Reconstructing Cointreau

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In a recent post I deconstructed Cointreau to learn its many mysteries.

I learned Cointreau’s sugar content to tell more about it’s structure. I translated the g/L sugar measure to something volumetric to explain the starting alcohol content before dilution by sugar down to 80 proof. This sounds complicated but I can now reassemble the shell of the liqueur in under a minute.

What I never figured out is the extract intensity of the oranges which I figured I could only do by taste (really rustic recipes say about three oranges).

Well, at the restaurant I got a couple cases of stunning sour oranges and I put all the peels in high proof alcohol to make a flavor concentrate. After a couple weeks, the concentrate was ready to strain and make a few liters of Creole Shrubb with Cointreau’s intuitive to use proportions.

The sugar content was no problem to hit perfectly and getting very close to the correct alcohol content was not that big a deal, but wow is judging the intensity tough.

Orange is such a cloyingly outrageous flavor. As soon as you taste or even smell one sample you have no chance of differentiating the other. You can’t even tweak it in the same sitting. The aroma fills the room and you must revisit everything the next day. Well after patient days I think I nailed a realistic comparison down. No problem except it brings up some more questions.

What does my infusion of orange peels have that Cointreau’s distillate leaves behind? Terpenes?

Do I even want the same intensity as Cointreau? or do I want more? I primarily use Cointreau in tart drinks like Sidecars and Margaritas. Unfortunately, I also primarily deal with people that for some reason can’t handle a classic 2:1:1 Margarita because it is too tart, too refreshing, too subtle & too elegant. The unbalanced nature of cocktails in general makes the Margarita plagued by the sweet-tart phenomenon of amateur dessert wines. The rules of balanced wine says that as sugar and acid increase in a wine, extract has to increase as well or the wine will taste like hollow artificial candy.

In the unbalanced direction driven nature of cocktails, the “sweet-tart” is fun and desirable by some but feared by so many that need to be weaned onto cocktails. If you increase the orange extract could you have squeamish drinkers enjoying classically proportioned Margaritas? I’m going to try and figure it out.

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Hand Made Creole Shrubb

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[I’ve learned so much since this post and have distilled orange liqueurs, deconstructed commercial brands, tackled terpene science, learned about fixation, created best bets, discovered Joseph Merory’s recipes, and so much more!]

Hopefully I can add to this liqueur recipe as I get a chance to work on it, but writing things down will help me to analytically tackle things and create a functional, reproducible recipe.

The the six sour oranges that I bought (which were slightly larger than the ones I got earlier in the season from Specialty Produce) yielded 113.5 grams of peel un-dehydrated (micro planed with as little pith as possible). The peel is very unique and is sopping with moisture. I don’t own a dehydrater so I dried it out in a 200 f oven for 45 minutes or so spreading it across my non stick container to make it dry fast. The peel contained 80.4 grams of water which is 70.8% of the original weight! This leaves us with 33.1 grams to work with to make as much shrub as possible.

My strategy for seeing how many grams per liter a good shrubb takes will be to introduce it to an already sugared alcohol stock and keep increasing the amount until my tasting panel thinks we obtain comparable intensity. This may take quite a while as things need time to dissolve and integrate. The creole spices are another issue all together and I think the only way to really add them in a recipe for a liter batch is by adding a small calculated tincture.

A good spirit base is important for a good shrubb. Cointreau (not a shrubb I know) and clement’s creole shrubb both weigh in at 80 proof which means that with their massive amount of sugar they both start with something quite stiff. To figure out their sugar contents and gain a clue at what proof they start with I can sacrifice a cup or two of clement’s shrub and cook out the alcohol, refill the volume with distilled water and then get an unbiased refractometer reading [I developed so many other ways of doing this]. I think you could make a great version starting from an 80 proof spirit and I will probably have to make that concession. I would love to make a creole shrubb someday that used some of my favorites rums like St. James or Ron Barrellito for flavor contrast.

For the sensory evaluation, I think I’ll use a technique from Maynard Amerine’s Wines: Their Sensory Evaluation and provide three tasting samples, two that are alike, and an odd man out. The panel will try to differentiate my product from a commercial product in regards to orange intensity and hopefully it will be difficult because things will be the same. This means I have to use a similar base spirit for my test batch.

***update!***

So for this proof of concept batch I ended up using Bunratty’s potcheen (90 proof) that I got for free. It has a creepy banana aroma and basically says it was adulterated but it was free so it is hard to argue with.

The 750ml of 90 proof liquid weighed 703.7 grams to bring the sugar up to 38% by weight I had to add 432 grams of whole foods organic white sugar.

432g/(432+703.7)=.38 (this increases the volume to something like 1.1 liters or so.

then I added the 33.1 grams of orange peel… now we must be patient and let everything dissolve.

