Some Like It Hot: Sous Vide Hot Drinks

#BATCHZILLA

Hot drinks have an allure, but sadly they are hard to serve in some logistic scenarios so many cocktail programs forego them. They also aren’t as popular with guests as food writers make them seem. All this being said, I thought I’d try and innovate the hot drink a little bit in a way that is easy for others to play along (by degrees) and hopefully solve a few peoples’ problems and stimulate some new ideas.

The first way hot drinks can be innovated is the serving method. Many hot drinks are water based and mixed from scratch or served in heated urns with alcohol being added to finish them. Water based drinks are a challenge because you typically have to leave the bar to get hot water or with the urn you lose highly volatile top notes and eventually develop a stewed character. Typically only one urn is available so programs only offer one choice of hot drink. With an immersion circulator style water bath (the Polyscience I used might be over kill), multiple varieties of completely batched hot drinks can be served at the same time. And if they are not served tonight, they will be fine for service tomorrow.

The second way hot drinks can be innovated is using the sous vide closed container idea which opens doors to new aroma possibilities. If we heat juices like apple in closed containers, the freshest top notes won’t evaporate leaving the juice with too much of a stewed character. This character I’m calling stewed is more from loss of volatile aroma than from time sustained under heat. These innovations means we can both make service easier and make the sensory experience more extraordinary which hopefully will give the technique some traction.

I even took things a step further and carefully de-aerated my proof of concept juice with the intention of limiting any color change due to oxidation. I’ve never had a hot cider that wasn’t a muddy brown so the idea of something hot, pale, and fairly clear seemed very extraordinary to me (and it was delicious!).

Using the process from my green apple soda recipe, I juiced the apples with an Acme centrifugal juicer.photPeriodically I transferred the juice to a champagne bottle and used pressure from CO2 to force oxygen out of solution. I then transferred the juice from magnums to 187 mL & 100 mL bottles using another bottling device I developed that I’m still keeping a secret (It works so well its amazing but I haven’t figured out how to sell it!). [1/26/15 This mystery bottling device will soon be revealed because I finally found a company to source and assemble the parts!]

photoAs the juice heated and the liquid inside expanded, the bottle caps were cracked to relieve pressure then caps re-formed with a Colona brand capper (every bar should own one!).

photo 2Serving cups can be warmed in the water bath as well as aromatic botanicals added to fill a room with festive aroma.

photo 3The proof of concept was an un-oxidized apple cider served hot with all its top notes intact. Because you retain the most volatile aroma, you do not necessarily need to ameliorate the cider with botanicals like citrus peels, but of course there are no rules and I really liked adding cinnamon & nutmeg.

1 oz. Asbach Uralt German brandy
4 oz. oxygen free, fresh, 90C, organic, honey crisp
apple cider
grated nutmeg.

(An old hot drink favorite I thought I’d share)

Hot Yaffe
1 oz. scotch whisky
1 oz. caraway aquavit
.5 oz. alpine spruce tree honey syrup
10 oz. MEM’s spiced hibiscus tea
Add the spirits, honey syrup & water directly into
the tea pot and let steep for two minutes before
serving.

Will we see a bar program start offering six different hot drinks?

TKO in 9 rounds with Bostonapothecary

Recently I put together nine rounds of modernist cocktails for a few visiting food scientists. Here goes:

1. Green Apple Soda.

Acmeapple soda

The first drink was the green apple soda which I decided to leave non-alcoholic because there were so many drinks. Carbonation rang in at 8 g/L which was quite bubbly. De-aeration with the champagne bottle manifold keeps the juice from browning which is the main gimmick. No ascorbic acid or pectic enzymes were added (not that I’m opposed to them). It is simply a way to show off the de-aeration concept in a fairly beautiful context. The apples were even juiced with an Acme centrifugal juicer which whips extra air in them which the magic of the manifold successfully removes.

2. Aged St. Valentine’s Day Sparkling Magnum

sparkling magnum

This drink first appeared on NYE 2012 but I served the batch executed for Valentine’s day 2013 which meant it was well over six months old and was showing well with no evidence of oxidation or loss of carbonation. The drink is proof that cocktails carbonated with the Champagne Bottle Manifold, when well executed, can be aged.

Per serving:
1.5 oz. Pacific Rim Heirloom Framboise
.5 oz. Blanco Tequila
.5 oz. Aperol
.5 oz. Lime Juice
1.5 oz. Water (dilution)

I did not finish off the magnum for the tasting and have been slowly serving glasses from it ever since with no problems de-aerating after every usage (days are elapsing between uses).

3. Bees Knees

For the Bees Knees I broke out the Tabasco aromatized gin and the Ames Farm single source Bass Wood honey syrup. For the gin, a commercial gin is simply re-distilled with Tabasco that first has had it’s volatile acetic acid (vinegar) neutralized with baking soda. The distillate is wildly fun but still fairly low involvement. It is not cut quite right so there is the faintest louche at 45% alc. and bottle condensation develops on the shoulders. The slight defects could be corrected by being more involved through executing more generations of the recipe. The Bass Wood honey syrup is scooped from the jar and mixed 1:1 with vodka to preserve it as well as precipitate some of the trace amounts of wax which can ultimately be removed with the centrifuge.

Bees Knees
1.5 oz. Tabasco Aromatized Gin
.75 oz. Bass Wood Honey
.75 oz. Lemon Juice

The overall goal of the drink was to synthesize the character of the rare and astounding Strawberry Tree honey of Corsica, Sardinia, and the Al Garve in south Portugal. This honey can smell redolent of chilies. I had been able to work with Corsican Strawberry Tree honey for many years but it has since been unavailable.

4. Special Edition Cherry Campari

I had intended to serve this as a Boulevardier but opted to only serve it on the rocks because there were so many drinks. Cherry Campari is pretty simple, the orange aroma is removed and replaced with the aroma of Kirsch. When the orange aromas are removed so too are the bitter aromas so they have to be replaced as well. It turns out olfactory-bitterness is very important to Campari’s identity. I made two versions which were cherry/wormwood and cherry/yerba-mate. The goal was to see how well they stood alone and then possibly blend them to create the most extraordinary tonal bitter effect. I still haven’t sufficiently explored all the blending options.

To remove the aromas, Campari is simply de-hydrated in an Excalibur food dehydrator. The Kirsch aroma is derived from Hiram Walker Kirschwasser re-distilled with the botanicals but I would like to explore simply compounding the Kirschwasser with a steam distilled essential oil. The Kirschwasser reconstitutes the dehydrated Campari but some gentle math has to be done to make sure everything returns to the original volume and alcohol content.

The results are subtle because the orange aroma of Campari is subtle. The same treatment can also be given to Cynar where I enjoy using slivovitz with quinine. There is a subtlety to replacing fruit aromas with fruit aromas because they are fairly convergent with expectations based on color and prior experience with the real deal Campari, but it might be exciting and pleasurable to pursue slight divergence by replacing the orange aroma with benzaldehyde-almond aromas taken from re-distilling an amaretto.

5. Satan’s Whiskers: an alliteration of echoing orange aromas, oh my!

sour orange

The most important theory in the Culinary Arts is that all creative linkage aspires to create a super normal stimuli. People are starting to study creative linkage within flavor but so far have not caught on to my theory nor come up with their own. They might benefit from learning a little more about the nature of attention from the great book, Slights of Mind, which is an excellent, edutaining, and accessible neuroscience title. I boil down the attainment of a super stimuli by the linkage strategies of alliteration and collage. My chosen example of alliteration is the Satan’s Whiskers poetically rendered in equal parts with a special guest appearance.

