Distiller’s Workbook exercise 13 of 15

Malta Goya Aromatized Gin (faux Genever)

This exercise first began as a method of producing faux Genever as it was unobtainable when first conceived because exportation was rare. Genever is a spirit aged or un-aged that is dominated by the aromas of malt and juniper. Malt is primarily olfactory-sweet while juniper is olfactory-dry and the tension between the two can be comforting and wonderful. A proliferation of malt options means that there is an easy to create breadth of possible tonal effects. In the exercise a famous but unconventional malt option will be explored to get people thinking about possibilities for Genever.

If you treat malt like an aroma source rather than a sugar source that requires fermentation, an approximation of Genever can be created by taking a favorite source of the malt aroma and re-distilling it with a readily available London dry style gin. A famous source of malt aroma that is culturally important to so many parts of the world is Malta Goya and it lends its aroma and symbolism to gin readily (any other brand of malt soda works as well, and so does more conventional malt sources like malt extracts used by brewers, and we were always itching to make one from a malty Trappiste ale).

Imported Genever has finally become readily available, but like everything new on the market, there is a super premium price. The ease and sensory success of this exercise makes one wonder why many American gin producers are not re-tooling their production process to also offer a malt aromatized version. Keep in mind that the sugars in the malt soda do not caramelize at the temperature range of beverage distillation and are not volatile. In this low involvement exercise a commercial gin is re-distilled, subjecting it to more time under heat, but for a commercial producer, malt would likely be added when the gin is distilled initially.

RECIPE

500 mL malt soda (Malta Goya)

500 mL dry gin (Seagram’s)

Mix and re-distill together quickly on low reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 98°C. Going past 98°C may result in a cloudy distillate. Malta Goya does not seem to produce unpleasant cooked aromas.

Using your hydrometer re-cut the distillate to your desired proof with distilled water (recommended 80-90).

COCKTAILS

50/50

1.5 oz. Malta Goya aromatized gin

1.5 oz. sweet vermouth

2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters

 

Improved” Holland gin cocktail

2 oz. Malta Goya aromatized gin

4 grams of raw sugar (or .5 oz. 1:1 simple syrup)

1 bar spoon maraschino liqueur

1/2 bar spoonful Absinthe

2 dashes Angostura bitters

 

Malt Julep

2 oz. Malta Goya aromatized gin

4 grams of raw sugar (or .5 oz. 1:1 simple syrup)

bar spoonful of apricot liqueur

stir and strain over packed shaved ice

decorate with a very large plume of fragrant mint

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 12 of 15

Marmite Aromatized Rye

The idea for the Marmite aromatized rye came while reading about the use of yeast autolysis in beverage production. Yeast autolysis is the process of dead yeast cells breaking down and contributing aroma which in some beverages can be considered a flaw while in others considered a feature. The aroma of the dead yeast is one of the things that makes expensive vintage dated Champagnes so highly regarded. In Champagne, the term mousey is often used for the contribution of autolytic yeast to the aroma. Eau-de-vies of autolytic yeast have an obscure tradition of being made in some parts of France and are often used for confections.

In the exercise, a commercial bottling of rye whiskey is re-distilled with an extract of autolytic yeast. Both Marmite and Vegemite, which can be found at many super markets, are essentially yeast extracts. Salt is used to break down the yeast cells releasing aroma as well as preserving. If either product is distilled, aromas can be captured and separated from the non-volatile salt. These salt preserved yeast extracts might draw some comparisons to what many people call dunder which is used to increase the aroma of rums in Jamaica. Dunder is spent yeast whose acidic aromas are locked up with alkaline lime marl as they go through aroma producing secondary fermentations. Eventually added back to the acidic wash, dunder boosts aroma, principally esters (What latently has been called dunder might have really been called muck in the early 20th century and intimate details of its preparation and use have recently surfaced in the old journals of the agricultural experiment station in Jamaica).

Most all full flavored distillates from fermented material are distilled on the lees. It should be pointed out when contemplating this exercise that distilling on fairly fresh lees is different that distilling with autolytic lees or even dunder. In Cognac production, the lees are often separated to prevent the wine from inducing yeast autolysis while they await distillation together where they are reunited. Only percentages of the lees, which have a tendency to settle to the bottom of the pot, are used because large volumes can cause scorching and the release of unwanted aromas.

Fairly fresh lees have been shown to increase important generic esters and reduce unwanted aldehydes. Even fruit eau-de-vies of astounding freshness and purity are distilled on percentages of their lees. Great work was done by Roseworthy Agricultural College mid 20th century to explain the value of lees distillation and Robert Léauté contributes some of the most articulate contemporary explanations.

Many people have aversions to Marmite and Vegemite, but that is mainly due to the dissonant salinity. The aroma of autolytic yeast can be classified as olfactory-umami which likely can be traced back to esters that form from long chain fatty acids. The intensely memorable salinity of yeast extracts can quickly re-orientate learned associations and for some people the aroma can quickly become olfactory-salty.

Familiarizing oneself with the potential aromas of yeast through the exercise can be valuable to the new distiller but the aroma must be contemplated with certain considerations. Autolytic aroma, however fun, can be considered ordinary rather than extraordinary and possibly represents regrets and missed opportunities. The extraordinary aroma of dunder is differentiated from that of ordinary autolytic yeast by its unique secondary fermentations. Aroma from yeast can be seen as lacking a sense of place because it can so easily be found anywhere and often overshadows the unique and singular qualities of source material like fruit or grains which distillers typically want to elevate and tease out. All the while as the exercise proves, yeast aroma has a time and a place, and with the new cocktail contexts that so many spirits are enjoyed under, begs to be explored.

Yeast aroma almost seems like new oak in regards to wine. Small percentages of new oak can definitely pull a wine together, but after a certain point it definitely overshadows other less attentional nuances. As we explored the exercise and increased the yeast aroma in our experimental spirits with Marmite, we found that we also needed to increase other attentional features like wood tannin which we did via our novel faux aging technique. Post distillation, over a span of many months, the spirit did seem to develop in complexity.

The brandy distiller Hubert Germain-Robin makes some observations on the subject of distilling with lees in his short book: Traditional Distillation Art & Passion that may be relevant to the exercise. Germain-Robin claims that fatty acids in the lees can react with copper and the product will come over into the distillate at the heads point in the run, but unfortunately he does not elaborate much further. We were never able to duplicate any of the observations Germain-Robin made while using large doses of Marmite instead of lees, but Marmite is a processed product and therefore could be altered in a way that makes it behave substantially different than a normal lees distillation scenario.