My educated guess is that if vermouth gets 28 grams per 3.8 liters of orange peels, 33.1 grams of orange peel may flavor quite a lot of creole shrub. Luckily this does make the recipe quite economical.

Amerine has a table in his Technology of Wine Making that shows how many pounds of oil you get per 100 pounds of most culinary spices and herbs. Oranges weigh in at 5lbs. which is fairly high relative to most other botanicals. Hopefully we can expect a nice creole shrubb yield.

What were only dreams will be Newman’s own creole shrubb.

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Newman’s Own Creole Shrubb

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Quite a few months ago I was invited to present a cocktail at a charity event in the posh space atop the state house. The restaurant gave me the okay to spend a little money so of course I spent every dime they gave me solely on Seville oranges (aka sour oranges). These magical orbs are rarely imported and I’ve only seen them available during citrus season in the winter. They are not like the bland domesticated varieties we know. Sevilles are tart and pungent with a wild heirloom quality. They are hard to work with and have lots of learning curves but I still highly regard them. I bought them intending to use the juice for the event and save the peels for myself to make orange liqueur for the bar, but little did I know there was a fraction of the juice I anticipated. From 33 Seville oranges I only got 750 ml of juice and at that point in the day I had to leave soon for the event. Each drink was supposed to use an ounce and I was supposed to serve 150 drinks so I was in real trouble. This led to the Seville cheater when I added citric acid to normal orange juice with a healthy dose of reagan’s orange bitters to synthesize that wild heirloom character. Luckily the results were quite satisfying and the drink was a phenomenal success.

bronx cocktail (named after the bronz zoo and using my theory that it was designed for tart wild oranges and therefore a sour drink)

2 oz. gin

1 oz. sweet vermouth

1 oz. seville orange juice (fake or real)

stir, and decreasing the gin is not wrong and means it is easier to justify a second round.\

 

For the event I actually only used the cheater juice and I saved the real stuff for the pastry chef to make sorbet with. Unfortunately I have no recipe but the sorbet was stunning. It totally captured all the wild flavors and used the natural inherent acidity of the juice. A little bit of my previous batch of creole shrub was also added so the alcohol could enhance the texture.

It was ten minutes before I had to leave for the event and I had a large pile of zest sitting on the counter top which probably added up to a couple pounds. My goal was to eventually, in small periods of free time, turn this pile into ten liters of creole shrub using whatever rum of character I could come across. So on the run, I put all the peel into a three liter mason jar and covered it with rum (appleton’s VX). I figured I could add more rum, get a bigger container and eventually add my sugar.

The plan seemed reasonable but I was over looking the fact that my rum was only 80 proof and would be diluted by sugar so I’d end up with less alcohol than the real stuff. Though ideal proof would have to be sacrificed to make the handmade shrub economically viable. But to add insult to injury, I didn’t dehydrate my peels because I had no time. In Martinique they dry the peels out in the sun. If you think of dehydrating our normal sunkist oranges it doesn’t make that much sense, but for Sevilles, their peel is spongy and full of moisture which would further dilute the proof of the final product. Another hole in my rushed strategy was that I only estimated the volume of liqueur I could produce from 33 oranges. When you make liqueurs you need to be concerned with alcohol, sugar, and other total dissolved solids. The total dissolved solids in this case is the weight of orange peel added to flavor the shrub per liter. Too intensely orange is frightening and not enough is bland. I am merely hoping to figure my intensity to taste which seems reasonable but isn’t exactly scientific. If you really wanted to figure it out for clement’s creole shrub you would have to cook out the alcohol of a significant volume, refill what was lost with distilled water and see if you can measure the total solids (sugar and orange oil) and subtract just the sugar [this actually turns out to be incorrect but these were just my very first experiments]. This is not practical for my small production so I apparently have to rely on a tasting panel and hope to get scientific next time around.

Hopefully next time is this week because I just bought six more Sevilles yesterday at tropico in roxbury (I thought you couldn’t get them anymore but apparently not) and hope to make a small completely measured batch so I have something realistic to go with next year and I will definitely dehydrate the peels. see you next week for the update!

****update!

From my 33 oranges, I yielded about 8.5 liters of exceptional Creole Shrubb. I used quite a lot of mixed up rums that I had laying around and the product was still stunning. To my surprise everyone (my kitchen crew) preferred my version to clement’s iconic product. I am still kind of skeptical. My intensity is at a comparable level if not a little more intense than clement, but what I noticed is that these oranges have serious organoleptic qualities and what I got from Specialty Produce tastes really different than clement’s Martinique oranges. Putting the difference into words is very difficult but there is more to these bitter oranges than meets the eye. I think my solution is to try and figure out where my product comes from and celebrate it. I keep seeing a growing interest in botanicals, but a lack in curiosity or information on where exactly what you use comes from. Wine isn’t the only thing susceptible to terrior. Consistency is overrated and I simply recommend celebrating the differences.

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