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Gift Lab: How to Make More Creative Cocktails (Through Science!)

April 6, 2015

Erica gives the Molecular Mixology Mojito Kit a Try | UncommonGoods

Product:  Molecular Mixology Kit – Mojito Set 

Research:
I’m usually a straight whiskey or red wine drinker, mostly due to laziness and complete lack of skill with any drink that requires shaking, stirring, or straining, but I was curious to see if the Molecular Mixology Mojito Kit could help me hone my cocktail skills. My idea of mixing a drink is adding a little Diet Coke to the whiskey, so there’s a lot of room for improvement. To prepare, I watched the product’s Youtube video, which led me to believe that I, too, could create fancy drinks in just a few steps and stocked up on rum and mint leaves.

Hypothesis:
I will be the best bartender since Sam Malone and impress my friends. Besides, Molecular Mixology sounds somewhat hipster, and with my recent move to Brooklyn, maybe this kit could help me better fit in to the new neighborhood.

Experiment: 
Materials Needed:
Molecular Mixology Kit
Hand Blender
Bowls
Mint
Rum
Club Soda
Ice
Sugar
Stove
Pots
Friends

I cut the recipes in half because they make a huge amount of mojitos and it was a school night. Since my mission this evening is to be fancy, I decided to start with the mint caviar recipe. What could be fancier than caviar?

Experiment 1, Mint Caviar:

Step 1:
I first read through the instructions and gathered materials.

Step 2:

Making Caviar Mojitos | UncommonGoods
Impatience won out over the instructions I just read, so rather than bringing the sugar, mint, and water to a boil on the stove, I used an electric kettle to boil the water and poured it over the sugar and mint leaves.

Blending the Mojito Caviar | UncommonGoods
Step 3:
I then blended the mixture together, strained it, and added the Sodium Alginate packet before letting the mixture sit for 30 minutes.

Step 4:
Watch an episode of something on Netflix while the Sodium Alginate mixture sits (for best results, try Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).

Step 5:
Add Calcium Lactate to a separate bowl of water and stir.

Caviar Dropper | UncommonGoods

 

Caviar Dropper and Bowl
Step 6:
Fill the pipette with the Sodium Alginate mixture and add to the Calcium Lactate bowl in drops. This was by far my favorite part, because the mint caviar formed right away and this step felt the most like I was doing science. Having wine on hand helps the process and is good insurance in case the molecular mixology doesn’t end well.

Rinsing Mojito Caviar | UncommonGoods
Step 7:
Remove the mint caviar from the solution with a sieve and rinse with water.

Step 8:
Put the Caviar in the bottom of a glass and cover with blended ice, rum, and club soda.
Molecular Mojito | UncommonGoods
Step 9:
Stir and sip. This wasn’t the best mojito I’ve ever tasted, mostly because the mint flavor isn’t distributed throughout the drink, so depending on how much caviar you get in each sip, it tastes more or less like the cocktail should. But what it sometimes lacked in consistent flavor it made up for in cool factor, and I would eat those mint caviar drops by themselves. Next time—and they give you enough of the chemical packets for several next times—I would add food coloring to the mint solution so it is more festive and interesting to look at in the glass. I also might try making the caviar for different types of drinks and flavor combinations.

Experiment 2, Mojito Bubbles:

Mojito Bubbles | UncommonGoods
Step 1:
Put Calcium Lactate, sugar, mint, and lime wedges in a high ball glass and crush wish a muddler. Since I have neither a highball glass nor a muddler, I bashed them together with a spoon in a plastic cup. Less classy, but it got the job done.

Step 2:
Add rum and club soda. Mix until the calcium is dissolved and filter.

Mint Bubbles | UncommonGoods
Step 3:
Place mint leaves in the bubble mold and fill them with the liquid mixture. Freeze.

Step 4:
SCIENCE! Dissolve the Sodium Alginate in a bowl and blend. Unmold the iced mojitos into the bowl and stir. Because I didn’t read the directions first to see that they needed to freeze and started these late, I didn’t get to this part until the following morning.

Step 5:
Pick up the spheres with a slotted spoon and rinse them in a bowl of water.

Molecular Mixology - Mojito Bubbles | UncommonGoodsBreakfast of Champions

Step 6:
Enjoy! While slightly more involved, I much preferred these to the mint caviar mojitos. The bubble bursts in your mouth and fills it with an intense mojito flavor. Kind of like grown up Gushers.

Conclusion:
I could see using this kit to make drinks for a special dinner or event, but it was also very fun as an activity for a night in. The directions were easy to follow and provided fun science facts about the process. My friends all really enjoyed the science aspect of the kit, and there was something very satisfying about completing the full process and presenting a beautiful drink rather than just gulping it down. Next time, I might try experimenting with different drinks using the chemical compounds provided. While I won’t be leaving UncommonGoods to open my own bar any time soon, I learned something new and now have a fun activity to use again in the future.

Get the Molecular Mixology Kit!