When distilling with high percentages of lees, Germain-Robin claims to observe copper salts being produced that he filters with a screen constructed of unbleached white toilet paper which implies that the product of the reaction is insoluble. What ends up being caught by the toilet paper turns out to be copper corrosion from carbonic acid as all the CO2 in solution is quickly expelled as the boiler heats up and the phenomenon is explained in the text Whiskey: Technology, Production and Marketing. Not all distillers use the old school practice of filtering the corrosion because it is insoluble and ultimately removed in the second distillation of double distillation.

RECIPE

750 mL rye whiskey (we used Old Overholt)

100 g Marmite

7 g tartaric, malic, or citric acid (optional catalyst)

Mix and re-distill together slowly on low reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 98°C. Going past 98°C may result in a cloudy distillate. Marmite does not seem to produce unpleasant cooked aromas.

Optionally, to synthesize the pH and non-volatile characteristics of an aged spirit, de-hydrate a volume of aged Bourbon proportional to the amount you want to fake age then reconstitute the resulting barrel essence.

Using your hydrometer re-cut the distillate to your desired proof with distilled water (recommended 80-90).

COCKTAILS

When these drinks were served to Anthony Bourdain he exclaimed “that’s devilish!” & “you know, I’m a real Marmite slut“.

Marmite Rye Sazerac

2 oz. Marmite aromatized rye whiskey

4 g non aromatic white sugar (or .5 oz. 1:1 simple syrup)

4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

rinse of Absinthe

expressed lemon peel

 

Marmite Rye Manhattan

2 oz. Marmite aromatized rye whiskey

1 oz. sweet vermouth

2 dashes Angostura bitters

 

French 75

1 oz. Marmite aromatized gin

.25 oz. lemon juice

.25 oz. simple syrup (1:1)

3.5 oz. sparkling wine

shake the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup, then double strain and top with sparkling wine

expressed lemon peel

 

Aromatizing gin with Marmite for use in a French 75 contributes the mousey aromas of fine Champagne without the expense.

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 11 of 15

Pisco Faux Mosto Verde #Fail

This exercise is ultimately a failure due to the poor sourcing of the Muscat grapes, but is enjoyable enough to drink and ends up illustrating an important phenomenon related to grape selection for distillation. The opportunity to experience faults and minor failures is invaluable to the new distiller so performing this exercise is well worth while. Fermentation and the selection of source materials are beyond the scope of this text but this exercise gives a glimpse of some very important considerations. The foundation of the exercise is the Peruvian distilling technique called mosto verde or green must.

In mosto verde Piscos, fermentation is stopped before completion forgoing potential alcohol so when distilled an exaggerated ratio of aroma to alcohol is created. This works because sugar is not volatile and the sugars do not caramelize at the temperature range of beverage distillation. Mosto verde Piscos are Peru’s most expensive bottlings because of their decadent inefficiency. They are highly regarded in Peru but seldom imported to the U.S. For the exercise, a commercial bottling of Pisco will be re-distilled with unfermented grapes in the form of a concentrate, often called a mistelle, to try and add extra aroma. Mistelles, which can be purchased in many varietal types, are used by wine makers to boost alcohol and sometimes used by liqueur producers to sweeten their products. Unfortunately, the exercise will reveal that not all grapes are created equal and though this technique may be possible in theory, it was not possible with common off the shelf sourcing for reasons that will be explained.

Roseworthy Agricultural College did many studies in the mid 20th century to try and reverse engineer Cognac and the works reveal a lot about the unique aspects of the brandy making process. The wines used for Cognac production are harvested with a very low potential alcohol unlike the grapes harvested for the mistelle used in the exercise. Ripeness has more facets than only sugar content and the quality of aroma precursors is very important to consider as well. As grapes hang on the vine longer and produce more sugar, their stable long lived aroma related compounds change into frailer forms which aren’t as resilient. It also isn’t possible to produce grapes of aroma-centric ripeness everywhere, some regions are considered precocious where aroma related compounds develop early relative to sugar content and acidity and everything comes together just right to make a wine well suited for distilling.

Wines constructed for distilling are often regarded as thin and acidic. These wines, in their wine state, have more aroma precursors than they do actual aroma relative to common table wines. These wines are also very high acid and during distillation, with the help of the non-volatile acid as a catalyst, aroma precursors turn into actual aromas. The mistelle has aroma but the aroma isn’t stable and quickly changes like a wine that becomes too old. The ultimate product of the exercise will eventually develop aromas in common with over aged wines.

Pisco is derived from Muscat and its cousin varietals which are often believed to be simple and regarded with disdain relative to other brandies like Cognac but there is more variation than most people think. Besides the many synonymous names and close genetic cousins, there is also a wide distribution of potential aromas. Under many circumstances, the aroma of Muscat grapes will be dominated by the olfactory-sweet while under other circumstances the aroma will be dominated by the olfactory-umami which can leave many Piscos feeling not too dissimilar to fresh sugar cane juice rhums or even Tequila. Often times the olfactory-sweet aroma of Muscat grapes can seem plebian and ordinary so blending different expressions can be useful to either create extraordinary tonality or stimulate aromatic tension between the olfactory-sweet and the olfactory-umami.

Analyzing the mosto verde technique can raise the question: is anyone else using it? The fresh sugar cane rums of Cape Verde have an astounding aromatic intensity not found in similarly produced Martinique rhums or Brazilian Cachacas. Do the Cape Verdean distillers forgo the last percentage point of alcohol for an exaggerated amount of aroma or is it just the spectacular terroir of their cane?

RECIPE

500 mL Peruvian pisco (we used Macchu Pisco)

100 mL Muscat grape mistelle 68 brix grape concentrate (we used Alexander’s of California)

7 g tartaric, malic, or citric acid (optional catalyst)

Mix and re-distill together slowly on low reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 200°F (93.33°C). Going past 200°F may result in a cloudy distillate or unpleasant cooked aromas.

Using your hydrometer re-cut the distillate to your desired proof with distilled water ( recommended 80-90).

COCKTAILS

Faux Mosto Verde Sour

1.5 oz. mistelle aromatized Pisco

.75 oz. lemon juice

.75 oz. simple syrup (1:1)

egg white

dry shake and then shake again with ice

decorate with Angostura bitters

 

Fitzcarraldo

1.5 oz. mistelle aromatized Pisco

.75 oz. Pimm’s no. 1 cup

.75 oz. lemon juice

3 g. non aromatic white sugar

combine ingredients then stir in the sugar to dissolve

shake with ice and double strain

 

Me and My Grandfather

.75 oz. mistelle aromatized Pisco

.75 oz. Cognac

.75 oz. lemon juice

.75 oz. simple syrup (1:1)

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 10 of 15

Rooibos & Rye a.k.a. African Rye Whiskey

Many distilleries make simple cocktail-centric infusions and liqueurs to add affordable novelty to their portfolio. In this exercise a novel infusion is taken a step further to explore whether it benefits from distillation. Some times an aroma source will have non-volatile components which contribute negatively in large quantities and thus limit potential aroma intensity. To get sufficient aroma intensity these aroma sources can be distilled rather than only infused.