Satan’s Whiskers
.75 oz. Gin (inherently imbued with orange)
.75 oz. Sweet vermouth
.75 oz. Dry vermouth
.75 oz. Joseph König’s 19th Century Curaçao
.75 oz. Dominican sour orange juice
2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters.

Tonal nudging back and forth by the repetition of orange components creates a timbre of sorts and from the existing response tendency for orange the drink elicits an exaggerated response; Super Orange! The beetle mates with the more orange beer bottle (this phenomenon is so crazy).

The special guest mentioned above is the rendering of a 19th Century Curaçao which illustrates some of the secrets of the first grand cru liqueurs. Their sugar content was the maximum of solubility and so was their aroma content. The 55% alcohol orange liqueur was poured from a bottle with trace amounts of rock candy growing on the bottom because at 55% alc., roughly only 285 g/L of sucrose is soluble. This old style of liqueur also only had as much aroma as it could hold before it louched. I was slightly disappointed that the visiting food scientists were not familiar with the work of König who is considered to be the father of food science.

6. Final Ward

The most elaborate drink I made was my high concept version of Phil Ward’s Final Ward.

Final Ward
.75 oz. Over proof Overholt rye (55%)
.75 oz. Historically accurate Maraschino cheater
.75 oz. Special edition Dandelion Yellow Chartreuse
.75 oz. De-aerated 5 day old lemon juice

The Overholt was manipulated to remove the water, increasing the proof to 110 which I had detailed long ago. This rendering illustrates that a higher proof version of Overholt would be pretty darn cool. The Maraschino cheater was constructed from blending sugared & cut Hiram Walker Kirschwasser with sugared & cut re-distilled amaretto which is essentially how Maraschino liqueurs are made. I used proportions from old chemistry texts that reference bottlings from the early 20th century. I would love to deepen my involvement and use more historically accurate benzaldehyde (almond aroma) levels. A lot of great Maraschino data exists from 1912. The Dandelion Chartreuse was constructed by essentially removing the lightly aromatic Acacia flower honey from the chartreuse and replacing it with very full flavored Dandelion honey from Roero in Italy from the exemplary producer, Pozzolo. Dandelion honey is particularly sensual and earthy, quite distinct and unforgettable. Here I got into a minor argument with one of the visitors who was sure Chartreuse was in part made by infusions because of his vacuum distillation experiments. The Chartreuses are not made by infusion, but you cannot capture all the of aroma because of a fixative effect of the sugar added to the distillates. The sugar basically holds on to a small percentage of the aroma making it important to acknowledge that the new creation is only a rendering. I borrow the term rendering from poets that often translate works from dead languages. They take liberties, some degree of something is lost, but the results are still wildly fun. The lemon juice was simply de-aerated using reflux de-aeration via the champagne bottle manifold.

Flavor wise I thought this was the most impressive of all the drinks.

7. Collage

The counterpart to alliteration is collage and I first took my inspiration from the curious six equal parts Savoy classic, the Charleston. The Charleston is by no means a collage and rather uses three rhyming pairs, but it looked like it could get there pretty quickly.

My Collage
.5 oz. Mezcal
.5 oz. Kirschwasser (Hiram Walker)
.5 oz. Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz. Manzanilla Pasada Sherry (La Cigarrera)
.5 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
.5 oz. Plymouth Sloe Gin

Repeating aroma compounds can be highly engaging, attentional, and pleasurable but so too can barely repeating aroma compounds, but using quite a few. You can get comfortably wrapped up in a dizzying array of facets as easily as you can by witnessing the most beautiful overtone. The Savoy Cocktail Book is a great place to ponder the super stimuli via alliteration / collage creative linkage theory.

This drink is staggeringly delicious but I’m not sure if the visiting scientists enjoyed it or got the concept. One visitor was late so I served it for one group of guests 20 minutes before the other. Teasingly, I predicted the late comer would ask what vermouth brand I used and then be disappointed I served him Martini & Rossi… What started out as a jab at the NYC culinary scene played out too exactly. I got the question which hijacked us from the whole point. I thought I explained everything pretty elegantly but I guess it was a miss and he needed to bring it back to territory he was more familiar with. #fail

8. Marmite Rye Sazerac

marmitesazerac

This drink is really fucking cool and an illustration in some of the biggest concepts in distillation scaled down to a size no one previously thought possible. I’ve made this for years now and it keeps getting better and better as I deepen my involvement. It is definitely in the realm of acquired tastes and I don’t think it went over well with the visitors. What I hoped for was some sort of cute Anthony Bourdain style comment, “You bastard, that is devilish!”, “I’m a real Marmite slut”, or even “I didn’t want to like it but I like it”. Beverage people likely have accumulated more acquired tastes than food people and these were food people.

Marmite Rye Sazerac
2 oz. Marmite aromatized Rye (50%)
.5 oz. Simple syrup
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
rinse of Yerba Mate based anise/sloe berry Absinthe (70%)
expressed and discarded lemon peel

One of the big concepts in distillation is that aroma is created in the still. The main process here is esterification where fatty acids react with alcohols in the presence of heat to form esters. This process is mostly ignored in texts on beverage distillation because it can get pretty complicated pretty fast. I’ve slowly synthesized various writing on the topic and collected and annotated a bunch of lost Australian research papers that cover the topic in simplified experiments.

In my recipe, Marmite, a yeast concentrate high in fatty acids, undergoes esterification catalyzed by added non-volatile acids which is part of the emphasis on high total acidity in the wines of Cognac or the sour mash process. In this simple re-distillation, water and malic acid are added to a commercial rye with the Marmite. Time under heat is important to aroma formation so the added water allows distillation to take place slower, providing more time under heat for aroma creation. The minimum of energy is also applied to the boiler to make distillation as slow as possible. The added malic acid is a catalyst for the esterification of fatty acids and its addition sits in for the acidity that would be found when distilling wine or a grain based sour mash. Previously, you could only learn this stuff by playing with big batches at huge expense. My little experiment here allows you how to vary the parameters with standardized inputs at only $20 a batch (and enjoy drinking the results!). When you graduate to a big rig, the aroma creation processes at work will seem intuitive and involvement will be deepened much quicker. The rye was fake aged with my barrel bouillion technique.

The Absinthe used here is the updated form of a project begun long ago. A commercial Turkish Raki is the base because Turks are the masters of anise. Prunelle Sauvage or sloe berry eau-de-vie is added to increase alcohol and lengthen the aroma. The inspiration for the anise/sloe berry combo is the basque Paxtarian liqueur. The bitter aroma of wormwood is traded for the also bitter aroma of yerba-mate which is tonally darker. Being based on commercial spirits makes the recipe easy to construct on the nano-scale.

9. Something like an Alexander with Cashew Derived Heavy Cream

nut milkcolloid mill

One of the visitors is a serious nut milk enthusiast and the inspiration for my own nut milk adventures. I thought a great final drink might be to make something rich featuring a new nut milk idea that I don’t think anyone else has done before.

Inverse Alexander
1.5 oz. Overproof Overholt
1 oz. Pineau des Charentes
.5 oz. Wray & Nephews “Berry Hill” Pimento Dram
1 oz. Cashew Milk “Heavy Cream”

Sometimes I call these drinks inverse Alexanders because instead of featuring Cognac they feature Pineau des Charentes. The nut milk heavy cream is made by blending nuts and water 5:1 then dividing the volume in four and centrifuging. The fat rises to the top and can be collected and weighed. The water based quotient can then be collected and added to the fat in a ratio where the fat content is dramatically higher than a typical nut milk. I then ran the fat and milk through the colloid mill to homogenize it. Homogenizing seems to work fairly well until the nut milk starts to ferment and turn into yogurt. I think a change in pH (which I did not measure) starts to re-separate the fat. I have not investigated this heavy cream fermentation too deeply and have typically used everything immediately. Separation only happened after a few days. Who knows, a yogurt like product might even be better in a drink or the yogurt product could be migrated to a kitchen application. Pasteurizing might prevent the yogurt effect but I have not investigated further.

