2016 Retrospective

Being December, it is time for the year end retrospective. Like usual, I felt like I didn’t accomplish much, but I did write about 20 posts with some containing distilled spirits’ most significant historic discoveries for the year (examining Arroyo) and others containing distilled spirits’ most progressive ideas (congeners derived from glycosides).

I have put a lot of beverage work on hold to become a design world darling and start the Houghton Street Foundry (IG: @houghtonstfoundry) which makes exquisite door hardware and offers architectural machining services. I have ghost written a few products for small distilleries with one being the hottest off premise specialty product in New England, though I actually think I designed it last calendar year. My beverage pace has slowed down, but I’m still holding significant technique and history secrets from the industry (to punish you all!).

The year started with Rum Comparatively: Understanding Anything Goes and explains how production compares to other spirits categories and why rum is the most progressive spirit with unique production templates that other categories do not use.

Aggressive collecting led me to Excise Anecdotes from Arrack Country which tells some of the most breath taking (and heart breaking) distilling stories ever recorded. It also ends with a beautiful discovery and meditation on terroir.

There is a ton of WTF? in Rum, Mitogenic Radiation & The Bio-photon. Brilliant Science writer, Adam Rogers, was cool enough to spend time weighing in so I had a lot of fun with the post. It does show that Rafael Arroyo was a far out thinker with an ear to the ground and yet again reinforces the idea of rum as the most progressive spirit. Nearly a century of science later not much is clarified.

This was particularly important to me because I’ve long been a champion of the rums of Cape Verde. In Cape Verde and Sugar Cane Juice Rum Categories I apply explanations from Arroyo to my favorite distilling tradition and explain the origins of their distinct aromas. There are so many supposed rum experts and they are still avoiding Cape Verde and the island of Madeira. Berry’s or Plantations rums, where you at? I’ll connect you to Cape Verde’s most brilliant distillery.

Here I describe my plan for discovering a new generation of champion rum yeasts: Team Pombe and the Yeast Olympiad. So far I haven’t been able to get it off the ground because of a lack of interest from the small distilleries in my circle (and the very expensive process). I will likely finance and execute the ideas by myself and I’m not afraid if it takes quick a few years. No one else seems to be too interested in this territory.

Rum, Osmotolerance and the Lash was so much more than a cute title and looks at forces that shape microbial communities, especially when trying to cultivate a dominant Pombe fermentation.

I had heard murmers of these ideas so long ago from Ed Hamilton so I decided to tackle them in Aroma Breakage and Rum Design. Arroyo as usual was on top of everything. Some new producers like Maggie Campbell of Privateer are known to be very much hip to this and weave the ideas in production.

Ageing, Accelerated Ageing, & Élevage ==> Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics This was my look at Arroyo’s progressive musing on the aging topic. I think this was before I read UC Davis great, Vernon Singleton’s, legendary paper which I probably should have given its own post (2017!)

Narrative of the 1975 Rum Symposium

Say it with me:
Rum is the most progressive spirits category.
Rum has the most researched spirits production.
There is nothing finer than rum as we make it.

There is so much good stuff in the symposium.

I had never done a spirits review before and of course I did it on my own terms. This post, Spirits Review: Mezan XO Jamaica Rum, also ends up with a challenge of drinking 10 ounces in one sitting to test a theory many are anecdotally validating. I also drop one of the most progressive ideas in all distilling and introduce a new congener category. Its not my fault if people cannot keep up.


Before I left to run a popup in Province Town this summer, I introduced For Sale: Large Bottle Bottler. This tool is particularly awesome but not for everyone and I don’t push it. Some bars are killing it with my bottlers and I am in some of the world’s top programs while other notable programs cannot assemble a team that can handle the tasks. A lot of a sales go to winemakers doing research projects for their own product development. I owe you all a new post on kegging to show you’ve all been doing it so so wrong.