There are also many aroma sources out there with little or no tradition of inclusion in alcoholic beverages so there aren’t many guidelines for working with them. With Rooibos, relative to the costs, the sensory results have always hit the highest levels of delight. If the recipe feels too simple, feel free to add the aroma of peach using a peach liqueur from a respectable producer like Matilde.

The aroma of Rooibos is often compared to pipe tobacco, but is much safer to use than tobacco and has an aroma that applies itself well to distillation. (We have experimented with distilling tobacco, but never captured enjoyable aromas. Too much of the tobacco aroma is not volatile and therefore does not enter the distillate.) Categorizing the Rooibos aroma is complicated so it is hard to say which gustatory division it converges with. Elusiveness is part of Rooibos’ charm.

Even more of the charm of Rooibos comes from the fact that it used to be cultivated in part by ants. The seeds are hard to collect because of their different ripening times and their size. Harvests used to be tedious and done by hand until one observant woman recognized that ants also collected the seeds and amassed significant quantities. She simply opened an ant hill and plundered the treasure. Today, because of high international demand, most Rooibos is collected by careful sifting of the sandy soil around the plants.

RECIPE

500 ml rye whiskey (we used Old Overholt)

28 g Rooibos tea (we enjoy a local tea company’s that adds vanilla)

250 g water

Mix and re-distill together slowly on low reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 98°C. Going past 98°C may result in a cloudy distillate. The extra water is added to reduce the chances of Rooibos solids scorching on the bottom of the boiler.

If the boiler is heated so much so as to create a rapid boil, loose Rooibos solids have a tendency to fly around the still and even puke into the column which is not desirable. To prevent puking, either place the Rooibos in a bag to contain it or turn down the burner to the minimum required to create a gentle boil.

Optionally, to synthesize the pH and non-volatile characteristics of an aged spirit, de-hydrate a volume of aged Bourbon proportional to the amount you want to fake age then reconstitute the resulting barrel essence.

Using your hydrometer re-cut the distillate to your desired proof (we recommend 80-90).

As an additional option, to finish the distillate like many of the richer Caribbean rums, add up to 30 grams of non-aromatic white sugar. This is best tried in conjunction with fake aging.

COCKTAILS

Rooibos & Rye Alexander

1.5 oz. Rooibos aromatized rye whiskey

.75 oz. creme de cocoa

.75 oz. cream (go decadent with heavy cream)

 

The Pipe

.75 oz. Rooibos aromatized rye whiskey

.75 oz. caraway aquavite

.75 oz. rosé vermouth

.75 oz. dry sherry

bar spoonful Benedictine

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

float 151 demerara rum

 

La Perique (named for the famous Louisiana tobacco)

1 oz. Rooibos aromatized rye whiskey

1 oz. cherry Heering

.5 oz. lemon juice

.5 oz. dry vermouth

1 dash of Regan’s orange bitters

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 9 of 15

Double Grain Bill White Dog

This exercise is a predictive tool for exploring the sensory qualities of new grains. Unfermented grains are added to an un-aged grain based spirit and simply re-distilled. The product is quite fun but definitely has limitations that will be explained.

The inspiration for this exercise was the Peruvian mosto verde brandy making technique and the new proliferation of boutique grains that are readily accessible at home brew shops. In mosto verde Piscos the grapes are not fermented to dryness before distillation so as to create an exaggerated ratio of aroma to alcohol and a similar idea can be used with whiskey. Unfermented grains can be added to a whiskey and re-distilled adding extra aroma but not extra alcohol. The cost of the grain is so low and the range of aromas is so large that you can have a lot of fun with the technique. Shooting in the dark on your grain selection is a good strategy, but also feel free to try an Octoberfest grain bill.

We experimented widely because there are so many grains available. Each grain has a different distribution of olfactory-sweet and olfactory-dry aromas. Flaked rye is a notable rye expression with an apple-like olfactory-sweet-fruitiness in addition to its typical olfactory-dryness. The aroma of Belgium aromatic malted barley has a small amount of dark, malty olfactory-sweetness contrasted with an elegant olfactory-bitterness. Both coffee and chocolate roasted rye malts are dominated by olfactory-dryness and can be nice components of a blend, but if left uncontrasted they feel as though something is lacking.

A particularly unique grain we experimented with was an acidulated malt. The rye malt gets inoculated with lactic acid producing bacteria which coats the grain in white acid crystals. Acidulated malts are typically used for sour beers. Lactic acid is a volatile fatty acid (boiling point 122°C but with a relative miscibility that makes it volatile during beverage distillation) which means small amounts of it will come across in the distillate. Unlike acetic acid which will corrode a copper condenser, lactic acid is not strong enough or is not typically encountered in high enough concentrations. We were not sure how much of the acid was actually captured in the distillate, but we did notice a subtle creaminess was present in the distillate.

Exploring the aromatic character of grains in this way can provide an educated guess of how a fermented counterpart may turn out and could inspire someone to elaborate their experiment into a full-fledged fermented and distilled whiskey. This technique can only provide a glimpse of what lies ahead because aroma changes somewhat during fermentation as many new aroma compounds are produced (the technique also allows exploration of the magnitude of change after fermentation).

Using a white dog as opposed to a vodka will give markedly different results and make the predictive rendering much closer to a true fermented product. The white dog contains a selection of the generic congeners that are a byproduct of fermentation, such as ethyl acetate and acetaldehyde, while a vodka does not. These congeners, even when below the recognition threshold, are critically important to defining the overall experience. The rendering created in the exercise will have a selection of these congeners, but not in the unique proportion of the true fermented version.

To further explore a limited view of a whiskey’s future on the nano-scale, a novel fake aging technique can be used to synthesize the tension between the volatile aroma of a new grain and the non-volatile contributions of a barrel. Samples of commercially produced and sufficiently barrel aged spirit can be put into a food dehydrator to remove the volatile fractions at fairly low temperatures. What remains is barrel essence which is essentially the perfect soup of non-volatile acids and tannins. The newly distilled spirit can be used to reconstitute the barrel essence and thus quickly take on the pH and non-volatile characteristics of an aged spirit. It is hoped that these techniques inspire small scale distillers to deepen their involvement and eventually pursue the traditional route. Every garage or basement should have a sleeping barrel of whiskey.

