Quinine Wisdom from Morris Boris Jacobs

For a while now I’ve been searching for academic looks at tonic water and have come up dry. How could something so economically significant be so poorly written about? Finding something useful would help keep tonic water’s renaissance going. A newly acquired book, Carbonation (1959) by the flavor chemist Morris Boris Jacobs has some small notable factoids.

e. Quinine Water

A specialty-flavored beverage that has had considerable vogue in Great Britain and has had some popularity in the United States recently is quinine water. In the Soft Drinks Minimum Standard (Food Standards [Soft Drinks] Order, 1953, 1828) of Great Britain which came into effect on December 20, 1953, the standards that had been in force for “Indian and Quinine Tonic” were continued. These standards required that there is a minimum of 1 pound 2 ounces of sugar per 10 gallons, a maximum of 82 grains of sacharin per 10 gallons, and a minimum of 0.5 grain of quinine (calculated as quinine sulfate) per pint. These standards should prove of assistance in the formulation of a flavored sirup for the manufacture of this type of specialty-flavored beverage.

Another quinine water or tonic formulation contains 8 grains of quinine sulfate in a mixture of 4 pints of carbonated lemon soda and 4 pints of carbonated water, that is, 1 grain of quinine sulfate per pint of finished beverage.

1 grains = 0.06479891 grams
1 pint = 473.176 mL

So that recommendation of 1 grain per pint, metrically is 0.1369 grams of quinine sulfate per liter of soda.

0.137 g/L quinine sulfate.

Lets see how these numbers compare to numbers from Avery Glasser of Bittermans that were quoted here by Tess Posthumus.

The Numbers
Avery is known from Bittermens, a company making bitters, extracts, liqueurs and more. He works a lot with cinchona bark and discovered that cinchona bark consists 5% out of quinine. The American federal safety standard for the use of quinine is a maximum of 83 parts of quinine per million in a drink. The average commercial tonic water has 2.48 mg quinine per 30ml.

Avery’s numbers supposedly come from here. (But I guess I haven’t read enough about this topic if it took me so long to find that out). 2.48 mg per 30 ml is 0.083 g/L which is far less than the 0.137 g/L from Jacobs, but maybe people were tougher back then. Numbers from the old literature give the percent of quinine sulfate in Java Cinchona as 5-7% which is inline with Avery’s 5%, but who knows what it is these days after decades of improvements.

Glasser’s numbers and Jacobs numbers are very different. I’ve never really been interested in tonic water but it looks like I need to order some quinine sulfate and attach a sensory experience to the numbers.

[edited to add: A potential difference between Avery’s and Jacobs’ numbers could be the salt form of quinine sulfate used by Jacobs and the free base form of quinine sulfate which could be what Avery is quoting. A salt is when a particular acid and base are combined while the free base is when the base is separated from the acid. The free base number is the most specific while the salt number could vary significantly depending on what acid forms the salt. I bet if I did more reading I could get to the bottom of all this.]

Prize Essay on Cinchona Cultivaton

Notes on the Estimation of Quinine

Cinchona and quinine in Java (A wildly interesting history from 1901 with spectacular photos)
British Soda History (great photographs)

(Me, in the bostonapothecary laboratory assaying quinine)

What I suspect is that cinchona added to tonic water is and has always been in the form of purified quinine sulphate. People making tonic water from raw unpurified cinchona are just far from the mark. M.B. Jacobs gives us a best bet and that is 137 mg/L.

desert soda waterStandards of civilization were so high they brought soda water to the desert battle fields of WWI. “basic equipment”

There are more gems in the book, but I lent it out before I could digitize them. So more to come!

For Sale: Small Bottle Bottler

For Sale (115USD)

I did make this short demonstration video (my first video ever). It looks like it made it back in 1994 (based on production values).

The last counter pressure bottler design has been around for more than 20 years. This is the counter pressure bottler design for the next 20 years… Modular, affordable, safe. It has been in the wild for two years now kicking ass in the hands of some of the country’s best bar programs and home brewers.


The product here is a counter pressure keg-to-bottle bottling device that can do any size of small bottle from 100mL San Bitter bottles all the way up to Champagne 375’s. The innovation here is that it creates a seal with a ballistic plastic enclosure (which is a high pressure water filter housing) rather than with the tops of the various proprietary bottles like other designs.


This also makes bottling safer because if a bottle breaks while filling (which has never happened to me), it is contained in an ultra strong enclosure. If a bottle overflows due to operator error, the liquid is caught in the food safe plastic sump and can be recycled. Or, optionally, if you want to fill the negative space with chilled water, less CO2 will be used and the bottles will be kept colder, reducing bonding time and risk of foaming when releasing pressure.