The drink is really extraordinary, less for the effects of the cashew cream and probably more for the creative linkage of the other ingredients.

Green Apple Soda as De-aeration Color-Indicator-Test

Acmeapple soda

For a while I’ve been trying to dream up a test that could illustrate the effectiveness of reflux de-aeration with the champagne bottle manifold.  Of course you can smell the absence of oxidative aromas in de-aerated lemon juice but not everyone smells so well, not even experienced culinary professionals.  A better test would be something visual which made me think of apples.

Apples are subject to oxidative browning which many people are well aware of.  The juice starts out pale and fairly clear like white wine then slowly turns brown before your eyes.  My hope was that de-aeration could remove enough oxygen to prevent any visible browning.  This might be achieved without even adding any ascorbic acid as anti-oxidant.

Using only reflux de-aeration, the juice of green apples stays green and the highly carbonated product is delicious even by itself with no added sugar or acid.

Of course it is even more delicious in a cocktail:

5 oz. highly carbonated green apple soda (probably 8g/L dissolved gas)

1 oz. gin (something burly and high proof)

.5 oz. lime juice

2 g. non-aromatic white sugar

The green apples were juiced with an Acme centrifugal juicer.  The juice was then quickly funneled into a champagne bottle (a clear bottle!) and reflux de-aerated at 65 PSI.  Centrifugal juicers are known to whip a lot of air into the juice accelerating browning but miraculously reflux de-aeration takes the oxygen right out.  Once the oxygen was vented, the juice was carbonated to 8 g/L of dissolved gas which gives it quite the sparkle.

At this point the unadulterated juice is turbid and has some sediment which might irk some neurotics, but the settled juice could easily be racked before carbonation to remove most of the particulates.

To clarify the unadulterated juice within reason on the larger scale (gallons), I bet the juice could be de-aerated in a 3 gallon keg, allowed to settle, then racked off by use of a floating down tube.

Production is pretty quick, low foot print, and economical. No enzymes, no agar clarification, no centrifuges (even though I love those techniques!). Just plain old raw juice, reflux de-aerated.

An Amazing Mead based Shrub Cheater

One of my latest quests is to have amazing bar prep and to do it in a reasonable amount of time. I typically favor cold processes because it is really hard to get time on the stove when the kitchen is working hard. I’m also sick of coming early and leaving late. I meet so many women bar tending that I need a system that allows me to show up late and leave early.

Last August I discovered the great new mead offerings of Sap House Meadery in Ossipee New Hampshire. When I first got a hold of them I was only mixing their stuff with over proof rum in cocktails that look like this:

.75 oz. hopped blue berry maple mead

.75 oz. el dorado 151

.75 oz. lime juice

.5 oz. campari

4 g. non-aromatic white sugar

dash peychaud’s bitters

The mead on its own has a flabbiness (a characteristic inherent to mead) due to a lack of acidity but in a cocktail when you can add acidity in countless ways, my god, the aroma of the mead can be turbo charged beyond belief. So much pent up flavor is dying to be unblocked by a little calculated extra stimulation (g-spot!).

I’ve even started marrying the mead and overproof rum and mellowing them together in champagne bottles that have been de-aerated with the champagne bottle manifold. In equal proportions the alcohol content averages out to 45% and I have the hopes that the higher proof and change in various equilibriums will create conditions for favorable aroma change, namely via esterification of fatty acids [this turned out not to make a marked difference even after significant time elapse].

Recently I was challenged to make a carbonated shrub cocktail. I was also pressed for time so I reviewed my favorite aroma sources and immediately was seduced by the idea of using mead. The Sap House meads are readily available, their fruit sourcing is better than mine, and the product is already clarified. I quickly settled on a shrub base of:

1.5 oz. Sap House Meadery Hopped Blueberry Maple Mead

1 oz. honey vinegar (5% acetic)

10 g.  non-aromatic white sugar

The results are beautiful and a simple system is established where ingredients can be substituted for gentle variations.  The alcohol content averages out to 4% which when diluted more, such as in a lemon-aide recipe, becomes soft drink territory. Remember, for those scaling up and searching for more precision, we can estimate the dissolved volume of the white sugar by considering its density. White sugar is 1.57 times more dense then water so 10 grams displaces 6.37 ml.

I nailed something beautiful on the first try of a drink:

Pantry Cocktail

2.5 oz. Hopped Blueberry Maple Shrub Cheater

.5 oz. Campari

.5 oz. blanco tequila (I used the epic Arette)

Shake and double strain into a champagne 375ml then carbonate to 7 g/L of dissolved gas.

Really Wonderful. There is a unique meeting point of the vinegar acid and the bitterness of the Campari. Campari plus typical acids often construct grapefruit expressions but here, at the meeting of acetic acid and gustatory-bitterness, recollection knows not what to do.  If this cocktail cannot retrieve memories I bet it can cement them. Only drink such a rare experience when you want an evening to be unforgettable.

Other Sap House Mead based cocktails from the archives:

Look to the Sanru

1 oz. cascade mountain gin
1 oz. Sap House Meadery, hopped blueberry maple mead
1 oz. punt y mes
2 dashes peychaud’s bitters

 

Variation on a Brooklyn

1.5 oz. overproof overholt (55%)
1 oz. sap house meadery, hopped blueberry maple mead
.25 oz. cynar
.25 oz. maraschino liqueur

 

Passing the Torch

1 oz. pizoes aguardente de medronhos
1 oz. byrrh
1 oz. Sap House Meadery, hopped blueberry maple mead
float of del maguey mezcal “vida”

This new generation of meads are just so useful as a source of extraordinary aroma. I hope to develop even more techniques for them. For the lazy, or the aroma obsessed, or the meadophiles, this is good stuff.

[added 11/26/13]

chestnut shrub

1.5 oz. Die Hochland Imker chestnut flower & chestnut honey dew Mead

1 oz. honey vinegar (5% acetic)

10 g.  non-aromatic white sugar

first at bat

2.5 oz. chestnut “shrub”

.5 oz. campari

.5 oz. laphroaig 10 year cask strength

1.5 oz. water

carbonated to 7 g/L dissolved CO2

mezcal might be even more appropriate

2.5 oz. chestnut “shrub”

.5 oz. campari

.5 oz. 100 proof old forester

4 dashes peychaud’s bitters

1.5 oz. water

carbonated to 7 g/L dissolved CO2

(only missing the mostarda)

Olfactory Phantoms and Illustrations of the Dynamics of Perception

The other day I got an interesting incoming link. Something I wrote was selected to be part of a hypothetical college curriculum. It is on a curriculum sharing website but I don’t think anyone is actually using it yet. Students in a sensory science class get to learn about illusion in the various senses and because there is not a lot written about olfactory illusion I was selected probably by default (default! woohoo!). I covered another phenomenon years ago I called the maraschino blackberry illusion where texture (haptic heft) dramatically changed the threshold of perception of an aroma. I think some bar programs are finally getting around to using it. I did it again in a beautiful context with fernet (and kirschwasser) aromatized cherries and I’m doing it yet again using the reflux de-aeration technique (to preserve the lemon juice) to perfectly place a sidecar inside a golden raspberry. The aroma and color were leached out of the golden raspberry so I’m basically just using its perfect body of cells as a vehicle to harness the influence of haptic heft on aroma.