In the frustration of the election and inspired by blog hero George Lakoff, I penned Public foundations for Private Spirits Companies. The post is a meditation on how private companies get built on a foundation of public research and how we are starting to forget that. A new generation of distilleries is popping up that often flounders with the technical aspects of product development because they do not seek out any of the amazing research that came before them. Most distillers are in disbelief the research exists when I introduce it to them. This rickety blog is the largest source of advanced educational material for the new American distilling industry which is approaching a billion dollars in revenue and quite a few hundred million in investment.


Here I introduce the Alaska Ice Crusher and describe a stunning restored version produced by a new friend. I’ve used Alaskas for a quite a few years and lately have been seeing them popping up in finer bars. They have become a Boston bar scene thing and collectively we own quite a few.

In A Few Papers For The Industrious I take a break from foundry work to read from papers that Rex sent in which I’d been hoping to come across for a few years now. Having gotten in the mood, I also shared up some delicious snippets from the archives of rum arcana.

Patrick Neilson Tells of Rum (Like No Other), 1871 This was easily my favorite piece of the entire years with its companion article J.S. Tells of Rum, Jamaica 1871. These papers kick off the fine rum era and are full of the choicest opinions on things like skimmings that many of us have heard of but don’t quite understand.

This piece was short and fun and simply shows that even as far back as 1885, which is a few life times out from the birth of the term, people were into tracking down etymologies: Etymology of the Word Rum by Darnell Davis (1885).

This is only for nerds and if you’re short on time and need to triage your reading, skip this, Occurance of Lime-Incrustations in Rum Stills (1903), and the next post, Scientific Control of a Rum Distillery by F. I. Scard.

As I collect papers, a genre of writings is emerging and this is an enjoyable example from a seldom described island. W. M. Miller Tells of Rum in Guyana for Timehri (1890)


We ended the year with the Return of the Champagne Bottle Manifold where I mastered single point threading on the manual engine lathe and started cutting the proprietary 19/32-18 threads myself to improve the design. My design over the years has evolved to be really spectacular, but they didn’t really catch on because programs didn’t want to pay for them and those that did had them frequently stolen. The most serious users ended up being Champagne sales reps.

Who knows what next year will bring. Sadly for the Bostonapothecary blog, my focus will be in the workshop. Ask questions or challenge me and I may sit down and post.


For Sale: Champagne Bottle Manifold ($100USD)

Also view the more advanced keg to bottle liquid transfer version here.

December 8th, 2012



Please re-read the above disclaimer if you missed it.

Bostonapothecary is proud to introduce the holy grail of carbonation equipment, the Champagne bottle manifold.

The manifold is a conduit for connecting a gas supply to a Champagne bottle. But why would you want to do that?

• The manifold allow wine lovers to add counter pressure to their sparkling wines which preserves the bubbles when stored over extended periods.

• Beer brewers can add precise weights of dissolved CO² to beers which is useful when bottling for competitions or exploring different carbonation levels to have every beer show at its best.

• High end beverage programs can carbonate their products in aesthetically pleasing Champagne bottles to dissolved CO² levels as high as 7 g/L.

• Sensory scientists or those involved in new product development will find the manifold indispensable for economically achieving precision levels of dissolved gas for tasting panels.

The manifold features a durable plastic collar that securely clips on to the neck of a Champagne bottle (375 mL, 750 mL, and most 1500 mL). A food safe seal which contains a check valve interacts with the mouth of the bottle. A threaded plug engages the collar and maintains a seal under working pressures as high as 65 PSI. The manifold features industry standard stainless steel Cornelius quick disconnects which are common standards to most home brewers and beverage programs that have adopted cocktail-on-tap equipment. Cornelius quick disconnects contain a seal designed to maintain pressure for extended periods of time. All parts on the manifold are durable but also replaceable to ensure a long life span for your investment.

To be walked through carbonation, counter pressure, and de-aeration please take a look at the manual.

Besides the manifold itself, what new concepts make working with carbonation easier?

Many people think of carbonation in terms of pressure & temperature, and even volumes but carbonation can also be thought of in simpler terms of grams per liter (g/L) of dissolved gas. When we consider the weight of the dissolved CO², we can measure carbonation with equipment as simple as a commercial kitchen scale.

