Archive for the ‘Infusion & Maceration’ Category

As per usual, I’ll be starting this post with a perennial apology for the lack of entry, which will probably be about a month by the time this goes live. However, this may well be my last apology. Not that this blog will cease to exist, though my living arrangements as of next month are uncertain, I’m (still) getting emergency taxed on my pay (meaning less money to spend on booze and what not), which means an uncertainty of postings with regards to booze and other fun stuff. Coupled with the fact that I recently turned 25 without any real form a of celebration, visited the Bols academy in Amsterdam (and a bottle of five year-old Bokma to boot) and received some new tattoo work, it’s fair to say that I’ve definitely not been partying and drinking all the time


All 36 Bols liqueurs. Seriously

However, while that last statement may well be a massive fib, the future is looking very bright. Despite waiting for my first shipment of free booze to review – big corporate booze companies take note of this – here at Bramble Bar & Lounge things have been getting off the ground with regards to a new menu and new drinks, albeit slowly.

But it doesn’t stop there. Bramble owners Mike and Jas have also come into possession of a vacuum packer, a device usually used within the food industry, but, according to old Bramble legend Ryan Chetiyawardana, can be used to fuse ingredients together in the form of botanicals, flavours and a base liquid (Ryan told us it was his current ‘best friend’).

Quite possibly the most exciting concept of them all, however, is that I’ve been given the opportunity to get to grips with a piece of machinery called a Rotary Evaporator – more commonly known as a ‘Rotovap (although there is actually a patented company out there called ‘Rotovap)’ which is both a) the most scientific thing I’ve ever used or been involved in and b) can create possibly an infinite amount of flavour concepts and fusions; check out videos here and here). With this latter piece of equipment, I’ve included a picture nicked from some sight after a very quick google search, although it probably came from the Cooking Issues website (which is definitely something you should read, especially here).


You need more than D at GCSE level to even understand how this thing works.

In the same way that the presence of Robocop on the streets of Detroit was greeted with suspicion by phoney newsreaders in the film of the same name, I bet you’re thinking these three questions; What is a rotovap? What does it do? Where did it come from?


Definitely not Robocop.

These questions will hopefully be answered over time when it is utilized more. As the machine becomes used in gastronomic affairs and ‘food tech’ environments – think Heston Blumenthal you’re not really far away – the crossover into drinks is pretty much inevitable. What stops from being a craze that’ll catch on, however, is the fact that they cost about $10,000, give or take a grand (parts are also very expensive). The fact that 69 Coolbrook Row in London have one of these pieces of kit speaks for itself. Coupled with the fact that I got a D-grade GCSE at school, as well as generally hating science, and you get the idea.

In short, the rotovap separates certain compounds within a liquid by reducing the pressure within an atmosphere (usually a flask that is sealed to create a vacuum), reducing the boiling point of the liquid in question. The flask is then lowered into a ‘heated bath’, a fancy term used which basically means a tub of water heated up to a temperature of your choice depending on what is to be separated from the liquid inside the flask. Confused? Though so. Although if you refer back to the Cooking Issues website, some of the examples of what they can do with booze will give you an idea to the possibilities and potential of what it can do.

While future concepts and ideas may creep up on this blog at some point in the future, a new blog-slash-website will be created solely for the purpose of reporting what goes within the chambers of the rotovap, simply so there’s a single-subject dedication to said project, which will hopefully involve fellow bartending friends.

Thanks for reading.


Read Full Post »

The idea of making a home made Rock’n’rye whisky liqueur has been something I’ve been looking at doing for a while, but never got round to. Call it procrastination, laziness, or being broke. In face, call it three. I’m cool with that.

Charles Jacquin et Cle is America’s oldest producer of cordials, and has a good range of liqueurs and spirits, amongst other things. They’ve been in business since the end of the 19th century, though their Jacquin’s rock’n’rye whisky liqueur didn’t come out until 1930’s post-prohibition America.

Rock and rye can easily be made at home – indeed, recipes can be found from numerous places, including The Gentlemen’s Companion by one Jr. Charles H. Baker (if you don’t have this book, no worries; the recipe is printed in the back of David Wonderich’s Imbibe! ).

