick and possibly rupture. Handle them gently but keep them moving.
- Make sure spheres are frozen solid before putting them in the Sodium Alginate bath or they will rupture. If a sphere leaks into the bath, make sure to clean out all the goop before putting in another one.
- Experiment! Not everything works out as planned but it’s super fun to try things out.
1/4 tsp Calcium Lactate from the Molecul-R cocktail kit
1 sachet Sodium Alginate from the Molecul-R cocktail kit
1 tsp sugar
3 lime wedges
12 small leaves of fresh mint
1.5 oz white rum
1/4 C Club Soda
2 C water
Silicone half-circle mould (for making chocolate or ice cubes)
Perforated spoon from the Molecul-R cocktail kit
Put Calcium Lactate, sugar, lime and mint in a glass and muddle.
Add rum and Club Soda and stir with a spoon.
Place a mint leaf (use fresh ones if they’re too damaged or too large) in each mould then fill with the mojito mixture.
Freeze solid. This will take a while because they must be frozen solid for the spheres to form. We initially tried 30 minutes and that wasn’t long enough so left them over night.
Dissolve the Sodium Alginate into a bowl with 2 cups of water and blend with a hand blender. The Sodium Alginate is really goopy so make sure you get it all off the sides of the blender. Set this mixture aside for 15 minutes.
Take the mould out of the freezer and pop the “cocktails” into the Sodium Alginate bath. If they haven’t frozen solid, put them back into the freezer because they’ll just goop up the bath.
Put a couple of spheres in the bath and leave for 3 minutes. The Calcium Lactate that’s suspended in the frozen liquid starts to melt and reacts with the Sodium Alginate in the bath but because it’s flexible, the casing becomes spherical and cures, trapping the mojito inside of it. The effect is so neat because the mint leaf is suspended in liquid and is able to move around.
Stir gently to keep the spheres separate with the perforated spoon and after 3 minutes put them in a bowl of water to rinse.
Serve in a liqueur glass or a tasting spoon.
Video directions come with the kits. You can see the mojito one here.