Cold bottles are simply filled with cold liquid, the manifold is attached and initially connected to the gas supply to fill the head space then disconnected (the head space can often hold a few grams of compressed gas), we place the bottle on the kitchen scale and zero. After zeroing, any weight that is added will reflect what is dissolved in the liquid. The gas supply can then be re-attached and CO² will be absorbed by the liquid as the bottle is agitated. The bottle can be periodically detached then re-weighed to see how much CO² has been dissolved in the liquid. Agitating the bottle facilitates the dissolving of the gas; basically you shake the bottle while it is under pressure and connected to the gas supply.

When the gas in the head space is finally released by unscrewing the manifold, oxygen which was dissolved in the liquid is also purged via a phenomenon called reflux de-aeration which is governed by Dalton’s gas law.

To store the product with a desired carbonation level, head space has to be accounted for. Bottles either have to be over carbonated to account for the gas needed to fill the head space if a bottle cap is to be affixed or the bottles will need to be topped up with liquid.

If the task is simply to pressure open sparkling wines, counter pressure of up to 60 PSI, which is more than enough for 5°C chilled Champagne, can be applied near instantaneously. According to researcher Dr. Steve Smith, a lecturer on wine studies at Coventry University, the pressure within a Champagne bottle (filled with 12 g/L of dissolved CO²) can be calculated with the formula: P = T/4.5 + 1 where P is the pressure in atmospheres and T is the temperature in Celsius. At 5°C, the pressure in the bottle is 2.111 atmospheres which converts to approx. 31 PSI.

• Beer brewers work with dissolved CO² levels in and around 4-5.5 g/L which is easy to achieve.

• Soda makers and those producing carbonated cocktails can achieve highly carbonated beverages with dissolved CO² levels as high as 7 g/L in just a few minutes of work per bottle.

• New product developers can easily create a range of dissolve gas levels for usage in tasting panels and bench trials.

Once a bottle has taken on a desired measure of CO² it will have to rest for a while and “bond” with the bottle before the manifold can be removed and a 29 mm crown cap affixed or spring based Champagne stopper attached. Releasing the manifold too quickly can cause foaming and loss of carbonation. The more the dissolved CO², the longer the time needed to bond. For soda makers or those requiring very high levels of carbonation, we recommend using numerous manifolds in a series so that active time spent carbonating can be as continuous as possible.

What are the advantage over other systems? The Bostonapothecary Champagne Bottle Manifold has the two fold advantage over competitors in that it is both more effective and more economical than any other product on the market.

Competing direct bottle manifolds exist for plastic soda bottles but none in my research held a seal as well. Soda bottles also cannot compete with the aesthetics of glass Champagne bottles. Fitting a Champagne bottle gives the manifold versatility because it can both carbonate, de-aerate or simply apply counter pressure. Others systems rely on going from keg to bottle and besides the cost and large footprint of the equipment, they lack the precision, the upward range of CO² levels, and some require a significant amount of down time under high pressure operation for the bottle to bond with the gas. Many large volume, high pressure users of the legendary Melvico counter pressure bottler needed an array of the machines to minimize down time and keep active bottling as continuous as possible which greatly magnified the expense. The Bostonapothecary Manifold requires active time agitating the bottle to absorb gas, but saves significant time by a lack of intensive setup, break down, and cleaning that keg to bottle systems require.


Additional information on safety: I have repeatedly tested this product and never had a bottle failure. Champagne bottles are designed to withstand huge amounts of pressure. The best Champagnes have 12 g/L of dissolved gas and can be under 80 PSI of pressure at 20°C (68°F). I imagine many bottles are even shipped on hot days where the pressure must get well over 100 PSI, therefore operating at 60 PSI is less than half the maximum pressure (using Dr. Smith’s formula, if true Champagne is stored outside or in a delivery truck on a 100°F day the pressure in the bottle is 139 PSI). Champagne bottles are heavier than Prosecco or Cava bottles because Champagne contains more dissolved gas. In my research I could not find statistics on maximum pressure before bottle failure. All information on liability only mentions getting hit in the eye with a cork which is also a risk with the manifold so safety glasses should always be worn. Room temperature Champagne bottles have been known to fall to the floor at the hands of outdoor caterers on summer days in Phoenix Arizona (139 PSI!). Sometimes the bottles survive and to my knowledge the caterer always survives. It has even been explained to me by no official source that bottles are designed to fail at the punt. I encourage all opinions of the product’s safety to be expressed in the comments.

