Archive for the ‘Techniques & Tools’ Category

Cocktails go from swell to gel

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Do you know what our cocktails need? A little wiggle and jiggle.

Most of us have Jell-o memories — 70’s potluck desserts, tonsillectomy recovery, college jello shots – but they are rooted in youth. It’s time to bring some fun into adulthood by making swell cocktails into gel cocktails.

Lovely, aren't they?  Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Bennett

Lovely, aren’t they? Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Bennett

My friend Liz and I spent a recent day test-driving some recipes from the Jelly Shot Test Kitchen, a blog and a book featuring nothing but jell-o’d cocktails. Using silicone molds, we made bite-sized jell-o Elderflower Mojitos, French 75s, Watermelon Basil Martinis, and Pineapple Brandy Fixes. The fun was in the making and the sampling, I assure you.

I’m featuring our favorite, the Elderflower Mojito, here. I thought this one did the best job of bringing out the flavor of each ingredient. The Pineapple Brandy Fix was also quite tasty (however the two others were not our favorites, and our tester spouses and friends agreed). 

Elderflower Mojito Jelly Shot

50 mint leaves
1/2 c. white rum
1/2 c. St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/3 c.  fresh lime juice
1/3 c.  water
1/3 c.  simple syrup or agave nectar
2 envelopes plain gelatin (about 4 tsp gelatin powder)

Lightly muddle mint in a small bowl.  (Gently crush the mint with the back of a spoon if you don’t have a muddler.)  Add the rum and elderflower liqueur to the bowl and set aside. 

Combine lime juice, water and simple syrup/agave in a small saucepan.  Sprinkle with gelatin, and allow the gelatin to soak for a minute or two.  Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is dissolved (about 5 minutes).  Remove from heat. 

Strain the mint-infused liquor into the pan and stir to combine. We poured our mojitos into smiley face and square silicone molds, and these were set within an hour+ in the refrigerator.

IMG_8562

Through trial and error and even occasionally re-reading the book’s directions (oops), we discovered a few tips that made subsequent batches easier:

  • Do put the silicone molds on a cookie tray before filling them because it makes them much easier to place in the refrigerator.
  • Do make room in the refrigerator for the tray before filling the molds.
  • Spray the molds with flavor-free cooking spray and then wipe with a paper towel.
  • Use a funnel, batter pourer or other device to fill the molds for less dripping and spilling. Liz had this gadget and it was brilliant.
  • If you are making multiple recipes, label or otherwise mark which is poured where. Ours turned into a “box of chocolates” because we poured two clear cocktails into different spots on the same mold. Only tasting will tell us which each one is now!
  • Your cool little gelled cocktails will turn into blobs quickly if left at room temperature or even in an air conditioned car, so keep them well-chilled.

My most important piece of advice is to consider your audience: if there will be children around, keep these out of sight. Jell-o = kids, but jell-o’d cocktails are only for the young-at-heart. I kept mine on the highest refrigerator shelf out of reach of my two treat-craving kids.

With a few of these recipes under my belt, I am now incredibly curious about turning my favorite cocktail recipes into jellied versions. I expect some wiggle, some jiggle and no doubt some giggle.

Cheers, ICE

 

Drinks That Burn in Hell-oween

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Other than color (blood red, orange, gruesome green), Halloween cocktails are often chosen by garnish and presentation – we have to dress up our drinks like we do ourselves for this holiday. This year I’m choosing to cloak my cocktails in flames:  Eerie blue flames that spark with a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon, or turn orange with a bit of salt. I was not aware that I could channel Beavis & Butthead, but there they were, snickering “fire, fire, fire, heheh.”

My first flaming cocktail attempt was the The Goblet of Fire*, created for the Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows movie and appropriate for Halloween. I followed the instructions very carefully and found it quite simple, particularly since I learned how to layer drink ingredients (super duper easy) for last year’s Black + Orange drink. 

 The Goblet of Fire

 2 oz Ty Ku Liqueur
1 oz Kahlua liqueur
Barspoon of cream
1 oz Bacardi 151 rum
grated cinnamon
 
Directions:
  • Shake Ty Ku and Kahlua in a shaker filled with ice.
  • Strain into a cocktail glass.
  • Float cream on top using a bar spoon.
  • Float Bacardi 151 on top of cream.
  • Light the rum with a match.
  • As flame burns, sprinkle some cinnamon onto the flame.
  • Clap hands over flame or blow to put it out.
  • Give a stir and serve.

So much fun to make!  But not a favorite taste for me since I’m not keen on coffee (unlike everyone else in the Seattle area).  So I decided to try another recipe, using green chartreuse as the accelerant. This one was more to my taste.