RECIPE

500 mL unaged whiskey a.k.a. “white dog” (the gentleness of wheat is a good place to start)

100 g unfermented grains (with a white wheat whiskey a contrasting grain like an “Aromatic Belgium” malted barley is extraordinary)

7 g tartaric, malic, or lactic acid (optional acid catalyst)

250 mL water

Mix and re-distill together slowly on low reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 93.33°C. Going past 93.33°C may result in a cloudy distillate and or unpleasant cooked aromas. The extra water is added to reduce the chances of grain solids scorching on the bottom of the boiler.

Using your hydrometer re-cut the distillate to your desired proof (recommend 80-90).

Optionally, to synthesize the pH and non-volatile characteristics of an aged spirit, de-hydrate a volume of aged Bourbon proportional to the amount you want to fake age then reconstitute the resulting barrel essence.

COCKTAILS

Misadventure

1 oz. “Belgium Aromatic” aromatized white wheat whiskey

1 oz. rosé vermouth

1 oz. Cynar

dash Peychaud’s bitters

 

Black Dog

2 oz. “Belgium Aromatic” aromatized white wheat whiskey

4 g. non aromatic white sugar

4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

rinse of Absinthe

 

Williamsburg Red Hook (apologies for the obscurity of the grains and of this cultural reference)

2 oz. “Belgium Aromatic” aromatized white wheat whiskey

.75 oz. Punt y Mes

bar spoonful maraschino liqueur

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 8 of 15

Chipotle Tequila

The aroma of smoke is important to many spirits, but adding it to distillates by traditional means can be incredibly complicated and not economically viable. A great readily available source of smoke aroma for nano-distillation is Chipotle peppers. Besides the aroma of smoke from how they are processed, Chipotle peppers have aromas from the Jalapeno peppers themselves which manifest as a charming vegetal character as well as other pungent aromas that converge with piquancy. This very simple exercise will allow a distiller to see when the aroma of smoke comes across in the still and provides insight into how many traditional distillates are cut.

The aroma of smoke from the Chipotle peppers can be an awesome complement to fruit brandies or to the agave spirits from Jalisco. During recipe trials, capturing the aroma of smoke from smoked paprika was also explored (which is recommended at anywhere less than 50 g/L and a cut at the same temperature as Chipotle peppers). The smoked paprika aroma relative to Chipotle is more one dimensional and somehow reminiscent of cigarettes or certain smoke expressions from the single malts of Scotland. Peat has long been a source of smoke aroma in Scottish whiskeys because it is used to stop germination of the grains and it is common to see measurements of phenolic compounds in parts per million (PPM) in whiskeys which imply their relative smokiness.

Unlike the other exercises which simply add the ingredients à la minute and boil them together to generate aroma extraction, Chipotle peppers benefit greatly from first infusing in the spirit for more than two days. A longer duration will cause no harm.

RECIPE

500 mL tequila, kirschwasser or slivovitz

20 g Chipotle peppers

250 mL water

Combine the spirits and peppers then infuse for at least two days before re-distilling. Distill together slowly on low reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 98°C. Going past 98°C may result in a cloudy distillate. The extra water is added to reduce the chances of pepper solids scorching on the bottom of the boiler. The temperature of 98°C may seem like a very high, but as high as 98°C we have been able to cut our distillate to as low and 80 proof while being crystal clear. Feel free to stop at a lower temperature if you feel the aroma is changing unfavorably due to development of inharmonious process volatiles.

Using your hydrometer re-cut the distillate to your desired proof (recommended 90-100).

smoked Agavoni

1 oz. Chipotle aromatized tequila

1 oz. Campari

1 oz. sweet vermouth

expressed orange peel

 

smoked slivovitz sour

1.5 oz. Chipotle aromatized slivovitz

.75 oz. lemon juice

.75 oz. simple syrup (1:1)

expressed lemon peel

 

Rocketry Cocktail

1.5 oz. gin

.75 oz. Chipotle aromatized kirschwasser

.75 oz. lemon juice

8 g. non aromatic white sugar

bar spoonful violette flower liqueur

expressed lemon peel

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 7 of 15

[this is written to probably reappear as the last exercise]
Non-potable Pure Pot Still Purell; Wormwood Aromatized Hand Sanitizer

By now most readers probably want to wash their hands of all this distillation talk, but there is one more fun idea that should be considered. Distillation can produce more than just drinkable beverage alcohol, it can also churn out non-potable, antiseptic, sanitary ethanol of which hand sanitizer is a popular and useful form. Making your own aromatized hand sanitizer is a simple process that borrows from the skill set of the beverage distiller. This exercise can also illustrate little understood concepts in aroma perception.

Hand sanitizers are typically just blends of ethanol and other non-potable alcohols such as isopropyl held in a loose gel with a soup of strange alcohol tolerant gelling compounds. One likely gelling compound is polyacrylic acid which is used in baby’s diapers for its water absorbing capacity. The gel helps keep the hand sanitizer clinging to the skin long enough to disinfect. The soup of gelling compounds is very hard to assemble from scratch, but luckily you would never have to. The gelling compounds can easily be isolated on the nano-scale by de-hydrating a commercial hand sanitizer in a kitchen dehydrator such as an Excalibur brand whose removable shelves turn it into a big dehydration box. The dehydrated gelling compounds can be reconstituted at any time.

These gelling compounds are also heat tolerant enough that they can be separated from the volatile, but non-potable blend of alcohols in a commercial hand sanitizer by simple distillation. What is left at the bottom of the pot are the gelling agents and water which can then be transferred to the dehydrator. The recovered non-potable blend of alcohols can be re-distilled with an added aroma source and concentrated further to the necessary proof before being reunited with the gelling compounds.

For hand sanitizer to kill bacteria within a reasonable contact time, the final alcohol content needs to be above 60%. Most hand sanitizers are above 62% to compensate for potential evaporation and a few products on the market are as high as 70%.

An aroma source that has long taunted bartenders has been perfume. The aroma of perfumes and their cousins the aftershaves can often be fantastically complex and definitely extraordinary. Many a bartender has thought of applying a drop of fragrance like one would a dash of bitters. Unfortunately, many fragrances are constructed with non-potable alcohols as well as synthetic fixatives to reduce volatility and should not be consumed.