We are slowly getting to the punchline but we need to cover a few more strange phenomenons.

Whoever selected the paper for the curriculum was interested in the “illusion” where wormwood hand sanitizers I made were used to train someone (myself) on an aroma. I found with the unique training I experienced similar aromas in certain wines (I found two wines: Cos Cerasuolo and an Anjou blanc) that were bizarrely amplified; like 10X amplification. Sometimes the same phenomenon exists with the aroma of dead mice and those in the pest control business that inadvertently end up with unique olfactory training can notice the aroma in a room when no one else can.

Wine pairings are part illusory and reading Gordon M. Sheperd’s Neurogastronomy confirmed some of my suspicions about wine and food interaction that I covered in an incomplete post called: contrast enhancement (in space and time) for food & wine interaction. The idea didn’t exactly catch on but I am right so I guess I’ll just give people a few more years to adopt it (mach bands! & nutritional preference comparisons!).

Now for the punchline: I’m setting out to explore how many of the aromas we “perceive” under certain circumstances are to varying degrees actually phantoms.  They are induced by incoming sensory stimulus (or by words which are symbols) but they are ultimately just recollections.  This is different than just making loose comparisons of incoming stimlui to known things, in what I’m describing you eventually generate whatever percentage of the known thing that doesn’t exist in the incoming stimuli.

Maybe we can start with the simplest olfactory phantom I’ve been able to generate and then build some background around it. To make the champagne bottle manifold I started a small plastic foundry. To develop the skills I needed to make the manifold part I started making reproductions of 19th century door knobs; giant lion heads and rococo stuff.  Some I cast in a translucent red plastic to generate some Joris Karl Huysmans style artifice and decadence. Anyhow, I had to drill this red plastic. Well, every time I did, I started to smell cherries. After a while I knew I was going to and I still did. The black plastic smelled of licorice.

Compounds called phthalates in the plastic have an aroma that notoriously converges with gustatory-sweetness. This form of sweetness coupled with the color is enough to trigger a phantom aroma and illustrate some of the dynamics of perception.

Perception is a tricky thing because all sorts of facets seamlessly join together. In the past I’ve talked obsessively about the sensory and symbolic world being glued together by the theory of cognitive dissonance and becoming the mechanism by which we acquire acquired tastes.  Perception involves the meeting of sensory inputs with recollections.  Improperly using recollections to complete incoming experience is the basis of many optical illusions.  So perception is going to be (by varying degrees) divided by fresh incoming sensory experiences and a sort of filling in the blanks via recollection. Most of the time recollection will correctly fill in the missing pieces.  Incentives exist to use completion to save resources.  Apparently it is more efficient than processing everything from scratch. Olfaction being the sense most closely tied to memory and thought to be particularly resource intensive might be subject to more completion by recollection than any other sense, though I’m only speculating (this whole post is a giant speculation).

As the distribution of perception slides around we may be subject to more or less illusory completion.  I’ve seen sensory science researchers hint at this distribution by outlining different perception strategies such as an active or a passive strategy.  An active strategy may tip the scales to processing new sensory data while a passive strategy may tip the scales towards completion by recollection.

The distribution could then be subject to other influences such as reward mechanisms.  Certain degrees of salt in our food, such as on a tomato, lowers the threshold of perception of an aroma.  The co-experience of the aroma and and salt may etch themselves in our mind so we can use those aromas to predict the presence of salt in the future, salt being something we need.  Sugar under certain circumstances has a similar effect, often referred to as “flavor enhancement”, that can lower the threshold of perception of an aroma.  Our rewards systems might jostle the distribution of perception any which way.  The sweetness in the plastic did not make me pay attention to an actual incoming aroma sensation but rather created one based on the influence of the color.  In my red plastic example the cherry aroma was more or less 100% generated by recollection but in many other cases aroma fragments that are being sense are being added to.

Many spirits researchers talk about pattern recognition or gestalts being important to distillates.  The famous spirits consultant Dr. Jim Swan has mentioned that when coming up with a new scotch whiskey blend it needs to have enough elements to be recognizable as a scotch whiskey (a gestalt) but then enough to set it apart.  The other big time spirits guru John R. Piggot in his amazing paper “Origins of Flavour in Whiskies and a Revised Flavour Wheel: a Review” starts by saying “Improved congener analyses have not yielded greater understanding of whisky flavour: a dynamic interaction between individuals and flavour components.”  The dynamic interaction mentioned by Piggot is another way of acknowledging the distribution of perception.  He then goes on to mention holistic patterns and gestalts as part of perceiving flavor. In memory, the cherry is a gestalt of sweetness and color, and aroma.  When only two of the three are present recollection may complete the third.

Piggot’s paper gets very dense in the chemistry but his introduction is very accessible and pretty amazing. He demonstrates an astounding understanding of neuroscience to go along with his second to none understanding of every reaction that generates every congener in every step of the whisky making process.  Piggot notes the interaction of the sensory and symbolic world but doesn’t exactly use the words I’ve adopted so it is probably best to quote him. According to Piggot, “In consumers, causality interactions (slaving effects) exist between perceptual and sensation levels, dictated by cues (Fig. 1): the human mind influences the brain.”  There is something vague about saying “the human mind influences the brain” but I’d like to think it parallels my language.  I do not agree with the way he uses the term “perception” because I think you can stumble into “which taste do you mean” territory.  When he says “perception” I think it could be better named “recollection” and perception instead is the sliding summation of incoming sensation and recollection. Sensory scientists have needed to get away from the term “taste” for flavor perception and maybe the same needs to be done to deconstruct perception and consciousness.

Robert Léauté in his 1989 James Guymon lecture very vaguely mentions fatty acid esters being “fixitives” for other aroma compounds.  His idea of a fixative might relate to the building of overlapping incomplete gestalts that recollection might complete in beautiful ways but we’ll touch upon that in a bit.

I should probably mention that infamous incident were a group of wine experts were served room temp white wine dyed red and nearly all were fooled into thinking they were drinking a proper red wine.  They described the aromas of the wine using object comparisons attributed to red wines and not whites. Well they were drinking a red-wine and if a degree of the distinct things we think we smell are phantoms, they were perceiving everything exactly as they should.  Their advanced library of recollections may have even made them more vulnerable than an amateur taster.

Another known phenomenon in wine trickery is simply tasting a wine after being baited with an aroma suggestion.  The suggested aromas can appear vividly.  I do not think this is widely studied or acknowledged because no one wants to be the victim of it.  We feel as though it shouldn’t happen so we never submit to curiosity and explore experiencing it.  A aroma suggestion isn’t a sensory input like gustatory-acidity or tannin. It starts that way but becomes a symbol or stand in for a value that triggers recollection. Some symbols thrown around in wine-speak, like goose berry, are not good bait because for many people the word is not a stand in for any recollection. To this day I’ve still never eaten a goose berry.

Robert Parker, who is famous for his wild tasting notes, might perceive the world with some unique distribution abnormally skewed towards recollection almost like a form of mild autism.  The gestalts he encounters make him hallucinate wildly. Every wine Parker encounters, which remains incomplete to the rest of us, he can complete apparently with great pleasure.  This might be a bit of a stretch because the language used by wine critics has no real responsibility to describing the wine. They just have to use harmonic language and typically more extraordinary language for more extraordinary and rare sensory values.  If we accept the fact that wine makes Parker hallucinate, to be honest I’d like to join him and learn his technique because illusion or not, it seems like fun.