Cradle of Life 

3/4 oz white rum
3/4 oz spiced rum
1/2 oz orgeat
1/3 oz (= 1T) fresh lemon juice
1/3 oz (= 1T) fresh lime juice
1/3 oz (= 1T) fresh orange juice
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
crushed ice
1 hollowed-out lime half, for garnish
1/2 ounce green chartreuse

 In a cocktail shaker, combine the rums, orgeat, citrus juices and bitters; shake well. Pour into a chilled double rocks glass. Add crushed ice and garnish with the lime cup (the site photo shows the lime cup inside out). Pour the chartreuse into the cup and ignite the chartreuse. Blow out the flame, then tip the chartreuse into the drink.

Really, though, any drink recipe can be made into the flaming variety, provided the accelerant liquor is compatible with the rest of the ingredients and the drink is served up (without ice). Floating a bit of Barcardi 151 on the top of a rum drink will little impact the taste (hmmm, this could be the perfect presentation for my Bloody Sunday drink!).  I did a lot of experimenting and here is what I learned:

  1. Depending on the mouth opening of the glass, as little as a quarter ounce of high-proof liquor floated on top can produce nice flames; if the glass mouth is wide, you’ll need more for dispersal
  2. I didn’t have any luck producing visible flames with less than 110 proof. Liquor can produce invisible flames and perhaps that was the case with the 100-proof vodka, but what’s the spectacle in that?
  3. While ice in a drink does not prevent floating a liquor on top, but it does prevent flaming (I had to see if fire could burn around the ice cubes; wouldn’t that be cool?)
  4. Better to keep the flames going just long enough to serve the drink, ooh and ahh quickly, maybe spark it with some cinnamon or nutmeg, and then blow it out. Otherwise the glassware gets too hot to drink.
  5. Because I was sober and safe, my eyebrows and house remain intact. DrinkNation serves up some safety tips for working with flaming drinks. 

Drinks that appear to arise from the inferno – that’s Halloween!

Cheers, ICE

* The Goblet of Fire is courtesy of Cocktails.About.com and Cradle of Life is from FoodandWine.com and featured in their Food & Wine Cocktails 2011 book.

As always, check out my Glossary of Spirits page for alcohol and mixer definitions and details.

 

Eggs: To Drink, Not to Dye

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Some post-Easter fun with those leftover eggs:

Want to amuse yourself when friends come over? Ask them if they want a cocktail and see their faces light up. Then ask how they feel about egg whites in their drink and watch them shudder.

It’s too bad, because a properly made cocktail with egg whites – traditionally called a Flip – is divine. It is frothy, foamy and light, NOT slimy or thick. And the perfect choice when I’ve done a kick-ass barre3 workout and later need some extra protein (this is my excuse to go from barre to bar).   

Pink Lady, a classic cocktail with egg whites

 I have to admit the process can be messy. Separating the egg white from the yolk isn’t too difficult, but I find the current accepted shaking technique to be drippy and annoying. Also, some people are wary of salmonella*, although I also don’t avoid cookie dough or a Caesar salad for that reason. 

In the name of research I launched my Great Egg White Experiment to find the best products and approach. I tried pasteurized powdered eggs, pasteurized carton egg whites, chilled eggs and not, shaking with crushed ice, cubed ice and no ice. Yeah, I totaled a lot of cocktails!  And I found a great solution. Read on for the best method, plus recipes of course!

Challenging the Accepted Wisdom of The Double Shake

The double shake is considered the best way to emulsify a drink with egg whites. It calls for adding together the egg white and all ingredients and shaking well first with no ice, then adding ice and shaking well again. The problem is that opening the shaker to add the ice creates a drippy mess down the sides and an unacceptable loss of liquor! But it does create good froth…too much of it, actually. It ends up reminding me of a bad tap pour; I don’t want that much head on my beer or my cocktail.

What if we skip that first shake without ice. What happens? A sad, forlorn layer of foam is the result. Looking at it, you’d barely know it was a flip.  Drinking it, you’d miss the creamy texture.

In other attempts I did have slightly better results doing a solo shake with crushed ice instead of cubed. Maybe all the small pieces served to better whip the egg white. But while respectable, it still wasn’t the ideal amount of foam.  A chilled egg versus one kept at room temperature also didn’t make a difference.

Powdered vs Carton Egg Whites 

Eggbeaters vs. Powdered in a PC Fizz

 For those concerned about food-borne illness, using a pasteurized product is an option.  For a head-to-head competition I made the same drink using each.