The stylishly retro aftershaves by Pinaud are a great way to explore the distillation of fragrances. A hydrometer implies that Pinaud’s after-shaves are nearly 70% non-potable alcohol and they also have just enough aroma that they do not become obnoxious if you apply more than just a drop. When re-distilled so the non-volatile fixatives are separated, they also fade fast so the experience doesn’t begin to haunt the user. Re-distillation of alcohol based aftershaves separates unwanted non-volatile additives and concentrates the non-potable alcohols so that they will be sufficiently antiseptic once they are diluted with the gelling compounds.

These exercises are definitely always beverage focused so to explore these retro aftershave based hand sanitizers in more of a beautiful, but admittedly very high concept context, imbibers can apply the sanitizer to their hands then proceed to enjoy a drink. Due to proximity when they take a sip, the imbiber smells their own hands but they almost seem as though they are not their own. It is almost like rubbing elbows with someone else; or somewhere else; or even somewhen else. In trials, it was found that aroma sets like those of the Pinaud fragrances, which seem to neatly connotate a place in time (the 19th century), to be an interesting garnish.

Mono aroma hand sanitizers can be useful teaching tools. Many people in the culinary arts require the antiseptic function of a sanitizer, but could also benefit from repeatable exposure to unique scents as a means of cementing their memory. It even turns out that aromas are best learned passively rather than actively so exposure as a byproduct to another routine task might be the best way to learn. The opportunity to explore the volatility of botanicals in unique distillates can also be very valuable. Even failures can teach lessons. If distillates are no fun to experience by drinking, the lessons might be best learned by application to the hands. It is easy to envision common aroma flaws in distillates as well as unique aroma markers, such as where to make a tales cut, being captured in hand sanitizers as an avenue for teaching.

Repeated use of the hand sanitizers can illustrate a little understood idea in aroma perception that can have profound implications for the distiller. Repeat exposure to an aroma under certain circumstances can change its threshold of perception leaving an expert with a unique reality. The mechanics of sustained contrast detection change is best explained in Gordon Shepherd’s primer on the neuroscience of olfaction, Neurogastronomy. In certain instances an expert in a particular aroma can smell it when others cannot. Repeated use of the wormwood hand sanitizer was shown to change contrast detection in certain wines, but strangely the effect did not last. It needs to be remembered that distillates are produced to be drunk by non distillers who have no unique training with the specific aromas. Distillers eventually hit the limitations of highly subjective organoleptic analysis and need to turn to sophisticated, objective, quantitative analysis. Sufficiently exploring this exercise can demonstrate these ideas.

RECIPE:

To separate gelling compounds from non-potable alcohol via distillation:

1000 mL commercial hand sanitizer

200 mL distilled water

Combine the ingredients and re-distill on high reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 93.3° C. Water is added to prevent the gelling compounds from getting too thick and potentially scorching on the bottom of the pot. Distilled water in particular is recommended to minimize any impurities getting introduced into the product and discoloring it. The thick gel can be removed from the pot with a standard kitchen spatula.

The salvaged non-potable blend of alcohols can then be re-distilled with an aroma source such as wormwood. To obtain suitable aroma intensity, add 50 grams of wormwood to the volume of non-potable alcohols recovered from 1000 mL of hand sanitizer.

Mix and re-distill on high reflux with the goal of concentrating the distillate as much as possible.

The gelling compounds need to be dehydrated such that when they dilute the non-potable alcohol, the alcohol content will be above 62%. At this point the gel is in a pan in the dehydrator and it is difficult to gauge its volume. Luckily the gel is mostly water so each gram of gel will displace close enough to one mL. If the weight of the pan is known it is easy to find the volume of the gel by identifying its weight.

With an alcohol content such as 80% and a known volume, a weight for the partially dehydrated gelling compounds can easily be calculated with simple algebra.

A sealed canning jar in a hot water bath can be used to integrate the gelling compounds with the non-potable aromatized alcohol blend.

Once the project is complete make sure your equipment is thoroughly cleaned before returning to any beverage production. Few people enjoy isopropyl alcohol in their gin.

RECIPE

Aftershave based hand sanitizer

12 oz. Pinaud aftershave (our favorites were their Bay Rum and Lilac Vegetal)

100 mL water

Combine the ingredients and re-distill on high reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 93.3° C. Water is added to prevent the non-volatile compounds from getting too thick and potentially scorching on the bottom of the pot.

A 12 oz. bottle of aftershave yields enough non-potable alcohol for 8 oz. of hand sanitizer therefore to obtain the necessary gelling compounds, 8 oz. of commercial hand sanitizer needs to be sufficiently dehydrated.

The gelling compounds need to be dehydrated such that when they dilute the non-potable alcohol, the alcohol content will be above 62%. At this point the gel is in a pan in the dehydrator and it is difficult to gauge its volume. Luckily the gel is mostly water so each gram of gel will displace close enough to one mL. If the weight of the pan is known it is easy to find the volume of the gel by identifying its weight.

With an alcohol content such as 80% and a known volume, a weight for the partially dehydrated gelling compounds can easily be calculated with simple algebra.

A sealed canning jar in a hot water bath can be used to integrate the gelling compounds with the non-potable aromatized alcohol blend.

Once the project is complete make sure your equipment is thoroughly cleaned before returning to any beverage production. Few people enjoy isopropyl alcohol in their gin.

COCKTAILS

Absinthe & Water

2 oz. absinthe

x oz. water (8 oz. on good days and 4 oz. on bad days)

before serving, have the imbiber apply eau-de-wormwood hand sanitizer

 

Hanky Panky

2 oz. gin

1 oz. sweet vermouth

barspoonful Fernet Branca

before serving, have the imbiber apply Bay Rum hand sanitizer

 

Garden Variety

.75 oz. green chartreuse

.75 oz. creme de cassis

.75 oz. lime juice

top with 3 oz. sparkling wine

before serving have the imbiber apply Lilac Vegetal hand sanitizer

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 6 of 15

This is the umpteenth draft of the sixth lesson in my Distiller’s Workbook. I started it as a book project with the idea of generating interest in distillation by showing a simplified form of it based on the re-distillation of tax paid commercial products.

Over time, the recipes have been elevated from merely low involvement cocktail-centric creations into being a workbook of exercises for new distillers to learn big concepts in distillation on small scale equipment with affordable batch sizes. Hopefully new distillers will be able to learn most all the what-if scenarios of operating a still so they can instead deepen their involvement with the sourcing & processing of raw materials, fermentation, and then the maturing of spirit.

A big focus of the workbook is to expose new distillers to the giant body of research concerning the subject via referencing it. I started by collecting every book on the distillation I could find and that still left a lot of questions. I eventually started collecting forgotten and seldom seen journal articles. These were newly digitized or trapped behind pay walls and I have read hundreds in the last few years. Most professional distillers do not even know this massive body of work exists so I hope to weave it into the content and introduce it to people.