The design features all the valuable lessons I’ve learned from designing the Champagne Bottle Manifold which is basically to only use uncompromising stainless steel Cornelius quick release fittings. Hardly an innovation, but I use one ambidextrous quick release fitting going into the bottle. This fitting can take a gas line to flush the bottle and bring the bottler to the same pressure as the keg then be switched to the liquid line to fill the bottle. This differs from other death trap designs which use multiple hardwired lines preventing units from being used in an array or being portable (or easy to clean). True, you could probably whip this device up yourself, but by the time you ship everything from various suppliers and learn the machining techniques (drilling stainless ain’t easy!), you are way over budget or have made some errors, or compromised on fittings and will lose tons of valuable time operating your half-assed version of the device. The product is highly evolved and articulate for the task. [The machining is slightly more complicated than you’d think and I’d be happy to discuss what the hell I do to make the thing if anyone wants.]


Personally I enjoy the Champagne Bottle Manifold because I take advantage of its de-aeration abilities and I use it over night to preserve sparkling wines. But I kept fielding requests for a small bottle bottler. Most notably from hotels that want to bottle product for their mini bars.

IMG_4484The product is easy to store behind the bar, easy to clean & keep sanitary, and because of the chosen fittings, seamless to integrate into programs already using cocktail on tap equipment. To reduce inactive time and make bottling as fast as possible, they can be used in an array of multiple units on any counter top because the device takes up less square footage (that restaurants don’t have) than competing designs like the Melvico and its clones.

1. Put in your bottle of choice and securely screw the top onto the sump with the down tube sticking down the center of the bottle (refer to pictures).
2. Connect the gas hose and release the side valve to flush the bottle of Oxygen. Close the side valve which also brings unit to the same pressure as the keg. Disconnect the gas line (you are probably only transferring at 20-30 PSI).
3. Connect the liquid line from the keg and slowly release the side valve to create a low pressure system drawing liquid into the bottle. Close the side valve at your desired fill level.
4. Disconnect the liquid line and let the bottle bond for 30 seconds so that it does not foam upon releasing pressure (at this time you could start working on another unit).
5. 30 seconds later… Release pressure using the side valve. Remove the bottle and promptly cap it.
6. Start a new bottle!

Feel free to ask any and all questions. Cheers! -Stephen
For Sale (115USD)

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 14 of 15

[This recipe is the accumulation of many years of playing around and connecting the dots. It will likely make your head spin at first but give it a try. Please, if you have any criticism, leave a comment.]

Fernet Aromatized Maraschino Cherries

Distillers can do more than just make distillates and this exercise explores some of the possibilities. Here we are going to make a modern and very much in vogue version of the alcohol preserved maraschino cherry as well as propose some ways to deepen involvement and eventually refine the process. The exercise will have no explicit recipe because the inputs are so dynamic but rather just guidelines and formulas that never extend beyond simple algebra and can be followed to give a rewarding product.

Lots of research has been done on manipulating cherries, and believe it or not, there is even a one credit course at Oregon State University on the production of non-alcoholic maraschino cherries. The OSU course explores the tricky and certainly novel, but slightly gross process of brining the cherries which will be contrasted with the alternate process used in the exercise.

The often lamented cherries described in the OSU course are brined with preservative sulfites and have their texture enhanced by calcium chloride but that is not the only way to skin the cat. Another exemplary cherry is the Cerise au Soleil of Provence which is relatively minimal in intervention and uses alcohol as the primary preservative. Translated as cherry of the sun, they are aged in jars for the duration of the summer on a clay roof top in the countryside. Alcohol preserved cherries require a fair degree of treatment but nowhere near as much as non-alcoholic versions.

Non-alcoholic maraschino cherries get a bleaching brine primarily to prevent microbial growth but also to remove unsightly browning due to mechanical harvesting. The first bleaching brine features sodium metabisulfite, citric acid & calcium chloride and lasts three weeks while the second bleaching brine features sodium chlorite & glacial acetic acid (crystalized form) and lasts five to ten days. The cherries used in the Cerise au Soleil are thus likely hand picked to avoid bruising which would be readily apparent and preserved in alcohol as a mechanism of respecting their natural color & flavor as best possible which would otherwise be lost. For non-alcoholic cherries, despite aggressive brining, ultimately the sulphite level declines to a point where potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate have to be included in the sugar syrup to maintain stability.