I found the powdered egg whites in the baking section at the grocery store and followed the directions to reconstitute it by mixing 2 tablespoons of powder with 1 ounce of warm water. Then I mixed and mixed. Even using my tiny whisk it was difficult to get the clumps out and rather tedious.

For the competition I used Eggbeaters Egg Whites, managing to find a carton without added coloring, unlike the last time when the “yellow” egg whites turned my drink baby shit brown. Yuck.

Employing the double-shake technique (see above) for both, I deemed the Eggbeaters to be the clear winner. Not only was it easier with no extra mixing, it produced the perfect amount of foam. The powdered eggs, perhaps because of the pre-whisking, just produced too much foam.  Both drinks tasted and felt exactly the same while drinking.
 

The Solution

Sticking to fresh eggs because they are always on hand, I tried another approach. If this is recommended elsewhere, I haven’t seen it so I’ll consider it my “breakthrough.” But I will let you use it because I’m nice like that.

I was thinking about the additional foam created by the powdered egg whites and the pre-whisking involved, and I wondered:  Would whisking an egg white (fresh or carton) – just as I do before making scrambled eggs – then adding ingredients and ice for a single shake be a good substitute for that pre-ice shaking used in the double shake technique?  Why, yes it is! In fact, it created the perfect amount of foam for my PC Fizz with no extra mess or time. 
 

Voila, a perfect PC Fizz!

 Woo hoo, let’s celebrate with a couple of drinks I used during my mad science trials:

The PC Fizz – from the MixShakeStir cocktail book

1 ½ oz Pimm’s No. 1
½ oz chartreuse (either yellow or green)
1 oz simple syrup
¾ oz lemon juice
¾ oz lime juice
1 egg white
pinch of pumpkin pie spice to garnish

 Add egg white to shaker and whisk (use a fork or small whisk) until foamy. Add all ingredients (except pie spice) and ice, and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass, garnish with a pinch of pumpkin pie spice on top of the foam and enjoy. Note:  I like this drink with either green chartreuse for a brighter drink or the yellow for a mellower version.

The next drink is a classic. Pink and tasty:

The Pink Lady

1 ½ oz gin
½ oz applejack
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ oz grenadine
1 egg white

 Add egg white to shaker and whisk (use a fork or small whisk) until foamy. Add all ingredients and ice, and shake well. Strain into a wine glass.

So now you have no excuses. Pasteurized carton egg whites are as tasty in drinks as fresh. Whisking the egg white is less messy than alternatives. Using egg whites provides texture and elegance to cocktails. It’s time to mug a chicken.

 Cheers, ICE

*what, actually, is the risk of salmonella poisoning from an egg white? Very small according to Lawrence Pong, principal health inspector and manager of food-borne illness outbreak investigations for the Department of Public Health in San Francisco: “Egg whites are alkaline in nature, and salmonella colonies cannot survive there.”  Plus it seems that the alcohol present in cocktail would also inhibit bacteria.

 

 

 

When Orange Meets Black

Thursday, October 21st, 2010
Halloween Drink #2 of 2

Ladies and gentleman, I attempted something so breathtaking, so amazing, so essential to the art of making cocktails, that I astounded even myself… 

OK, so that was overblown – but it is an election season and therefore not out of place. The reality went like this:

  1. I saw some layered orange and black Halloween drinks online
  2. I coveted
  3. I was pretty sure I’d flub the technique and the drink.

But –surprise! – creating a layered drink was so much easier than expected. Granted, I was floating only one liquor rather than creating multiple layers (common in shots like the B-52), but I was successful nonetheless.

Most of the online recipes used orange juice and Blavod black vodka, which would make a great Screwdriver for a Halloween brunch (do those exist?). I had some Santa Cruz Mango Lemonade on hand, though, and its bright orange color was ideal. With a few extra ingredients thrown in and a black vodka float, it’s tasty and Halloween-y.  

Black + Orange

2 oz Santa Cruz Mango Lemonade beverage
½ oz limoncello liqueur
¼ oz lime juice
Dash orange bitters
1 oz black vodka to float on top

Mix together the first four ingredients in a highball with several ice cubes.  Then, turn the “bowl” of a spoon upside down and touch the tip against the side of the glass either just below or above the juice’s surface. Pour the black vodka gently over the bowl of the spoon; breaking the fall of the vodka against the spoon maintains the liquid’s surface tension and keeps the two from mixing. To ensure an even layer, move the spoon to the other side of the glass halfway through the pour.  

The black and orange layers are quite distinct, and the orange eerily shines through the ice cubes floating in black.  It all makes for great presentation; however, drinking it this way means a mouthful of straight vodka. Stir it up and you’ve got a gruesome green color that is also perfect for Halloween!

  Cheers, ICE