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: How to Make Cocktail Bitters

December 19, 2013

Morgan | Bitters

Research
I’m a devoted whisky (and occasionally whiskey) drinker and usually enjoy my Scotch like I enjoy the top shelf of my dresser: neat. But I was intrigued to see if bitters might prove an opportunity to salvage a liquor I’ve all but quit–rum. The recipe calls for a high-proof rum, so I picked up one of my favorite antiseptics, Bacardi 151. I also bought an aged rum (to test my bitters in later) that I was hoping might change my opinions of the drink. That rum, Plantation Grande Reserve (note the fancy pants name), was a vast improvement over any rum I could remember tasting (in either direction), in my younger days, so I was looking forward to a different experience, perhaps.
Bitters 1

Bacardi 151? Hello old friend.

Hypothesis
I don’t think I’ve ever tried bitters before, but I’m coming in with a semi-open mind. I like bitter things. There’s something smart-sounding about the word “bitters.” As I have a general preference for straight alcohol, I’m not sure how much this will “add” to the experience, but perhaps since I’m less predisposed towards rum, it may make that drink more enjoyable. (Spoiler alert: I cheated and came up with this last line after the experiment.)

Experiment
Preparing the mixture is actually a good bit of fun, adding the composite spices and ingredients as if your high school science teacher were a part-time bartender. (I didn’t see you and you didn’t see me, Mr. Chard.)

DIY Cocktail Bitters | UncommonGoods

Here I am masterfully peeling an apple and not cutting myself, the skins to be mixed into the jar of rum and spices. No blood! Easy enough.

The preparation requires a morning and evening shake of the mixture in its jar, which is a fun way to interact with your little blooming bundle of joy, and to appreciate the visual richness and beauty of the concoction as it does its thing. Eventually you’ll forget to shake it one morning and you’ll feel guilty for the rest of the day. Just let it go–it’ll be fine.

DAY 1 TEST
Finally, after a long and eager wait, 2 weeks are up and it’s time to open my present! Hold on there just a minute, bud–a few more steps before we’re ready for cheers. First we have to strain through cheesecloth (which doubles as gauze if you cut yourself peeling that apple earlier–try to use the clean portion).

Bitters | UncommonGoods

The liquid is separated from the solid ingredients, which are placed on the stove to simmer with water then cool. This is a good opportunity to be extremely impatient, blow on the mixture, and just dump it in hot anyway. (Again, you’re probably fine.)

Bitters in Process | UncommonGoods

After cooling, we strain the mixture once again. OK, this is your exit solids! In the trash you go! We then get started on simple syrup (a sugar and water mixture that is heated and added in equal parts to the rum mixture). Add to dropper bottle then the big payoff.

I decided on bourbon because, well, I like bourbon and it seems to feature in a good number of bitters cocktails. I could make a cocktail, but I’d rather really taste the bitters here just to see how they work with the alcohol. A bit of bitters drip drop into some Buffalo Trace bourbon.

Drinking Bourbon

Unfortunately, it wasn’t doing it for me. Nope. Had I done something wrong? I don’t think so. Was it last Friday when I neglected to shake the bitters? Were they exacting their revenge? Nah – I don’t think bitters hold grudges (although they are called bitters…). I think it was just the combination. The iconic Buffalo Trace flavor now muddled into something indecipherable and a bit all over the place. I added a bit more but that just added to the confusion. My eyes saw the Buffalo Trace and my mouth was failing to compute.

Give up? No way. We’ll try again tomorrow.

DAY 2 TEST
New shirt, new day, new opportunity to drink.

Back on the saddle and off the wagon with something a bit more compatible, perhaps – rum. Yes, my aged rum would make a late-game, surprise guest appearance in a highly unscientific evaluation.

In one glass – straight aged rum
In the other – that same rum with a few drops of bitters.

Bitters and Rum

This one makes sense. The rums obviously blend well, and this time I’m able to actually taste the spiced apple. Not overpowering, but definitely adds another dimension. Yeah – I get it.

Conclusion
I could see this enhancing a mediocre rum or allowing for a drinker to taste a decent one from a different perspective. I imagine you could mix into a number of different cocktails with different alcohols. (The instruction booklet names a few.)

The highlight for me though was the process. Enjoying a drink usually consists of nothing more than opening a bottle and pouring it. Occasionally this might involve stirring in a few extra ingredients–and sure–there are even bitters you could buy. But there was something very satisfying about the process; in the interaction with all the individual ingredients, in the ultimate unification of those flavors. There was something satisfying in the wait. Alcohol is one of those things that can take longer than anything to get right. We buy liquors that have been waiting for years, heck, decades to taste just right, then we sip them and they’re gone.

This kit represents the process, the time, the care that goes into a good drink. This probably won’t change my lineup of standby drinks or undying love of a good straight Scotch, but it was an interesting ride, I learned a bit, and I have something new to taste along with some of my old favorites. Nah, I ain’t bitter.