However – and this is where the argument comes in – to make home-made rock’n’rye, one must buy rye whisky. In Newcastle, this is not particularly easy. Websites such as this one and this one both sell Rittenhouse 100 proof, the usual go to for rye based maceration. This, however, can cost upwards of £30 after VAT, if not more, and that’s even before delivery. It’s also insanely hard to get hold of in the UK.

Conversely, Laphroaig is definitely not rare, and nor is it expensive (they’ve recently had on offer in Fenwicks for the Quarter Cask expression at a bargain price of £24.50, though as of day, they have none left, because I bought the last two bottles). While I wouldn’t go out and buy any whisky willy nilly, especially a single malt to use as a maceration subject, what I would do is spend an amount of money that’s equal to a bottle of rye on an easy-to-find whisky, that is both inexpensive and accessible. To boot, the idea of recreating a medicinal-style whisky liqueur with a smokey and iodine-based nose and taste profile is something I jumped at the chance of doing.

If truth be told, I would like to have carried out such a concept on Ardbeg, simply because I rate this whisky over Laphroaig. Conversely, however, Ardebeg is pricey, and there’s no way I would go out and buy a bottle of the stuff to macerate instead of having it to sit on my shelf to drink. With Laphroaig Quarter Cask, however, the opportunity for a cheap, 48% ABV, Islay-based whisky was too good to pass up, especially for an experiment such as this.

What follows is a trial recipe, aimed at replicating a similar flavour profile of rock and rye with the added intensity of smoke and peat.

Laphroaig Maceration Recipe

  • 350ml Laphroaig Quarter Cask
  • Quarter of one lemon, cut into chunks
  • Quarter of one orange, cut into chunks
  • 2 Cinnamon sticks, unbroken
  • 2 Star Anise, unbroken
  • 4 Allspice, whole
  • 1 quarter of vanilla pod, split open
  • 4 sticks of Coltsfoot

Add all ingredients to a parfait jar and seal for two weeks. Strain liquid into a glass bottle and seal.

There are, however, one or two problems I saw with the above once I’d added said ingredients to the jar. These include:

  • The fruit. It may not work well with a smokey profile, and generally mess the whole concept up.
  • Coltsfoot. This was used instead of rock candy. Despite going to a local sweet shop, they weirdly sold Coltsfoot, (which is a cough-suppressing confectionary), yet didn’t sell rock candy. Coltsfoot are sticks of brittle rock made from a plant that comes from the Asteraceae plant family, and is about as English as fish and chips. While the flavours of Coltsfoot would probably be more beneficial to what I’m doing, the sugar content is lower than that of rock candy. It will also dissolve quicker. This may be a good thing in terms of not busting up the original Islay-profile of the whisky, but the ingredients currently resting may not have a natural sweetening agent to latch onto (the fruit offers numerous flavour sensations, not all of which would be directly suitable to compliment a better-than-average flavour).
  • Measurements. While because I didn’t want to use a whole bottle of whisky, I decreased some of the flavour elements – the lemon and orange being the most notable – but not some of the others. This was so some of the more herbaceous and earthy flavours can stand up to the smoke. Would it have been better to use the fundamental advice in the aforementioned book but reduce maceration time? Who knows. I’ll let you know in two weeks.

The concepts of bubble-gum infused vodka and the candy-macerated spirits irritates me. It doesn’t push a new kind of cocktail making and flavour enhancing; what it does do is pamper to the sweet tooth of a drinking culture that think it’s a new fad because it employs an old technique which is starting to see a revival along late 20th Century and 21st Century flavourology and drink orientated concepts such degustations, deconstructions and molecular mixology. Maceration isn’t anything new. Look at sloe gin or certain herbal liqueurs, for example.

Two weeks from now, the maceration will be complete. Maybe it’ll take less time. I’ll keep check. And if it turns out crap, while I won’t be churning out numerous home made trials of the stuff, a spice-based maceration without the fruit and sweetener could well be on the cards.

As my Australian friend and bar tending buddy Kal Moore once said, there’s no smoke without fire. I don’t really no what this refers to at the end of the day, but let’s hope I strike it lucky with the first time rock’n’smoke.

Read Full Post »