To get back to spirits, most whiskey’s are colored with caramel to converge with their aromas.  Accepting that it is important to the quality of our hallucinations we should probably thank and recognize producers that do a good job of it.  An award could be given at the San Francisco spirits festival like “best dye job”.  I used to scoff at coloring but now I’m warming up to it.

A realm I had fun exploring the influence of color was with amaretto.  Everyone knows the darkly colored Disaronno brand and other darkly colored generics but I was really taken by a Portuguese almond (benzaldehyde) liqueur where the color was interpreted as a much lighter raw almond shade.  I was so taken by it I re-distilled my own version and left it uncolored so the aroma would diverge from the crystal clarity.  The results were captivating.  There was a dramatic divergence from expectation.  The crystal clarity and the light it captured made the aroma glow but it was just the Portuguese version re-distilled, re-cut, and re-sugared.  Benzaldehyde based liqueurs are so easy to distill the real artistry probably comes in when coloring them.

In cocktails we may sometimes experience perception dominated by recollection.  Many cocktails that are simultaneously tart and bitter come across as distinctly grapefruity though there is no grapefruit in them.  True these drinks, which often feature citrus juice, have a few aroma compounds in common with grapefruit, but the loose gestalt is enough to trigger a very distinct association even when the chemicals and all there various ratios do not remotely line up.

Now to go back to Robert Léauté, the idea of partially illusory aromas might explain the importance of very generic aroma compounds like ethyl acetate and acetaldehyde in spirits.  In large quantities these compounds are considered flaws, but sub threshold Léauté describes them as his “fixatives”.  Because these compounds are so abundant in fruits they may be an integral part of gestalts. Ethyl acetate could function like the sweet smelling phthalates found in the plastic and when coupled with one other sensation like a color we would have enough to hallucinate marasca cherries like Robert Parker.

Léauté, who is a master cognac distiller, explains that ethyl acetate and acetaldehyde, should be kept under the threshold of perception but distillates should be cut to get as close to that line as possible.  It might make sense in this case to rename the “threshold of perception” to “threshold of attention”.  We seem to be able to perceive astoundingly small quantities of things.  Our own nose is more sensitive than any analytic tool we’ve been able to build.  According to Gordon M. Sheperd our nose can differentiate aroma compounds by one carbon atom.  So maybe something is not detectable to our attentional spotlight but it is somehow still detectable enough that it can interact with other components synergistically and influence pattern recognition.  D.W. Clutton’s paper from 1978, The Flavour Constituents of Gin finds all sorts of compounds in gin that are sub threshold yet they are somehow very important to defining the character of the product.  Thresholds of perception may work very differently than is commonly thought.

Recollection may have some strange bearing on wine pairings.  In some pairings when food and wine “match” an aroma from the food can be reflected back into focus.  I had thought previously that a change in contrast detection was experienced and likened the phenomenon to the black art theater of the magician Omar Pasha.  An alternate explanation could possibly be that with the next experience (which is the wine after the food) a similar pattern confuses the mind and triggers recollection of the food.  Many of these types of pairings happen when the perceived acidity of the food and the wine match.

I don’t want to leave people thinking that everything we smell is an illusion.  We obviously need intense libraries of recollection to generate phantoms from.  It is probably safe to say that we mostly always are actively smelling when we think we are, but where is the dividing line and small details are we adding in to what were are really smelling? And if alcoholic beverages like wine and spirits remind us of so many things as seen in so many tasting notes, could they be the hub of olfactory illusion?

Do some people not taste wine well because they have no language to fragment and parse the experience or because they have no library of recollections to generate the illusions?

Books: Craft Cocktails at Home by Kevin Liu

 

Kevin Liu has just made his newly published book: Craft Cocktails at Home: Offbeat Techniques, Contemporary Crowd-Pleasers, and Classics Hacked with Science available for free today through saturday (2/28-3/2/13) on Amazon in Kindle version.  If you miss out on Kevin’s generous offer just buy a copy. I definitely went physical paperback.

The book was a lot of fun to read. A few of the ideas alone are worth the regularly priced admission (particularly Orgeat constructed from commercial store-bought almond milk and sugar).

A great strength of the book is the amazing amount of collaboration Kevin organized.  Besides Kevin’s own insights, recipes, techniques, and explanations of the underlying science are brought together from all over the bartending world.

Kevin seems to have a target audience of scientists and engineers but anyone curious with a sturdy high school education will have no trouble with the scientific explanations.

Yours truly did have a few recipes in the book.  Kevin selected one of my pina coladas from pressure cooked “caramelized” coconut cream as well as my Roasty-Toasty which is a walnut oil rendition of Pip Hanson’s amazing Olivetto from Marvel Bar in Minneapolis, Mn.

The ideas i’m most looking forward to trying are Kevin’s idea of hacking a fridge or freezer with a PID to produce clear ice or Pip Hanson’s charcoal treated cocktail technique.

A great addition to any cocktail library. Cheers!

High Pressure Batching! NYE Edition.

Happy New Years!

I thought I’d give a run down of my new years cocktail which I made with the amazing Champagne Bottle Manifold. I made six liters total.
Two magnums and four 750’s, plus a 375 ml for some of the spare liquid.

sparkling heirloom raspberry-lime rickey

2000ml Randall Grahm’s pacific rim framboise

666ml aperol
666ml blanco tequila
666ml lime juice
2000ml water

To chill everything as fast as possible I put the framboise in the refrigerator the night before and the aperol and tequila in the freezer (they have enough alcohol and/or sugar to not freeze). The water was stirred with ice to bring it down to just above freezing.

I then funneled the liquid into the bottles (mindful of the head space) and then put them in buckets of iced water. Assembling everything is pretty quick if you have the right containers and a nice space to spread out.

I aspired to have at least 7 g/L of dissolved gas in the drink to make it quite sparkling.

7 * .75 = 5.25 grams for a 750ml

7 * 1.5 = 10.5 grams for a 1.5 ml magnum

Soon I started making mistakes that should be easy to avoid if you are aware of them.

For mistake no. 1, the first 750 ml bottle was filled all the way to 750 ml which means that there was very little head space. This bottle took on gas at a miserably slow rate.

To correct mistake no. 1, for the second 750 ml bottle which was filled to 750ml I poured out about 2 ounces which drastically accelerated carbonation.

The magnums carbonated quickly. The head space in a magnum is quite large relative to the head space in a 750 so all the added surface area when you agitate the bottles sucks up gas quite quickly.

The first mistake was not leaving enough head space to carbonate fast and the second mistake was not topping up the bottles so they did not lose gas when they came to equilibrium under the cap. The bottles have to be over carbonated to a small degree to account for the compressed gas that will occupy the head space once the manifold is removed and a bottle cap is affixed. If you know the head space volume this amount of gas can be accurately measured. It can also be estimated quite easily.

To estimate how much gas occupies the head space:

1. Fill a bottle to your desired fill height with warm water so the gas does not start immediately dissolving into the water.

2. Set your regulator to 40 PSI (an estimate). We may carbonate at 65 PSI but the final pressure in the bottle at fridge temp is much closer to 40 PSI. If we understood the gas law better this could be more accurately measured.

3. Attache the cap and zero the scale. now add compressed gas to the bottle without agitating. If your head space is only something like 4 or 5 ounces, 0.6 grams may fit into the head space. This is a not insignificant percentage but can easily be accounted for by over carbonating, but keep in mind topping up the bottles is also an option.

The last mistake was with the temporary caps I chose. I did not want to haul my 29mm bottle capper to work so I used some horrible clip on champagne stoppers which apparently did not keep a good seal. A secure cap is very important. I will not use something I cannot count on again.