Design

Summer Cocktail Inspiration

June 7, 2013

After hibernating all winter I get excited for summer and opening my home to friends. I always find entertaining in warmer weather is so much easier. I can keep food simple and light. Decorating is as simple as putting out some flowers and pulling back the curtains. And I always have so much fun mixing drinks for my guests – chilling some beer and wine and setting out a festive cocktail in a vintage pitcher. This summer I plan on getting fancy with ingredients and have really been inspired by three elements – gin, flowers, and fruit. (Yes, I’ve been on Pinterest. Don’t judge.)

Gin
I’m not usually one for hard-liquor but I love ordering a gin cocktail when a glass of wine is uncool. It’s so old-fashioned and kind of classy, and there are really exciting new ways to spruce up some gin. Its juniper flavor blends well with a variety of fruits and botanicals.

Without question, my favorite drink on a sunny summer afternoon is a Pimm’s Cup stuffed with cucumbers, oranges, and mint leaves. A classic Pimm’s Cup recipe calls for gin, and this Smitten Kitchen recipe is speaking my language.

It’s easy to combine fruit and herbs in a gin cocktail. It might sounds strange, but trust me – delish! You can even get a little crazy and use kumquats like in this recipe for a Citrus Rosemary cocktail on Ruffled.

Still in the mood for a plain old gin & tonic? There’s nothing boring about this boozy sorbet recipe by Peter Georgakopoulos on The Boys Club.

Heck, the DIYer in me might even take to making my own gin this summer!

Florals
Flowers. In your drink. On your table, in your hair, and yes, in your drink. Floral flavors are becoming increasingly popular as French macarons make their rounds and it was only a matter of time until they were mulled and infused in simple syrups and mixed into our drinks.

This Raspberry Rose Fizz by Joy the Baker is almost too pretty to drink. Almost.

This video of Bree from Design.Love.Fest makes me want to run out and get a bottle of crème de violette to recreate this lemon violet drink.

Fruit
This one is a no-brainer. Summer is ripe with citrus, berries, and melons and any drink would be remiss without one. But think beyond the garnish and incorporate fruit within your drinks for a refreshing treat.

Sangria is always popular, and my personal favorite is a white blend with tart Granny Smith apple chunks and citrus. But my girl Martha (we’re old friends) makes hers with summer peaches. Perfection.

Just like Picasso went through a Blue Period, I am at the height of my St Germain’s Period. It’s great in margaritas, martinis, or simply mixed with Prosecco and cucumber in this recipe from Zested.

And would it be summer without some sweet tea? This Mango and Sweet Tea cocktail by Emma of A Beautiful Mess is only missing one thing – a porch swing.

Head on over to our Wine, Beer, and Spirits Pinterest board for more bartending ideas. What are some of your favorite summer cocktails?

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: The Perfect Wingman

October 29, 2012

Let’s just say I’m a bar guy. Want to see my friends? I go to a bar. Want to watch a baseball game? Bar. Play Jenga? Well, you get the idea. But, how do you stay lubricated in between a barhop? With a flask!

Being a design-focused guy, however, made me very judgmental of most flasks. Your local liquor store usually has flasks that an ex-con named “Spyder” would appreciate. Not exactly my style. So, I’ve been on the lookout for a good flask for a very long time.

Research:

The flask was actually recommended to me by a friend of mine, Leah Bourne, editor at Stylecaster’s The Vivant, a luxury and lifestyle blog. I immediately took a liking to it. It’s not so obvious to say “hey, look at me! I’m a writer/photographer/owner of a free-range, grass-fed, localvore farm that offers free massages and tucks in each of its cattle individually each night.” But, it has some subtle humor with the wingman vibe.

Hypothesis:
As pouring liquor into a flask is not exactly rocket science, my hypothesis was more about social acceptability than function. So, the question to test is: will people think I’m a crazy loon when they see a bespectacled, nerdy-looking guy whipping out a flask in a bar, and on a successions of stoops in the stroller mecca called Park Slope? Will they think he is even loonier when he strikes up a conversation about data and statistics as he swigs from his flask full of bourbon?

Experiment:

Step 1: Fill the flask with Bulleit Bourbon.

Step 2: Meet Leah at Barbe’s, a local watering hole in Park Slope.

Step 3: Engage in a little stoop drinking.

Step 4: Have the flask take me to Talde, a restaurant and bar nearby. (Remember, as Seinfeld’s Kramer says, “I’m not going to Sardi’s, the Tony is taking me to Sardi’s.”)

Step 5: Break out the flask! It helped me supercharge a Moscow Mule.

Results:

The bartenders were remarkably tolerant of the flask! That was unexpected. And the stroller-chasers of Park Slope? Too busy replaying their Dora the Explorer videos in a desperate attempt to put the kids to bed to notice. However, the in-depth discussion of polynomial regressions did confuse a few passers-by.

Conclusion:
A big hit! The flask will be very useful for barhops/concerts/weddings/bar mitzvahs/Tuesday afternoons. It will especially help dull the pain of watching daytime TV when I wait for the doctor or dentist.

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