Truly Stimulating Absinthe

This loose rendering of an Absinthe was inspired by the Basque country liqueur called Patxarian where a commercial bottling of anise aromatized spirit is infused with sloe berries, coffee beans, and vanilla, and then lightly sweetened. The deliciousness of Patxarian proves that anise and berry aromas are very complementary so in this Absinthe recipe the alcohol and aroma of a commercial anise aromatized spirit is boosted by that of a fruit eau-de-vie and some novel botanicals. The exercise is an exploration of the spatial perception of aroma as well as the categorization of aromas which will allow the finding of patterns and the expansion of creativity.

The recipe is unique for an Absinthe in that it does not feature wormwood (but it easily could if you have wormwood available). Research has shown that the volatile parts of wormwood (thujone most specifically) are not as stimulating as many people would like to believe and therefore wormwood may be less significant in defining Absinthe than some may think. An easier to find ingredient, of comparative (they feel as though they inhabit the same olfactory division) if not more interesting aroma, is yerba mate which is also famous for its stimulating powers. Yerba mate alone, which lurks in many kitchen pantries, makes a splendid replacement for wormwood-based traditional botanical blends.

Turkish & Greek Raki or Lebanese Araks come from cultures that take anise very seriously, making them very fitting for conversion to an Absinthe. The brandies that make up these anise spirits are also often constructed from grape varietals in the Muscat family which contribute distinct minerality (olfactory-umami) further adding to complexity. Some of these spirits have sugar added which is not a problem because re-distillation will separate the non-volatile sugar.

When picking a fruit eau-de-vie there are many options with each offering different tonality. The optimal choice is Prunelle Sauvage sloe berry eau-de-vie from the French producer Trimbach but sometimes it can be hard to find. If a sloe berry eau-de-vie is not available, a framboise or any of the various plum based brandies can be used with great results.

Just like yerba mate occupies the same aroma category as wormwood so too do the fruit eau-de-vies. A way to further divide the fruit eau-de-vies is to render them in an imaginary, color based, chromatic, spatial scale and arrange them to the left or the right of each other. Some fruits will feel relatively brighter or darker and this often converges with the fruit’s actual color, but your own recollections contribute subjectivity.

If two fruits on the spatial scale were blended together they may feel so close they create an inseparable overtone and this is a common creative linkage strategy to produce extraordinary tonal values. If the aromas are distant on the spatial scale, such as sloe berry and anise, they will produce what feels like an interval which can have a pleasurable, expansive sense of space. We often find ourselves describing flavor experiences with spatial terminology like depth when we encounter such creative linkage. Another famous anise aromatized spirit that may use fruit and anise creative linkage is Peychaud’s bitters.

Olfactory-bitter aromas can also be rendered in an imaginary chromatic scale. For example wormwood, yarrow, and yerba mate in this order are arranged from lightest to darkest. Other bitter aromas could no doubt be added and through various sensory explorations they could be properly fit into the scale as well.

RECIPE

750 ml anise aromatized spirit (optimally a Raki or Arak with a distinct grape base)

100 ml fruit eau-de-vie (optimally a Prunelle Sauvage)

4 g coriander seeds

25 g Yerba Mate

250 ml water

Mix and re-distill slowly on high reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 93.33°C. Going past 93.33°C may result in a cloudy, permanently louched distillate). The extra water is added to reduce the chances of solids scorching on the bottom of the boiler.

If the boiler is heated so much so as to create a rapid boil, loose Yerba Mate has a tendency to fly around the still and even puke into the column which is not desirable. To prevent puking, either place the Yerba Mate in a bag to contain it or turn down the burner to the minimum required to create a gentle boil.

Using your hydrometer re-cut the distillate to your desired proof (we recommend 120-135).

If upon cutting with distilled water the absinthe begins to louche, try putting the absinthe in a canning jar and heat in a hot water bath to re-dissolve what louched. If the louche returns re-distill and end the spirit run at an earlier point.

Absinthe & Water

2 oz. Absinthe

x oz. water (8 oz. on good days and 4 oz. on bad days)

 

Half Sinner, Half Saint

1.5 oz. sweet vermouth

1.5 oz. dry vermouth

.5 oz. Absinthe floated

expressed oil of lemon peel

 

Chrysanthemum

1.5 oz. dry vermouth

1 oz. benedictine

.5 oz. Absinthe

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 5 of 15

This is the umpteenth draft of the fifth lesson in my Distiller’s Workbook. I started it as a book project with the idea of generating interest in distillation by showing a simplified form of it based on the re-distillation of tax paid commercial products.

Over time, the recipes have been elevated from merely low involvement cocktail-centric creations into being a workbook of exercises for new distillers to learn big concepts in distillation on small scale equipment with affordable batch sizes. Hopefully new distillers will be able to learn most all the what-if scenarios of operating a still so they can instead deepen their involvement with the sourcing & processing of raw materials, fermentation, and then the maturing of spirit.

A big focus of the workbook is to expose new distillers to the giant body of research concerning the subject via referencing it. I started by collecting every book on the distillation I could find and that still left a lot of questions. I eventually started collecting forgotten and seldom seen journal articles.  These were newly digitized or trapped behind pay walls and I have read hundreds in the last few years.  Most professional distillers do not even know this massive body of work exists so I hope to weave it into the content and introduce it to people.

Hershey’s Chocolate Bourbon

Cocoa aromatized Bourbon started simply as an attempt to get extraordinary aroma from an affordable source and ended up illustrating important concepts of aroma creation in the still. Cocoa powder, which will be added to bourbon and re-distilled, is high in butyric acid, a volatile fatty acid, which has the potential to react with alcohol and form an ester. Esterification is one of the most important aroma creation processes in distillation from fermented material. Ester creation influences many decisions when operating the still such as how time under heat should be varied, how fractions should be recycled, and how distilling material should be acidified to catalyze the process. Sophisticated distilleries count esters and their precursors with analysis tools like titration, chromatography or mass spectroscopy but this exercise is setup so that all changes to the spirit will be readily apparent through organoleptic analysis which is just simply by smelling.

Not all cocoa powders are the same. Each exhibit different tonal effects and some have more distinct rancio aromas than others. The rancio descriptor refers to both the olfactory-umami aromas which are a result of the roasting process as well as specifically volatile butyrates which are common cocoa powder additives. Butyrates are commonly found in milk products such as butter and Parmesan cheese. Butyrates on their own and in high concentrations can smell noxious and reminiscent of vomit, but in small quantities and in the presence of other sources of attentional tension, they can add exquisite complexity which is why they are so widely used as an additive. The boiling point of Butyric acid is 163.5°C, which is well above that of water, but its relative miscibility in water and ethanol makes it volatile during beverage distillation. The ethyl ester, ethyl butanoate, is even more volatile.