Bleaching non-alcoholic maraschino cherries strips them of most all aroma which eventually has to be replaced and is typically done with benzaldehyde derived from the cherry pits which has the aroma of almonds. Dilution of aroma happens to alcohol preserved cherries when they come to equilibrium with the preserving solution they rest in but is overcome by using a spirit of the same aroma so it essentially diffuses in two directions. This means alcohol preserved cherries are best preserved in Kirschwasser which is a cherry eau-de-vie, but other aromas can also be added which will be explored in the exercise.

The calcium chloride of the first brine, in a certain pH range (which explains the citric acid), reacts with the pectin in the cherries, greatly firming the texture and facilitating mechanical pitting. Alcohol preserved cherries are not firmed with calcium chloride and typically have their pits intact to reduce opportunities for browning. No literature states that alcohol preserved cherries cannot be firmed with calcium chloride and it may be a worth while avenue for exploration. Sulfites reduce enzymatic browning and the mechanism is explained well by the OSU course literature. It may not be possible to pit cherries that have not been brined with sulfites without inducing browning. The browning that does form as a result of mechanical harvesting is not actually bleached by the sulfite brine but is rather bleached by the sodium chlorite brine. To avoid using the brining method, the cherries needs to be as carefully handled as possible.

Sugaring the cherries requires a lot of care and consideration. The cherries need to be sorted by density so they can be uniformly sugared. Not all fruit achieves the same ripeness which means that the fruit from a bushel of cherries will have a wide range of sugar contents. If the cherries were mixed randomly, some would sink in the alcoholic preserving solution while others would float. The cherries that floated above the surface would be subject to more oxidation which is what we are trying to avoid. Cherries can be sorted by first estimating the range of their sugar contents then creating a series of testing bins (sugar-water solutions) to see which cherries float and which sink. The bins can vary by 20 g/L increments. Cherries with higher sugar contents will sink while cherries with lower sugar contents will float. To see where they find equilibrium, the cherries will have to be shuffled between the bins. When there is extreme variance between the sugar content of the cherries and the preserving solution, the cherries with less sugar will lose water and shrivel while the cherries with more sugar will take on water and swell, in both cases causing tissue damage.

To get a rough estimate of a cherry’s sugar content, it is helpful to use a wine maker’s brix refractometer which is a small prism that a single drop of cherry juice can be placed upon. The refractometer has a sight glass with a scale that can measure the sugar content via the refractive index of the juice. A refractometer can measure (estimate) sugar content only in non-alcoholic solutions. The beauty of the refractometer (as opposed to the hydrometer) is that it only takes a single drop to get a reading, but the readings will need to be converted from brix to g/L to make the numbers more intuitive to use. Wine makers use refractometers out in the vineyard to estimate the ripeness of single clusters of grapes as the season progresses while bartenders use them to calibrate their various syrups.

The OSU course teaches a valuable lesson about sugar content which is if it starts at the same level of the cherry it can be walked upwards in slow increments to a desired point without tissue damage. Non-alcoholic cherries typically have a sugar content of 470 g/L which of often more than 3 times the starting sugar content. The sugar content can be increased by 30 g/L every 12 hours until the desired level is achieved which for the exercise may just be high enough that 90% of all the cherries can be brought up to a uniform level.

For alcohol preserved cherries, the sugar content is integral to determining the alcohol content because sugar displaces alcohol lowering the proof. Alcohol fortified products are often brought up to the minimum of microbiological stability by alcohol alone which is typically 18%, but that is not the only approach. An idea in dessert wine production exists which lowers the minimum necessary for alcohol as a preservative by measuring and harnessing the preservative power of the sugar content and sometimes other variables like pressure in the case of sparkling sweet wines. Great research from Maynard Amerine at UC Davis explores this stabilization concept and the lessons learned can be applied to far more than just this exercise. Preservative power is counted in Delle units, named after the Russian inventor, Professor Delle, in the early 20th century and stability is often thought to happen at 80 units. To calculate Delle units the formula A + 4.5C = DU is used where A equals the sugar content in brix and C equals the alcohol content. If a sugar content of 18 brix is achieved, an alcohol content as low as 14% can be used to achieve 80 Delle units. Eighty units is not a hard and fast rule but rather just a point to begin trials and exploration.