All the mistakes were easy to recover from. I simply freshened up the bottles before service by adding more dissolved gas. They were only down about a gram so it went quickly. The drink was a big hit and the ease of dispensing took a lot of the strain off serving so many cocktail crazed people. I loved that I could simply pour a taste for people that weren’t literate in the ingredients (the symbols!).

Next time it will be easier. I really enjoyed working with the magnum bottles. For the future I’m also going to add a y-adapter to my regulator so I can carbonate two bottles at one time (two hoses, two manifolds).  That way I can have two staff members bang out the prep in half the time.

Bostonapothecary; A Retrospective

I’ve written quite a lot of posts over the years so I thought it might be time to make a top ten list of the coolest things that have happened at the bostonapothecary. If you look back at older posts the evolution of my ideas is quite apparent. I’ve kept the old posts up to show where I’ve been.

The content is definitely getting more neuroscience-y and more linguistic in nature. Some of the older posts focus on analytic techniques like hydrometry & refractometry, and distillation. I never really posted a lot of cocktail recipes here because this blog was just a counterpart to participating in egullet.

It might help first to show what people were most interested in (ranked by hits):

1. Dry rum & dry gin I like mine wet. This post started as a look at the acidity of spirits which I was never able to revisit. Countless people were referred to the post by search terms such as “pH of gin” or “acidity of gin”. I think people find the aroma of juniper to converge with gustatory-acidity and therefore wonder if there is non-volatile acid in the gin. These constant queries support my idea of categorizing aromas in terms of gustation. With this method juniper would be olfactory-acid.

2. Ice wine grenadine. This post really blew up after Dave Viola linked to it in the first comment of Jeffrey Morganthaler’s recipe for Grenadine. Morganthaler must get an astounding amount of hits if I get so many from him. It is a great recipe and you can do pretty astounding things with the technique. As widely read as the recipe was, I’ve never heard of a bar program actually using it. Slackers. It is bonkers ridiculous.

3. Vermouth: Its Production & Future. This is good stuff. When I started collecting all the sources in Maynard Amerine’s Annotated Bibliography of Vermouth many of the sources were from mid century wine & vines and unfortunately not yet indexed by google. I inter-library loaned them all, re-typed them, and made them more easily available. My bar program back at Dante was the first to make its own aromatized wines and now there are several hundred around the country. I re-typed several other articles from Wine & Vines such as Developing the Vermouth Formula, The Importance of Vermouth, Revolution in Vermouth, Vermouth… Some Practical Hints, and Gold Medal Sweet Vermouth. All of the study of vermouth helped me get into practical wine analysis such as using refractometers and hydrometers which really took my bar prep to a new level.

4. Deconstructing Campari. An astounding amount of people wonder if Campari has sugar. In many cases I suspect it is for the sake of calorie counting, but I also think many searchers have some sort of sensory curiosity. I was making versions of Campari where I dehydrated it and reconstituted the non-volatile fraction with another spirit to the same alcohol content. What I found is that volatile-olfactory-bitterness (lost when you dehydrate!) is astoundingly important to defining the character of Campari. My reconstituted versions lacked this aroma-of-bitterness until I redistilled those spirits with wormwood. I also went so far as to grow rock candy in bottles of Campari but they picked up no bitterness. What I have left to do now is cut Campari in half with a vacuum still and then precipitate the sugar out of Campari (such as how the rock candy grew) then rejoin the two halves. I can then reshape campari into lower sugar, higher alcohol styles of amaro like fernet, malort, or gammel dansk. I could even re-add the volume of subtracted sugar with a source of my choice such as a strawberry tree honey.

5. Deconstructing Sweet Vermouth. People wondered over to this post with a curiosity for how much sugar sweet vermouth had. My methods for revealing sugar content grew over the years making this post obsolete. Now I favor hydrometry and have found specific gravity tables to reach low enough alcohol contents to measure the aromatized wines. Unfortunately I suspect my margin of error is 30 g/L.

6. Chamberyzette. When curiosity for aromatized wines grew, curiosity for what the hell Chamberyzette is also grew. It is hard to believe that it is not imported. I was told once that their production is in a sad state and had degenerated into artificial flavors. I made replicas for a while by manipulating bianco vermouths but eventually M&R rose vermouth became imported and I fell in love with it.

7. Fenaroli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients. This guy is pretty wild. The book is a two volume tome on artificial flavors but has an extraordinary chapter on constructing amaros which shows that many of these super-consultant flavor chemists were interested and involved in the amaro trade. Fenaroli describes “special effects” and techniques of creating differentials of expectation and anticipation in amaros such as distilling a bitter principle then re-infusing that distillate with more of the bitter principle to end up with something like 2x olfactory-bitterness 1x gustatory-bitterness.

8. Bombardino! Dante’s aunt Anna turned me on to this Italian specialty. She said as a child she was too poor to afford cream so she would put tempered egg yolks in her coffee. My recipe got a little bit of an update with fluid gels are our future but it should probably be updated again since I’ve learned a lot more about it.

9. Sweet Potato “fly”. This is just awesome and the idea has taken my ginger beer to a new level. The sweet potato ginger beer post needs a bit of an update now that I’ve developed a new carbonation technique. I think I also need to re-evaluate how much spice I get from the ginger skins. The best results might come by heating the skins in ginger juice or going the all cayenne route. I juice my ginger while others only macerate. After I juice I probably need to make a tea from the separated skins to capture their piquancy. Those that just macerate with cut up ginger may get the piquancy but lack a lot of aroma from the juice.

10. Hand Made Creole Shrubb. Creole Shrubb is awesome and it has been a pleasure to watch it become more accessible over the years. Unfortunately for the Clements, I loved Creole Shrubb so much I started making my own. I took an exploration of orange liqueurs pretty far and even ended up reconstructing Joseph Konig’s curacao from 1879 and learned the secret of its sugar content (maximum of solubility!). My technique of assembly became really good and I think I could quickly make all the orange liqueurs at a very high quality level for my next bar program. We used only house-made orange liqueur for my last year at Dante which probably only added up to 50 liters.

11. Amer Picon Replica. There is a lot of interest in Amer Picon but I kind of gave up on it. I fell in love with Cynar and it was enough for me. In the end I suspected what everyone was missing was a focus on tonality of orange aroma and Picon’s was likely modified from an aromatic sugar source like malt. If you think about it, Picon & beer could only be relevant so long as it was cheaper than the Chimay it set out of emulate. This Belgium ale role model also reveals the secret of its aromas. I’ve learned a lot more about the aroma of grains recently so maybe I’ll pick it back up again. My flaked rye aromatized bourbon might warp into a sexy flaked rye aromatized triple-sec.

12. Reward System Theories. An astounding amount of people are searching for these terms but I don’t really know why. The ideas are gigantic and the implications are far reaching. I hope to take it further. I wish some people would comment!

13. Sweet Rebellion: a short theory of acquired tastes and an unsavory explanation of harmony. A growing amount of people are interested in acquired tastes. Acquired tastes are under appreciated and a theory of them will contribute answers to 100 million dollar questions. If through spreading acquired tastes we can cut empty calories from the American diet the results might be worth hundreds of millions in health care savings.

14. A theory of wine-food interaction. This is awesome stuff and I’m glad a lot of people have read it. It did unfortunately generate no real dialogue. I updated some ideas here in contrast enhancement (in space and time) for wine & food interaction. All the explanations we need to understand pairings are contained (but he makes to direct connections!) in Gordon M. Shephard’s Neurogastronomy.