Feel free to execute this exercise multiple times and be patient. The final distillates can take months to mature, illustrating the slow but dramatic changes that happen to new make spirit post distillation. Also feel free to perform the exercises with variation so you can explore the influence of a specific variable. For example, run the still slowly one time to maximize time under heat while the next time run the still fast. Use the recommended acid catalyst or not. These are lessons that most distillers never get to learn first hand until they run a big rig and even then there isn’t always time and money to explore every what-if scenario.

When the exercise was first performed (distilled fast with no catalyst), the results were considered an inharmonious failure, but over time the aroma changed significantly in the bottle. At first the aroma was vomit-like due to above recognition threshold amounts of butyric acid, but over time butyric ester was formed pushing the aroma of the distillate back to something wonderful and recognizable as chocolate.

Esters are both formed in the still and broken up leaving a net amount. The best explanation of esterification at the molecular level, which helps explain the role of an acid catalyst, is from Peter Atkins in his chemistry primer for the layman, Reactions. Accessible explorations of esterification have also been done in the form of student projects at Roseworthy agricultural college in the mid 20th century and the early Scotch researcher S. H. Hastie tackled parts of the subject even earlier on. Each researcher studied double distillation in pot stills but from different (and not complete) angles. Roseworthy looked at the first distillation and saw a net accumulation of esters while Hastie began by working backwards, looking only at the second distillation and saw a loss of esters. The first distillation may see a net accumulation of esters due to high total acidity in the distilling material while the second distillation may see a net loss, but no papers seem to explain the whole story conclusively.

As the exercise illustrates, fatty acids that survive to the final distillate can even form esters post distillation. Certain equilibriums of esters exist as a function of the pH of the spirit and barrel aging, which lowers the pH, changes the equilibriums. A way to explore aspects of the pH impact on post distillation esterification is to use a novel fake aging technique. Samples of commercially produced and sufficiently barrel aged spirit can be put into a food dehydrator to remove the volatile fractions at fairly low temperatures. What remains is barrel essence which is essentially the perfect soup of non-volatile acids and tannins. The newly distilled spirit can be used to reconstitute the barrel essence and thus quickly take on the pH of an aged spirit. The spirit produced in the exercise can be divided in two with one portion being fake aged to lower the pH and one half left alone as a control. If done, the new distiller will have a small scale, slow motion, post distillation esterification kinetics experiment with a distinct fatty acid. The spirits should be repeatedly evaluated over time to observe the changes.

RECIPE

500 mL Bourbon whiskey (we used Evan Williams)
35 g cocoa powder (we used Hershey’s brand)
8 g tartaric, malic, or citric acid (optional acid catalyst)
250 ml water

Mix and re-distill together on low reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 93.33°C. Going past 93.33°C may result in a cloudy distillate. The extra water is added to reduce the chances of cocoa powder solids scorching on the bottom of the boiler.

Using your hydrometer re-cut the distillate to your desired proof (we recommend 90-100).

Optionally, to synthesize the pH and non-volatile characteristics of an aged spirit, de-hydrate a volume of aged Bourbon proportional to the amount you want to fake age then reconstitute the resulting barrel essence.

Try this exercise multiple times changing variables so as to produce comparisons and you will be rewarded.

COCKTAILS

cocoa aromatized Bourbon Sazerac
2 oz. cocoa aromatized Bourbon
4 g. non aromatic white sugar
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
rinse of Absinthe

 

cocoa aromatized Manhattan
2 oz. cocoa aromatized Bourbon
1 oz. sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

inverse Brandy Alexander
.75 oz. cocoa aromatized Bourbon
1.5 oz. Pineau des Charentes
.75 oz. cream (we enjoy heavy cream)

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 4 of 15

This is the umpteenth draft of the forth lesson in my Distiller’s Workbook. I started it as a book project with the idea of generating interest in distillation by showing a simplified form of it based on the re-distillation of tax paid commercial products.

Over time, the recipes have been elevated from merely low involvement cocktail-centric creations into being a workbook of exercises for new distillers to learn big concepts in distillation on small scale equipment with affordable batch sizes. Hopefully new distillers will be able to learn most all the what-if scenarios of operating a still so they can instead deepen their involvement with the sourcing & processing of raw materials, fermentation, and then the maturing of spirit.

A big focus of the workbook is to expose new distillers to the giant body of research concerning the subject via referencing it. I started by collecting every book on the distillation I could find and that still left a lot of questions. I eventually started collecting forgotten and seldom seen journal articles. These were newly digitized or trapped behind pay walls and I have read hundreds in the last few years. Most professional distillers do not even know this massive body of work exists so I hope to weave it into the content and introduce it to people.

Joseph König’s 19th Century Curaçao

One of the great references to the state of 19th century liqueurs comes to us via the German agro chemist Joseph König, who is often called the father of food chemistry. In his text, first published in 1878, Chemie der menschlichen Nahrungs- und Genußmittel (translated as: “Chemistry of human foods and luxury edibles”), a table is featured that describes the proportions of common liqueurs of the day. One of the liqueurs of particular interest to the cocktail community is a Curaçao (orange liqueur) with unique proportions which definitely differ from what is on the market today.  This exercise will construct a low involvement rendering of a 19th century Curaçao and reveal the secret of its sugar content.

The Curaçao König examined had a specific gravity of 1.0300, 55% alcohol, and 285.0 g/L of sugar. The orange liqueurs on the market today top out at 40% alcohol and typically have somewhat less sugar.

To create a rendering of the 19th century Curaçao described, we first need to find the dissolved volume of 285.0 g/L of non-aromatic white sugar which will in turn reveal the volume and alcohol content required for the distillate.

The dissolved volume of a measure of sugar can be revealed by dividing the weight of the sugar by its density which is 1.587 for sucrose. This means that the 285.0 grams of non-aromatic white sugar has a dissolved volume of 179.6 mL.

It will take 820 mL of spirit to create a volume of roughly one liter when sugared, but we still need to know the pre-sugared alcohol content to arrive at the final alcohol content of 55%. This can be calculated by averaging. We can use the equation: 820 mL(X%) + 179.6 mL(0%) = 1000 mL(55%). The X variable represents the unknown alcohol percentage and works out to be 67.1%. It should be pointed out that accuracy in hitting these numbers is elusive. Feel free to round.