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.

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.

Reflux de-aeration and what it can do for you.

Sponsor my distilling work simply by sharing the artisan workshop of the Bostonapothecary on social media. Copy, Paste, Support!

The champagne bottle manifold keeps becoming more and more powerful as we become aware of its subtle features.  A profound feature of the manifold is reflux de-aeration.  When pressure via CO2 (or nitrogen) is applied to a liquid in the bottle, the CO2 creates a nucleation site that forces oxygen dissolved in the liquid to come out of solution.  The oxygen which is now in the head space above the liquid can then be vented when the cap is loosened.  This means that no special attention has to be given to the base liquid to remove oxygen.  When the tool is used carefully the bottles can be capped with negligible oxygen.  A simple trick to prove there is no oxygen in the neck of the bottle before it is capped is to hold a lit match in the neck and watch it quickly be extinguished due to lack of oxygen.  Commercial producers do not rely on reflux de-aeration because as production scales up other techniques to de-aerate become more viable.  On the nano-scale there is nothing more economical.

But what can this do for you?

For starters the phenomenon can give confidence to beer and wine bottlers who need oxygen to be purged during bottling.  Counter pressure bottlers often flush a bottle with CO2 before they are filled to displace oxygen in the bottle.  Reflux de-aeration produces essentially the same end result.  Good news for bottling with the manifold!

For soda or sparkling cocktail production, reflux de-aeration produces interesting phenomenons with citrus juices.  Citrus juices are well known to change markedly over time but they change in two ways for two distinct reasons.  The first change is via oxidation which produces pine-sol floor cleaner-like aromas that are widely thought of as flaws when taken to their terminal point.  The second change is via enzymatic bittering which cannot be shut off in any practical way to my knowledge.  The reflux de-aeration produced by the manifold prevents the formation of aromas related to oxidation. Enzymatic bittering in the absence of aroma flaws can be wonderfully harmonic.

Bitterness can be a pleasurable feature in carbonated beverages and we can engineer the effects of enzymatic bittering into production.  If we anticipate the effect and find that it conforms to our desired harmonies, the life span of the product increases significantly.  Bottled sparkling cocktails that we thought would have to be made and sold every day can last for weeks.

Consider Brynn Tattan’s Tiger Lilly (of Back Bar fame)

carbonated to 7g/l of dissolved CO2

1 oz. blanco tequila

1 oz. st. germain

.75 oz. aperol

.5 oz. grapefruit juice

.5 oz. lime juice

1 oz. water

Reflux de-aeration prevents the formation of oxidized citrus aromas while the enzymatic bittering of the citrus juice proceeds and stretches the bitterness of Aperol into something more akin to Campari.  The sweetness of the drink gets more gustatory-bitter contrast over time and the results are extraordinary.  To get a better sense of what the final evolved product will be like when developing bottled sparkling cocktail recipes it even makes sense to pre-bitter your citrus juice by reflux de-aerating the juice a few days in advance and using this aged juice in the prototypes.

The success and ease of the technique has proven it to be the best way to treat near all citrus juices.  Currently at the bar we juice a few days worth of lemons then bottle and de-aerate.  Lemon juice seems to be less subject to enzymatic bittering than lime juice and after even a week we could detect no oxidized aromas.  Now citrus juices can be effectively and practically preserved with no expensive and large foot print vacuum de-gassing equipment and no need to tie up freezer space.

A more thorough knowledge of reflux de-aeration through experimenting with citrus juices and bottled cocktails has made us confident enough to work with champagne magnums when they are more economically viable than 750’s.  Bottles can be maintained for weeks perfectly de-gassed and with a consistent g/l of dissolved gas so they are true to their original carbonation level.