Advanced Emotional Content Basics (liqueurs!)

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Advanced motional content basics (liqueurs!)

I apologize for this chart rendering so poorly in the browser.

Type & brand alcohol specific gravity alcohol influence on specific gravity adjusted gravity sugar in g/l
carlshamns flag punsch 26 1.082 0.03022 1.11222 293
suze 20 1.031 0.02404 1.05504 143
amer picon 21 1.031 0.02504 1.05604 145
amerpicon (beer?) 21 1.066 0.02504 1.09104 237
cynar 16.5 1.081 0.02054 1.10154 265
stock sweet vermouth 16 1.044 0.02002 1.06402 167
stock dry vermouth 18 0.02206
cointreau 40 1.036 0.04822 1.08422 219
brizard apry 20.5 1.121 0.02454 1.14554 381
maracuja do ezequiel 26 1.098 0.03022 1.12822 336
china martini 31 1.104 0.03582 1.13982 366
villardi jabuticaba 25 1.105 0.02916 1.13416 351
constelacao licor cafe 27 1.139 0.03130 1.17030 457
j. monteiro mint licor 22 1.171 0.02605 1.19705 520
carpano antica vermouth 16.5 1.057 0.02054 1.07754 201
campari 24 1.066 0.02811 1.09411 245
citronge 40 1.073 0.04822 1.12122 317
disarono amaretto 28 1.084 0.03240 1.11640 304
marolo chamomile grappa 35 1.025 0.04092 1.06592 171
punt y mes 16 1.073 0.02002 1.09302 242
matilde poire 18 1.115 0.02206 1.13706 358
lemoncello “torna sorrento” 30 1.059 0.03466 1.09366 245
senior curacao of curacao 31 1.044 0.03582 1.07982 208
marie brizard curacao orange 30 1.090 0.03466 1.12466 325
nocino maurizio russo 30 1.039 0.03466 1.07366 191

One of the most significant contributions to the emotional content of a flavor experience is the sugar content. An understanding of sugar content can be useful in creating commonly accepted harmony. Harmony in this case is a function of sugar content relative to numerous contrasting planes like acidity and alcohol. Unfortunately there isn’t much reliable data out there on sugar contents yet, but I constantly see search referrals looking for them (calorie counters or inquisitive artists?). This table (it will grow) represents an attempt.

(Gary Regan has an excellent table and maybe I can have him send me alcohol contents for products at the time he made measurements (because brands do change their metrics) and then I can crunch the numbers and we can see how products have evolved (if we are confident in our methods!))

Within a liqueur, two significant forces (there are others) effect the density which we can use to get a really close approximation of the sugar content (feel free to challenge my methodology). Alcohol decreases density and luckily its a known variable because its printed on the label (but allowed to have a fairly large margin of error). Sugar increases density and its the unknown variable we are looking to reveal.

If we compensate for alcohol’s effect on the specific gravity using one of many available tables, we can create an adjusted specific gravity that can be used to isolate the sugar content’s effect. To find various alcohol contents’ influence on the specific gravity, I recommend the chart in the back of Irving Hirsch’s “Manufacture of Whiskey, Brandy & Cordials” (1937 reprint). Hirsch’s chart (courtesy the Bureau of Standards) is the best I’ve found. Many others do not feature the low alcohol contents with any accuracy that are needed for examining aromatized wines.

The adjusted specific gravity can be converted to a grams per liter of sucrose using “circular C440” from the same Bureau of Standards. This circular used to be easy to track down in PDF but all my links are broken and I’m too low tech to host it. I can email the PDF to anybody that needs it.

Of course I should be paying attention to temperature which influences gravity, but most of these measurements were taken on the run in adverse circumstances that didn’t allow a temperature consideration (the free minutes in between restaurant service here and there).

This data has a variety of uses. For starters we can compare these numbers to many of Joseph Koenig’s from 1879 and make some anthropological hypothesis as to why things have changed. Tastes have changed of course, but in the beginning did liqueur sugar contents ever match popular tastes in the first place? Recipes were dynamic as opposed to the modern static attempt, but was that because liqueurs didn’t always bring the desired emotional content to allow harmonic recipes using our modern simple ratios (2:1:1)?

We as artists can use this data as a tool to increase empathy. Selecting bottlings based on sugar content can help control and focus the emotional content of a drink. Aroma aside, a change from Brizard’s curacao to Senior’s curacao will result in significantly different emotional content in a 2:1:1 margarita.