To help with odd sized small scale batches, 285.0 grams of sugar is 34.7% of 820 ml of spirit per liter. To sugar an odd sized volumes of distillate, take your known volume of distillate and multiply it by .347 and you will arrive at how many grams of sugar are needed to maintain the proportions of the 19th century rendering.

The alcohol and sugar content are easy to hit, but the tricky and speculative thing is the amount of aroma. Liqueurs of the day were often graded and the highest grades had the highest alcohol and sugar contents. The highest grades likely also had the highest dissolved aroma contents. These grand cru products likely were not intended for use the way we do today which would be why they were typically only used in dashes in books of the era like Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion (1862).

To illustrate:

If you made a 2:1:1 Sidecar with König’s Curaçao it would taste like Tang brand fake juice because there would be too much orange aroma.

1.5 oz. Cognac

.75 oz. 19th century Curaçao

.75 oz. lemon juice

The orange aroma in this recipe would overshadow the cognac, drastically dominating the overtone typically produced, while the modern products of today are designed to produce a more evenly distributed overtone with simple proportions.

Drinks of the 19th century looked more like this brandy cocktail from The Bon-Vivant’s Companion:

3 or 4 dashes of gum syrup

2 dashes bitters (Bogarts)

1 wine-glass brandy

1 or 2 dashes of Curaçao

squeeze lemon peel;

In this recipe, the aroma of the Curaçao is diluted by the gum syrup so as not to dominate the brandy and bitters. Back then the dash was an important measure for liqueurs, because aroma content was likely far more intense. Notice there is also an or tucked in there. Cocktail recipes used to be dynamic and were expected to be stretched around, but now most recipes are static and do not change. Their proportions are fixed and if you change them to make the drink sweeter or less acidic, it is not the same drink anymore.

To give a grand cru level of orange aroma for our rendering, it is recommended to start with the peels of 12 randomly selected sour oranges per liter. Random selection is based not so much on size, but of color and surface texture of the peels. Sometimes the sour oranges available will look as varied as heirloom tomatoes, each with a different tonality of orange aroma. The idea is that a combination of aroma expressions will lead to extraordinary aromatic tonality. It is common to find Dominican sour oranges in local Caribbean markets, but in the winter the Seville oranges of Spain are sometimes available. If you are lucky, you might even find some from the island of Curaçao.

We have experimented both with using fresh peels and peels dried in a food dehydrator. When dried, the peels definitely loose some volatile aroma. Dried peels lack a certain brightness which may be a desired effect, but we suspect they are traditionally dried mostly for the sake of stability when shipping them across the globe for later processing. We always macerate the peels in alcohol for at least two days before re-distillation. The ability to de-hydrate an orange peel and have it retain any aroma is due to the fixative effect of possibly pectin or wax in the peel. It is unknown what commercial producers do if they are drying peels to manipulate or maximize fixative power.

A 19th Century book on adulterating spirits claims that if the liqueur louches when diluted with water, there is too much aroma. The liqueur can be fixed by diluting with a neutral base of the same sugar and alcohol content then warmed in a sealed canning jar to re-dissolve what louched.

Orange peels are a botanical that vary widely in oil yield. Commercial distilleries test of the oil yield of their peels and then scale the quantity of peels to keep the oil content uniform. The oil yield of peels can be tested with steam distillation in a piece of laboratory glassware call a Clevenger Apparatus. The apparatus differs from common steam distillation in that the oil is collected in a short graduated pippete-like receiver so very small amounts can be measured without facing any loss by removal. Steam distillation, it should be remembered, works to measure oil yield because unlike ethanol, the volatile oils is most botanicals are not soluble in water and therefore separate.

RECIPE:

To find a volume of spirits required to re-distill with orange peels, a simple formula can be used:

40%(X) = 67.1%(820 mL) where X = the volume of commercially produced 40% alcohol spirit that will be concentrated into approximately 820 mL of 67.1% alcohol spirit. Not all of the alcohol will be recovered so we add 10% to compensate for an estimate of the loss.

X = 1375. 5 mL + 137.5 mL (10% loss) = 1513 mL

1513 mL 40% alcohol spirit (vodka or a clear rum works nicely)

peel of 12 sour oranges

After at least two days of macerating the peels in spirit, re-distill on high reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 93.3°C. Going past 93.3°C may result in a cloudy distillate.

Adjust the distillate to 55% alcohol and reserve 820 mL then combine it with 285 grams of sugar or scale the sugar up or down to match the exact volume of distillate produced.

Such a high alcohol content makes it a challenge to dissolve the sugar by simply stirring, so warming the liqueur in a sealed canning jar is a nice trick to speed up the process. Some of the sugar may precipitate into crystals which reveals something very interesting about the sugar content; the Curaçao König observed (and many other of the high alcohol content liqueurs of the era) was fully saturated with sugar.

Alcohol cannot hold as much sugar in solution as water, so as alcohol content rises, the solubility of sugar decreases. The alcohol contents of many 19th century liqueurs were very high relative to today and their sugar contents in many cases could have been pushed to the maximum of solubility. This means that 19th century Benedictine and Chartreuse likely had as much sugar in them as their high alcohol contents could hold.

According to the early 20th century text, Chemistry and Technology of Wines and Liquors by Herstein & Gregory, many early distilled Curaçoas had a small percentage (about 2%) of an orange peel/alcohol maceration added back to provide subtle color and distinct gustatory features.  The peels they used had a distinct and potent, confusing, bitter/astringency that in small quantities can help define the orange flavor.

19th CENTURY STYLE COCKTAILS

Brandy Cocktail

3 or 4 dashes of gum syrup

2 dashes bitters (Bogart’s)

1 wine-glass of brandy

1 or 2 dashes of Curaçoa

squeeze lemon peel; fill one-third full of ice, and stir with a spoon

 

Crimean Cup, a la Wyndham (for a party of five)

Thinly peel the rind of half an orange, put it into a bowl, with a table-spoonful of crushed sugar, and macerate with the ladle for a minute; then add one large wine-glass of Maraschino, half one of Cognac, half one of Curaçoa. Mix well together, pour in two bottles of soda-water, and one of Champagne, during which time work it up and down with the punch-ladle, and it is ready.

Half a pound of pure ice is a great improvement.

 

White Lion

1½ teaspoonful of pulverized white sugar

½ a lime (squeeze out juice and put rind in glass)

1 wine-glass Santa Cruz rum

½ teaspoonful Curaçao

½ teaspoonful raspberry syrup

Mix well, ornament with berries in season, and cool with shaved ice.