An alcohol content at the minimum of stability is critical due to a strange sensory phenomenon where the haptic heft of the solid fruit changes the threshold of perception of alcohol making it seem much more alcoholic than it actually is. This same effect can be seen when eating the pineapple chunks from a Stoli-Doli jar. Many people wrongly believe the fruit holds more alcohol than the liquid, but the illusion is just one of the many phenomena of perception. The same phenomenon will also enhance contrast detection of the fernet aroma we are going to add, and even though fernet will only represent 10% of the preserving solution, eating a cherry may feel as though one is taking an entire shot of fernet.

Many people have the notion that alcohol is a complete preservative, but while it does prevent bacterial growth and certain levels can even kill bacteria, it is powerless against oxidation and even enzymatic browning. If you have ever seen a pear trapped in a bottle of pear brandy, besides the alcohol, ascorbic acid (and possibly sulfites) is also keeping the pear company, otherwise it would brown detrimentally. To preserve a pear, the advice is often given of using 1 g/L of ascorbic acid in the preserving solution (as well as rinsing the fruit and bottle with a sulphuric acid solution to kill bacteria on the surface of the fruit), and with cherries we recommend following the same advice as well as vacuum sealing the canning jars to remove trapped oxygen. Ultra violet light from spending time on clay roofs in the sun may also kill bacteria in the case of the Cerise au Soleil.

Considerations need to be made for the alcohol content of the cherries. When the preserving solution rests with the cherries, the alcohol content will come into equilibrium and be reduced, therefore the displacement of the cherries needs to be known. The displacement of the cherries can be found by taking multiple small samples from each bin that differ by density and placing them in a graduated cylinder of water. The weight of the sample can divided by the observed volumetric displacement to find a ratio which can be extrapolated to find volumetric displacement with only the weight of the entire lot.

Awareness of the Delle stabilization concept can either allow a minimal alcohol content for those that deepen their involvement and experiment systematically or it can just provide a very comfortable margin of error.

Every division of the sorted cherries is going to require its own custom preserving solution and the lowest sugar content cherries need a slightly higher alcohol content if the sugar content is going to be walked upwards. Keep in mind, every 30 g/L increase in sugar content has dissolved volume of 18.9 mL which can dilute the alcohol content by nearly half a percentage point and it may take almost two rounds of increasing the sugar to reach that of your ripest cherries. If you are not making your own cherry eau-de-vie, Hiram Walker’s Kirschwasser is the most practical alcohol base. As a starting point, it may also be useful to put each batch in wide mouth canning jars that assume the cherries will displace the same volume as the preserving solution (one volumetric liter of cherries is preserved in one volumetric liter of preserving solution).

Hiram Walker Kirschwasser is only bottled at 45% alcohol which means that once it is diluted by sugar then brought to equilibrium with the cherries in a 1:1 ratio, the equilibrium alcohol content may be lower than is needed. This problem can be solved by either changing the preserving solution ratio to use more Kirschwasser per volume of cherries or by re-distilling the Kirschwasser to concentrate its alcohol content. Simple tests with water will tell if your cherries can be covered by a desired volume of preserving solution or if adjustments needs to be made.

Introducing additional aromas like the saffron-menthe of fernet can push a preserved cherry into something that is over the top and very special. Fernet cannot be re-distilled with the Kirschwasser because it contains a valuable non-volatile fraction which contributes gustatory-bitterness therefore it has to averaged in. Fernet also has a sugar content of approximately 30 g/L.

If need be, re-distill Kirschwasser on low reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 97°C (the high temperature did not seem to produce a cloudy distillate because it had already been cut previously during the production of the inputs).

Add Fernet to the Kirschwasser so that Fernet’s alcohol content represents only 10% of the blend. At 10% of the preserving solution, Fernet’s  30 g/L sugar content will be diluted to 3 g/L before further dilution. It may be safe to consider this sugar content negligible.

The resultant mixture of Kirschwasser and Fernet will have to be cut to match each specific batch it is going to fortify. First cherries displacing one liter needs to be found. At this experimental scale, a two liter graduated pitcher can be filled to one liter with water and cherries can slowly be added until the water level rises to two liters. This liter of cherries will require one liter of preserving solution. The preserving solution will be constructed to match the sugar content of the sorting bin the cherries were taken from. The displacement of the sugar will need to be found to find the corresponding alcohol content. The dissolved volume of a weight of sucrose can be revealed by dividing the weight by the density of sucrose, 1.587.

To find the corresponding alcohol content we can use the equation: (1000 mL – sugar vol. mL (X%))  = 1000 mL (desired final alc.%).