15. Hercules: A liqueur interpretation or replica. Hercules is pretty cool. I revisited some of the bottles from this post recently after they slept for almost four years and wow were they extraordinary. All the interest Erik Ellestad has generated in the Savoy has generated a lot of interest in Hercules. It is wildly avante-garde in concept but so elegant as it goes down. I need to make this again and see if I can find any other notes I took pertaining to its construction.

Now here is my top picks for what people should be checking out.

1. Advanced Aroma Theory Basics. This is my crowning achievement and is an excerpt from my book on distillation. I explain the history of many of our metaphors. I cover their chemistry as well as their neuroscience (though that could be beefed up) and I give ideas for how many of them could be usefully elaborated. The language learned dramatically increases flavor literacy. Wild things happen with literacy’s fragmentation. Patterns emerge that can guide our creativity. Marshall Macluhan describes the gift of literacy as being able to act with out reacting. Many writers like Barb Stuckey are now thinking flavor literacy is important to controlling food cravings (detachment!). This new set of language is also the basis for understanding wine pairings. Other cool exercises in language are the Attentional Features Primer or Advanced Oversimplification Basics; The Ordinary and the Extraordinary.

2. Advanced Wine & Food Interaction. Here I start to explain all the contrast enhancement that happens in wine and food interaction. My first set of ideas started here and many got refined and validated by Gordon M. Shephard’s Neurogastronomy. The future of this lies in wrapping articulate language around the mach bands that are formed in a pairing (a mach band being the “line” over which contrast enhancement changes). Neurogastronomy explains what happens in the mind but we cannot make any practical use of it until we have a more advanced set of metaphors to unravel the synaesthetic experience of perceiving flavor. If olfactory-sweetness converges with gustatory-sweetness, language creates the awareness to differentiate the two. We cannot find patterns without language! Almost seven years ago back at Dante I started to create a new language for categorizing wine pairings and explaining all the reactions that happen. My first post ever was describing Maccheroncelli Primavera with Falanghina. I even explored cheese and vermouth pairings. I think I stopped with this interesting one. My goal now is to revisit all the holy grail pairings from WTDWWYD with a few friends and describe all the reactions in terms of mach bands. Very expensive. I need some sort of grant money to take it where it needs to go.

3. Measure carbonation with a kitchen scale. This is very big because handling carbonation well has been so elusive for beverage programs. I’ve tried everything (one bar in Vegas adopted this bottle carbonation technique) and I’ve spent thousands. I even described the limitations of bottling under pressure. I’ve even gone so far as to build a plastic foundry to produce my own equipment. After much work I can report carbonation is solved. My new product is a Champagne bottle manifold with Cornelius quick disconnects. The dissolved gas added to the liquid is simply measured on a kitchen scale that can handle a tenth of a gram. The dissolved gas has a weight and that weight is easy to measure (7g/L for highly carbonated sodas). You can even estimate if you want. I just acquired an Ohaus kitchen scale that can do 4 kilos by a tenth of a gram ($200) so now I can precisely measure the gas I add to Champagne magnums! I can even apply gorgeous counter pressure to sparkling wines. I can even add extra gas to beers! My product will soon be on sale for $100 then all you will need is a gas tank, regulator, and a nice kitchen scale. Solved, done, boom, and you serve out of gorgeous Champange bottles! Once they absorb enough gas you take off the manifold and put on a bottle cap (size 29mm). This could cost a bar $500 to do it right (tank, regulator, a few manifolds, scale, bottle-capper) but if you are smart you can take your new skill set and switch over your ISI whippers in the kitchen to cheaper tank gas using these new high end quick disconnects. That $500 will melt away quickly in saved cartridges. Performance will also go up! This will all be covered in my next post. If your restaurant says they can’t afford it buy your own fucking equipment! When you prove its a good idea, maybe they’ll pay you back. More to come!

4. Sweet Rebellion: A Short Theory of Acquired Tastes and an Unsavory Explanation of Harmony. This was pretty cool. It is unfortunately an ignored field of study. It went a little further in Culinary Aestheticism: A Tale of Two Harmonies where I attempt to explain how the symbolic world manipulates the harmonic bounds of the sensory world and vice versa. This stuff is critical to taking the empty calories out of our diets and adding new food sources to our diets such as they’ve been doing at Noma in Copenhagen. If we as a society would do something with these ideas we might shave billions off our health care budget. An entire country of black coffee drinkers? I could slash diabetes by 20%. MacArthur foundation help a brother out? I need to somehow finance an experimental gastronomy programs to learn more about this stuff.

5. Using simple hydrometry to find the sugar content of commercial liqueurs. This took many false starts and a winding path. Hopefully I made amends for bad refractometer advice I gave Eric Seed years ago. My first method for accurately revealing sugar contents had me sacrificing large sample sizes which was really expensive. This technique can be a really useful tool for bars making their own nano scale products or commercial producers trying make locally sourced and produced clones of commercial products. The chart can also help find patterns and almost quantify acquired tastes into numbers and ratios. Every bar should own a hydrometer.

6. Advanced Superstimuli Basics. I thought it was particularly cool to compare cocktails to super normal stimuli. The two guys that discovered the concept won the nobel prize! Understanding them can help us make more therapeutic drinks. An understanding founded in the culinary arts can also help us recognize them in other aspects of our lives where they are often dangerous. Nature published a paper on Flavor Networks and Food Pairings which got tons of attention but they never made any connections to the superstimuli phenomenon that is the motive of all our creative linkage. I’d love to get a hold of their data and computational expertise. I suspect a better understanding of all these things will help us take on more food sources as the pressure for sustainability grows.

7. Advanced Kegging Basics. This was the beginning of cocktails on tap and it turned into a phenomenon. I hear that almost every new bar in SF has a cocktail on tap program. Apparently the two or three people I influence are astoundingly influential. One of the first times it got put to the test was when I made cocktails for 400 with my crazy boss. Much of it started with a method of faking wine on tap to prove that there was a market and consumers wouldn’t be scared of it. Wine was simply taken out of bottles and put into kegs. Fake it till you make it! With the kegs you can also do stuff like pressure filtration. Worlds largest whip cream canister! I also suspect you can use kegs and some sort of cavitation technique to de-gas large volumes of liquids that other people have used centrifuges to do (you blast it with nitrogen to force the oxygen and CO2 out of solution. I think it works similarly to the process of pressure casting plastic or bronze). And all the equipment is really affordable!

8. Basket Pressed Pineapple Juice. This was wildly successful and yet again I don’t think any bar programs have picked up on it. I acquired a small (five gallon) home cider maker’s press and tried to see what besides apples could go in it. Pineapples were the most extraordinary because people have such a hard time juicing them. Strawberries were beautiful (either freeze/thaw them or soak them in hot water to loosen the pectin). The press will allow your prep to scale up dramatically. I started accumulating gallons of juice from the peak of various seasons in my freezer to unleash later on the thirsty hoards. The press was only about $400 compared to the $1000 of a large capacity centrifugal juicer that can’t even handle all the fruits as well (they also aerate the juice killing its lifespan).

9. Nano-distillation. In the end I wrote an entire yet to be published book about exploring beverage distillation on the smallest scale possible. A few of the first recipes such as the Absinthe and the Genever made from malta goya appeared on the blog before I stopped posting recipes for the sake of the book. The recipes have evolved over the years and the additional recipes from the book are wildly fun. I’m trying to have a friend look at the book before I send it to the publisher. I’m hoping it can become a classic and pulled together huge amounts of information about distillation that have never been seen under one roof.

