Saturday, April 22, 2017

Drinking your meal -- an introduction to food in cocktails

Milestones dipped its hands into the "Caesar
with a whole lot of crap on it," market.
Sadly, it is already off the menu!
The "Caesar with a whole bunch of crap on it" trend is beginning to wane -- the novelty is wearing off, and the competition to pair a Caesar up with the most ridiculous garnishes is not as trendy as it once was. Nevertheless, Caesars are still Canada's staple cocktail (although, I have complained about that at length.) One of the takeaways from this trend could perhaps be novelty of solid food in cocktails. Without further ado, this article will be yet another vague response to novel trends!

Caesars are not the only drink to commonly feature solid food particles. There are of course, the two very obvious classics; the Martini and the Manhattan, both of which are commonly garnished with edible food. There is also a tendency to put intricate lemon, orange or lime twists on the rim, or directly into the glass. While not edible per se, they are still solid food particles which alter the quality of the drink. However, I won't discuss these zesty twists TOO much here, simply because I to focus more on edible solids in this article.
A dirty Martini. I gotta be real with you.
I'm not a fan of dirty Martinis. However,
I had a lot of fun making a little
asparagus raft on this one!

Being that I'm not really a fan of dirty Martinis, I would shy away from them in the first place. However, drinks of this quality that feature olive or pickle juice do give the opportunity to get a little bit creative in the same way that you would with a Caesar; ie. loading it up with pickled goodies. This is great for the type of people who drink dirty Martinis -- they generally aren't connoisseurs of spirit, which is why they want to mix it down with the olive juice in the first place. While they obviously do have a certain level of appreciation that falls somewhere closer to the "most interesting Man in the world" end of the spectrum, there is an indication that they would appreciate fancy garnishes.

Fruity cocktails also give a good opportunity to add edible foods; namely fruit! I've seen drinks garnished with almost any kind of fruit you can imagine. Seriously, even a lot of those esoteric ones (although, I've yet to see a durian or jackfruit cocktail....) Strawberries, lychee, and orange are all easy options to include in fruit flavored cocktails. But really, if you tend towards more exotic fruits like Dragonfruit, Starfruit, or Papaya, you can generally create a more unique cocktail, and also get practice pairing with more uncommon flavors.

Love the addition of Lychee, in this
Lychee '75.

There are quite a bit more things you can do with food in cocktails too. A common trend a few years ago was to mix foods into different syrups, which had quickly evolved into the infusion of solid foods in spirits. For the last year or so, using solid food directly in the cocktails has really taken off though. While I've only briefly touched on the topic in this article, there is really quite a bit to talk about on this subject, and there will be future articles about different ways to incorporate solid foods in your drinks.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Learning From Asian Non-Alc Drinks and Mocktails

My Icy Berry Cocktail. Exploding with
a molecular Port foam.
It's no small secret that I'm somewhat of a sinophile -- everyone around me knows it, and most people familiar with my writing or online work know about it too. I'm always looking for ways to integrate what I like about Far Eastern cultures with what I like about the west. The countries of the Far East have a fairly broad non-alc beverage culture, which we simply don't experience to the same degree here in North America. With the exception of course, of Asian bubble tea cafes, or similar. While we do have a fairly strong coffee and tea culture, we simply do not experience the broadness of variety that Asian cafes do.

A pitcher of watermelon flavored cocktail, served
in at a Japanese Izakaya restaurant in Vancouver, called Suika.
Mocktails at most western restaurants are fairly limited as well -- virgin Caesars, virgin Mojitos, virgin Coladas, and Shirley Temples. My opinion about many of these drinks is already littered all over this blog, but perhaps I have been just a little bit too harsh. They are all attempting to emulate the experience of cocktailing, but just happen to mostly fail miserably at it. Of course, my point of contention has always partially been the over the top fruitiness or lack of depth created by alcohol -- that alcohol free drinks should not be created as just the same thing minus the booze. That last point is also why I've gone through quite a bit of trial and error to craft different types of alcohol free mojitos, that stand on their own, or have a distinct character separate from a real Mojito.
Some kind of 'Lattea' something or other, at the
Taiwanese Pearl Castle Cafe in Burnaby, British Columbia.
The foam layer is quite thick, and rich.

There are a few dimensions to these Asian drinks that I try to emulate from time to time:

  • The inclusion of solid ingredients, such as tapioca, grass jelly or barley.
  • The mixing of nonstandard ingredients, such as coffee and tea.
  • The coordination of bright or contrasting colours, with exploding garnishes.

As somewhat of a classicists, or prohibition cocktail snob, these points can be a bit of a hassle for me to wrap my head around. Nevertheless I have done quite a bit of experimenting in the realms of mixology and molecular gastronomy, with an eye toward Asian styles. What I've been having even more trouble with is trying to hybridize classic cocktail styles with the above principles.

Oolong Milk Tea with Grass Jelly, from Mr. Mustache in
Vancouver. In the words of Trump, "The Best!"

I would also like to take a step back from trying to emulate those points in proper cocktails, and return to mocktails. Mocktails are often boring, bland, or at best two dimensional. There is a lot to be learned from the multi-dimensionality of the bubble tea culture. Perhaps that last statement will make some laugh, however, I think it holds true.

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