The X variable represents the alcohol content necessary before dilution by sugar to hit the target alcohol content for a single liter. The volume of alcohol necessary per liter is simply 1000 mL – the dissolved volume of sugar. Working this out per liter means it can easily be scaled for any custom batch size.

Now that the preserving solution has been cut and sugared, ascorbic acid will need to be added and completely dissolved. One gram should be added for every liter of preserving solution. The density of ascorbic acid is 1.65 g/mL thus one gram will displace 0.61 mL and probably can be considered negligible.

After the cherries are added to the preserving solution they should be de-aerated to remove all the oxygen clinging to the cherry skin if possible. Pressure de-aeration in a Cornelius keg is a viable option for large batches and vacuum de-aeration with a canning jar lid attachment is effective for very small batches.

If need be, the sugar content of the cherries should be walked upwards to hit a target and the influence of this addition on the alcohol content should always be a accounted for with simple averaging. If the alcohol and/or sugar content becomes lost, a sample of the preserving solution at equilibrium with the cherries can be re-distilled to reveal the misplaced alcohol and sugar figures.

If the cherries are left unpitted time will eventually cause the alcohol to pull the aroma of the pits into the meat of the cherry. If fernet was added to the preserving solution at the recommended scaling, the same phenomenon of perception that decreases the threshold of perception of alcohol, thereby amplifying it, will also amplify the aroma of the fernet making the indulger believe far more fernet was included than the actual.

Getting to know the NCBE

The National Center for Biotechnology Education has been a great resource for me. They even sell hard to get hard to get enzymes (page 4.)

The NCBE has a set of practicals and some teach their lessons through edible culinary experiments. The writing here is a brilliant, designed to be first introductions to the various topics, and therefore particularly accessible to those new to food science.

The first practical from the NCBE I had ever come across was In a Jam and Out of Juice. Here, the role of enzymes is explored in the processing of fruit. Enzymes are often used to clarify juices and get higher yields when juicing. They also peel citrus fruits and augment the texture of jams & fruit desserts. Enzymatic bittering is also discussed which has become a particularly important concept for the carbonated cocktails I’ve been storing long term in champagne bottles.

The PDF is unfortunately broken up into quite a few parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.

I guarantee this is the most enlightening and articulate guide you can find for bringing modern fruit processing to culinary programs.

The Practical Fermentation Guide is brilliant. At first glance it does not seem of too much culinary value and then the gems start to stick out.  They explore sauerkraut as well as the reasons you need starters or supplemental acidity so you can begin at optimal pH for the growth of your target microorganisms. Their ingenious illustrations show how samples can be easily taken while maintaining cleanliness of the fermentation. Aromatic ester production in fermented foods is explored. And on page 13, back in 1999, they explore spherification. In 2003 Ferran Adrià went on to re-render this lesson in a beautiful edible context.

The Practical Biotechnology guides often relate directly to culinary. There are many topics there but I selected only the ones that are most practical as kitchen experiments.

Tempe – An Indonesian Fermented Food.

Kefir – A multicultural Fermentation

Better Milk for Cats Wow, you even make calcium alginate beads!

Low Lactose Yogurt

Oyster Cap Mushrooms Grow oyster cap mushrooms on a roll of unbleached toilet paper. I wonder how good they taste. They even provide a wonderful looking recipe to try your home grown mushrooms with.

Among the most interesting practical is the yet to be published Fermented Soft Drinks. The gem of the lessons here is how raisins can be added to the naturally carbonated  sodas to act as a primitive hygrometer and indicated when fermentation is complete. This may be the best guide to yeast carbonated sodas I’ve ever seen.

Maraschino Cherry 101 (literally, there is a one credit course at U. Oregon)

Maraschino Cherry: A Laboratory-Lecture Unit (an un-locked paper from the Wiley online library.

Apparently since 1994 Oregon State University has offered a 1-credit class about the making of maraschino cherries. The cherry is used to illustrate food chemistry, the fragmentation of processing unit operations, microbiology, food safety, food law, sensory analysis, and product development. The course seems like it would benefit culinary professionals working on next generation, modernist recipes.

Consider as you read the little bits I’ve extracted, just how different are Luxardo cherries? They are also gloppy pectin filled horrors but maybe just with better aroma added back after the leaching?

The course covers a lot of nitty gritty chemistry stuff: sulphur, calcium chloride, acidulants like citric acid & hydrochloric acid, sodium chloride, all for the cherry “brine” formulations.

How do they bleach the cherries?