10. Home made orange liqueur. A project to make a terroir driven orange liqueur for the bar years ago got really out of hand and wow did I learn a lot of things. Things started back here with Newman’s own Creole Shrubb but gradually got more sophisticated. There were various deconstructions of Cointreau and eventually I even re-created Joseph Konig’s curacao from 1879. These ideas are really useful to new distilleries and to bars. The recipes work astoundingly well and can be a solution to numerous problems.

11. Instant aging, Fernet 151, and DIY Barrel Proof Overholt. I almost forgot this technique. They were wildly fun. 69 Colbrook in London linked to the instant aging with vacuum reduction technique though I’m not sure if anyone actually used it. Later on I discovered you can use an Excalibur food dehydrator instead of a costly vacuum reduction setup. Everything is elaborated further in my distillation book so things got neglected on the blog. I saw tons of incoming links from egullet where the technique was discussed but no testimonial of people trying it. One of the favorite uses was on Kuchan’s peach brandy. Un-aged it tastes like bubble gum and is gross. Fake age it with some bourbon and it is move you to tears beautiful.

12. Advanced Nut Milk Basics. This was a cool one and I know there are quite a few centrifuges out there in operation, but I don’t think anyone else but Dave Arnold’s crew is taking nut milks too seriously. Over on egullet I posted a string of cocktails featuring nut milks, orgeats, and decadent nut milk heavy creams (concentrate the fat!)

Thanks for checking things out! don’t worry there is more to come.

The Manhattan: Prior Convictions and Ulterior Motives

“The value the world sets upon motives is often grossly unjust and inaccurate. Consider, for example, two of them: mere insatiable curiosity and the desire to do good. The latter is put high above the former, and yet it is the former that moves one of the most useful men the human race has yet produced: the scientific investigator. What actually urges him on is not some brummagem idea of Service, but a boundless, almost pathological thirst to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has not been found out before. His prototype is not the liberator releasing slaves, the good Samaritan lifting up the fallen, but a dog sniffing tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes.” -H.L. Mencken

“The rush to expertness compromises all interrelationships” -Marshal Mcluhan

I hear people quite often making proclamations of what constitutes the “best” Manhattan. We all know my feeling about the word best. These people seem to only accept one version as true and ideal. If we thought about, and maybe outlined, all the possible motives that exist for our attraction to a Manhattan maybe we could accept many types.

One of the most noble motives that guides Manhattan construction is flattening a sensory path to perceiving the aroma. Experiencing the extraordinary in aroma is very important to cementing and retrieving memories. In the multisensory perception of flavor, olfaction is the hardest sense to perceive and the other senses typically end up being attentional distractions that often pull us away from olfaction (there is salt the aroma enhancer and then at some point there becomes salt the aroma distractor. Chef’s usually bark things to their line cooks like “too salty!”, but what if they elaborated and said something more articulate like “you went from enhancing the aroma to distracting from it”. Would the young line cook learn faster how to properly salt?). When we stir a Manhattan as opposed to shaking it and dissolving gas we limit texture distraction. When we compound a Manhattan in a certain ratio of whiskey to sweet vermouth we simplify gustation so as not to distract from aroma. Believe it or not we require a certain amount of sweetness to fix gustation at its most innocuous point in relation to perceiving aroma. Too much sweetness and we reach a blinding zone called cloying. Too little sweetness and aroma is suppressed. This lesson was first mastered by port wine producers who created the 18×6 template. For port, 18% alcohol puts the wine at the minimum of preservation so as not to be a distraction. Drinkers of dry wines complain that even alcohol contents as high as 15% can be distractions from aroma when there is not residual sugar. A brix of 6 is just over 60 g/L and is enough to hide the extra percentage points of alcohol while simultaneously flattering aroma. Sweet vermouth typically has a sugar content near 165 g/L so when diluted 2:1 they approach the wisely chosen sugar content of port. Alcohol in a Manhattan is certainly not innocuous but rather is part of the drink’s charm.

We are not solely in love with aroma. Many of us demonstrate a love of other attentional features like alcohol and acidity. Many imbibers scoff at the 2:1 aroma emphasizing formula. And what do we make of those people that happily drink shaken martinis with “tired” vermouth? Are their motives any less noble? What are their motives anyhow? Drinkers that enjoy ratios such as 3:1, 4:1, or the infamous perfect Manhattan are not afraid to compromise aroma by making the other features more salient. These imbibers find repose in exotic styles of dryness. The brash attentional nature of these Manhattans are thought to dispel anxiety and with that said we might have just found their motive. If the Manhattan simply becomes a vehicle for attentional therapy there quite a few ways to skin the cat.

If our motive is to thwart complacency it might make sense to have a formula forced upon on us through random old school free pouring where we will just learn to love it. Many people enjoy this randomness, but we are quick to chalk it up to a lack of understanding their options. Free pouring and random recipes are cocktail movement blasphemy but they may not have been without positive effects.

Adding Angostura bitters echos and alliterates facets of the whiskey turning the sum into a super stimuli. The extraordinary expression of aroma that is Angostura bitters can push ordinary whiskey and ordinary vermouth into the extraordinary. One of the most salient features of Angostura bitters is their massive amount of tannin which stimulates the haptic sense which operates via the Trigeminal nerve. Adding certain levels of haptic data to a flavor experience is known to change contrast detection, amplifying aroma. Olfaction often has to be turned on and our ability to do that becomes less easy as we age. Besides their aroma, the tannins of angostura bitters may help us smell more of our Manhattan.

The Manhattan differs from its counterpart the old fashioned. The old fashioned is a clean cut super stimulus like the Venus of Willendorf or basically whiskey with a set of outrageous breast implants. Whiskey, especially bourbon, features a distribution of aromas that both increases the perception of sweetness and decreases it. Tension exists between the aromas and we are attracted to the relationship. When we add an orange peel we exaggerate the olfactory-sweet aroma in the whiskey and when we add Angostura bitters we exaggerate the olfactory-dry aromas. Whiskey also has tannins that stimulate the haptic sense and Angostura bitters adds to those. The sugar that is added makes the aroma all the more apparent. The tension that exists within the whiskey is widened making it feel similar but become more attentional (The same series of relationships exists when we add dry vermouth to gin and make a martini. The juniper aroma converges with gustatory-acidity and the most salient feature of dry vermouth is its acidity hence the martini being the super stimulus version of gin). A Manhattan could probably also be seen a super stimulus but probably one that is less clean cut.

Many people that claim to strongly dislike sweet drinks can enjoy a Manhattan because the aroma is typically redeemingly extraordinary which leads to a great rule of thumb. Among people with well entrenched acquired tastes, when we flatten a path to olfaction by holding all the the other senses at their most innocuous (a sweet drink) the aroma presented must be extraordinary or the experience will be seen has unharmonic.

When we can better articulate our motives we can better achieve our goals. We can also squash elitism, annoying false claims of authority, and pretensions. When we understand what cocktails actually do to us such as with anxiety and complacency thin claims of spirit superiority start to fall apart. Drinking also becomes cheaper because we start to allocate our money better. When we understand the ins-and-outs and order of operations of the multi sensory perception of flavor, unsubstantiated elitist bartenders are separated from matter-of-fact sensory scientists. When we actually recognize acquired tastes and their value we will treasure them when we find them in others. When we learn their patterns we will have no myopia to their various shapes. When we unravel the mechanism by which we learn to like challenging experiences, we will all be more sustainable.

Unfortunately it is never simple. So much of how art comes to be and what it does to us is accidental. Because they are an acquired taste, so many people started drinking Manhattans with something to prove. This powerful but not so noble motivator helped them acquire the taste rapidly. In the end the end these drinkers discovered an avenue of attentional therapy. All’s well that ends well. Happy drinking.