Then of course this data can be used to produce house made products for a bar program. Why reinvent the wheel when you can simply emulate success? Most house made products I’ve tasted could benefit from a little more consistency and refinement.

Feedback please.

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This Day in History: 1879

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I’ve been collecting books from the University of California’s wine and liquor research bibliographies for a long time now. I’ve finally turned up a few oldies that reveal a tiny glimpse of what was being imbibed in the hay day of the cocktail era.

The sources mainly focus on wine and distilled spirits which were studied to death to provide really detailed finger prints of what people were drinking well into the 19th century.

Liqueurs (think Cointreau, Chartreuse, etc.) were not studied in so much detail. They were economically very significant because they are taxed so high, but most all researchers just throw up their hands in confusion when analyzing them because of the variety. All of the metrics they put liqueurs through showed massive variance that barely seems useful unless you are just curious about one proprietary product. (and luckily I am!)

Herstein and Gregory’s The Technology and Chemistry of Wines and Liqueurs (1935) is brilliant when it comes to wines and spirits analyses but becomes kind of silly in their liqueurs chapter. According to Herstein and Gregory, liqueurs come in grades like average (sub divided into single strength and double strength), good, very good, excellent. The biggest difference between average and excellent is an increase in alcohol as well as sugar. Of course there is no empirical data to back up their categorization, but they do also provide recipes for the same liqueur of different grades to show how proportions of ingredients changed.

The text has tons of recipes but is written in the “shovelware” style. Many look like they were plagiarized and never tried. Some don’t seem to work because they are missing information like how big the recipe is supposed to be. The recipes are prefaced with the warning that they are only examples, but it is still half assed for an otherwise incredibly thorough text.

When you go back this far in time (1935) the bibliographies are dominated by foreign languages. Many of the charts are borrowed from these foreign language sources and are hard to track down. Herstein and Gregory borrow a chart from Leach (Leach, a. e. Food Inspection and Analysis. New York 1920) who borrowed it from the famous German chemist Joesph Konig. Konig’s (I’m missing an umlaut on the “o” of his last name) book Chemie Der Menschlichen Nahrungs- Und Genussmittel (I’m not sure if I cited the title correctly) has many editions which goes back to the end of the 19th century.

Konig has a chart that analyzes many famous liqueurs for many metrics. The only numbers of value to us are specific gravity, alcohol content and sugar content (if you know what ash content means let me know).

here goes: (1879 edition)

benedictiner-bitter specific gravity 1.0709, alcohol 52%, sugar (g/L) 325.7

creme de menthe                          1.0447,              48%,                  276.3

annisette de bordeaux                   1.0847,              42%                    344.4

curacao                                          1.0300               55%                    285.0

The 1918 edition doesn’t seem to have a chart but rather summarizes the results in a paragraph. (it took me a while to figure that out because I don’t speak German. I just found all of the search terms in a paragraph with most of the figures. I think the paragraph also references another text where the data may be borrowed from.)

another edition adds…. (1920)

ginger                                              1.0481              47.5%                   259.2

kummel                                           1.0830              33.9%                   311.8

pfefferminz-likor (pepper mint)       1.1429              34.5%                    473.1

chartreuse (green?)                        1.0799             43.18%                   343.5

punsch (schwedischer)                  1.1030               26.3%                   332.0

maraschino                                      1.1042              31.76%                 346.8

This famous chart also comes up other texts like The Chemical Engineer, Volume XXI. 1915 (a journal)

The significance of this all is that we see a very early sugar and alcohol ethic of the products. The majority of the emotional content of a drink comes from these relationships plus acidity (we make the assumption that lemons haven’t changed much in acid over 120 years)

Since then alcohol contents have gone down. Sugar contents have stayed the same for some products and gone down slightly in others. Cointreau is slightly less sweet than 280 g/L and I’m pretty sure the Chartreuses are down into the 200’s as well which would be the biggest migration. Which Chartreuse was not explicitly specified, but if probability favors green, the alcohol has also increased significantly.

The last commercially bottled Swedish Punsch I came across (Carlshamns Flag Punsch) had 1.082 specific gravity, 26% alcohol and 267 g/L sugar. Switching bottlings would definitely change the emotional content of a drink with Swedish Punsch.

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