*Cherries get a sulfite based primary bleaching brine in which they sit for three weeks

*Cherries follow up with a chlorite based secondary bleaching brine but only after the primary brine is carefully leached out with boiled water to reduce the sulphur content. “bleaching of brown discolorants will take from 5 to 10 days”

*The secondary brine gets leached out and they can return to the primary brine until they are ready for processing

cherry flow chart

“Calcium plays a very important role in the brine formulation by giving the cherry a firmer texture. If the pH is greater than 4, calcium will precipitate from solution as CaSO3 and not be available. The divalent cation forms salt linkages between the galacturonic units of 2 adjacent pectin molecules.” …hardcore chemistry blah blah blah… “This cross-linking of cell-wall polysaccharides results in a firmer fruit texture that is not only more acceptable from a sensory standpoint but also facilitates mechanical pitting.” [#Pectin<3Calcium #Luxardo!]

“The brined cherries are yellow in color since the yellow carotenoids are not affected by bisulfite. It should be emphasized that the primary function of bisulfite is to prevent microbial growth, and that bleaching of the cherry is a secondary role.”

“With the advent of mechanical harvesting of cherries in the 1960’s, the number of cherries with defects from bruising increased substantially. Cellular damage permits the enzyme polyphenoloxidase to come in contact with fruit phenolics-forming quinones, which subsequently polymerize to form brown pigments. A secondary bleach process utilizing sodium chloride was developed by Oregon State Univ. researchers that bleaches the brown discoloration along with the carotenoids to produce a snowy white cherry.”

The brining process here is probably what I need to complete my project of embedding cocktails in fruit structures to illustrate how texture and haptic heft change thresholds of perception. I had previously been trying to wash the color out of golden raspberries by soaking them in vodka/sugar brines that I changed periodically. Brining plus reflux de-aeration will make this possible.

The cherries get sorted and supposedly only by size. When I make my alcoholic version, I sort cherries by density, but I guess when you can firm the texture with a calcium brine brix can more easily be augmented without swelling or shrinking so they can sort and just be concerned with size. They explain more of the leaching process and how it is an environmental problem because of BOD (biological oxygen demand).

“The optimum Brix of cherries for brining is from 12 to 15 degrees compared to 18 to 22 for fresh market or canning…”.

“Maraschino cherries commonly have a Brix of 40. The drained, brined cherries cannot be immediately introduced to the 40 Brix syrup or shriveling will occur as water rapidly diffuses from the fruit to the syrup. Therefore, the drained cherries are introduced to dilute sugar syrup, for example, 15 Brix and sufficient time, for example 12 h, is allowed for equilibrium. The sugar content is increased in 3 to 4 Brix increments to gradually introduce sugar without tissue damage.” [#bigtradesecret]

“Since SO2 levels have been markedly reduced, preservatives such as potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate are included in the syrup to prevent microbial growth.” [#sadbuttrue]

[…]”The pH during processing and final bottling is targeted for approximately 3.6 to 3.8. Citric acid has several functions

*It provides flavor, the Brix:acid ratio giving a good numerical index for the sweetness to sourness taste quality […]

*The effectiveness of sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate as antimicrobial agents is dependent on pH. Un-dissociated benzoic acid is the form with antimicrobial activity, optimium activity occurring in the pH range of 2.5 to 4. Sodium benzoate is most active against yeast and bacteria and least effective against molds. Sorbic acid and its sodium and potassium salts are particularly effective in preventing mold growth, the activity increasing with decreasing pH. [why you need both!]

*[…#botulism blah blah boring]

They explain the pearson square for working with sugar.

The section on coloring is sort of painful.

“Flavoring is added after the sugar concentration of the cherries reach 40 Brix. Most of the flavor volatiles originally present in the cherries are lost during the brining and leaching operation, leaving a product characterized principally by the sharp taste of residual SO2. Benzaldehyde is a naturally occurring compound that contributes significantly to the flavor of both sweet and sour cherries. Since almonds are an even richer source of benzaldehyde, almond extract was a logical choice for flavoring maraschino cherries. […] Artificial flavorings for maraschino cherries will have benzaldehyde as a principal ingredient. If the processor prefers to use natural flavorings, almond and/or cherry extracts will be commonly used.”

The finish by explaining some labeling laws.

One cool reference ends up in the bibliography that I’d love to track down:

Filz WF, Henney. 1951. Home preparation of maraschino cherries. Afr Exp Sta Bull Nr 497. Corvallis, Oreg: Oregon State College. p 1-11.

Searching for that book turns up a really interesting masters thesis on maraschino cherries.

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


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)

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.