Luck was on my side last weekend when a friend offered two tickets to the San Francisco Food and Wine festival. The festival, a culinary celebration of Bay Area flavors, offered three days of food and wine tasting plus demonstrations on a variety of topics. One demonstration, Molecular Cocktails sounded intriguing enough to pull me away from the food pavilion and trek to the E&O Trading Company.
Progressive mixology or molecular mixology presented by Claire Smith of Belvedere Vodka combines an appreciation of classic cocktails with the availability of hydrocolloids to create new taste and textural sensations. You are probably more familiar with hydrocolloids in foods (think “foams”) which have been popular in recent years with many chefs.
Hydrocolloids are natural or artificial substances which affect texture and viscosity in food. Examples are agar (seaweed) or lecithin (soy or egg based) and gelatin. Add them to cocktails along with a little imagination for a new twist on some of your old standards. Here are a few highlights from the Belvedere class:
- We used a small travel sized milk frother with a lecithin mixture containing fruit juice and liquer to turn it into a foam. The foam was spooned over the top of Vodka and Vermouth for a new twist on the traditional Manhattan
- Mixed a blood orange and vodka concoction in a hollowed-out block of dry ice to create a very tasty and unique sorbet. Yum.
- Tasted a Bloody Mary gel reduction spooned into a green zebra tomato (the premise was to make it look like a tiny watermelon). Very unique, very interesting.
Although it’s probably easier to visit your favorite local bar to try out a molecular manhattan or other cocktail variation, here’s a recipe from the Belvedere class handout. Belvedere Orange Manhattan with maraschino air
- 2 oz Belvedere Orange
- ½ oz Noilly Prat
- ¾ Noilly Prat Rouge
Stir the above with cubed ice with the maraschino air on top. Serve in small martini glasses. Maraschino air
- 1 part maraschino liqueur
- 2 tablespoons lecithin
- 4 oz maraschino juice
Hint: try using powdered egg white and water with a milk frother for the foam. Add some maraschino syrup for sweetness and color then pour over the top of vodka and orange juice for a beautiful take on the traditional screwdriver (this is the drink in the picture) Tasty! Finally, despite the very cool nature of her title (who wouldn’t want to be called the "Head of Spirit & Mixology") Claire Smith summed it up well. “I sell fun”. And this class was a great example of that statement!