Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blogging Tales of the Cocktail 2009 post Tales: Day 2

So I got back and I've finally recovered and got some time gather my thoughts on Tales. They really shouldn't end Tales on a Sunday just for the people who have to head back to regular 9-5 jobs after the whole, but I digress.

July 9

Some seminar highlights worth mentioning:

"Mixologists and Their Toys"
Moderator: Erin Williams, Cointreau brand ambassador
Panelists: Don Lee, PDT; Evan Wallace; Xavier Herit, Daniel; Fernando Castellon

This seminar was packed. Don quickly demonstrated his atomizer stencils (previous mention), then peaced out to go back to work with the apprentices. For anyone interested to in making their own stencil laser cutting, check out to get the files necessary for the PDT logo stencil to try out. The little lines you see breaking up the logo are little bits of plastic necessary in the stencil to hold it together, so Don advised that the more complicated the image, the harder it would be to make it look good AND have it all in one piece on one stencil.

Fernando Castellon and Xavier Herit both talked about spherification.

"Everything you see, you must taste it...quality should be first, looks second," Fernando said about using new mad scientist techniques for cocktails, before going on to show off the Cointreau caviar he created when Cointreau approached him to make a cocktail with gold inside for Cannes.

Just looking at the set up on the table like beakers and magnet stirrers, you could tell how crazy scientific things were going to get.

Fernando made sure to tell those attending, "Everything you see you must taste it...quality should be first, looks second."

Using a gelifier that reacts to a calcium bath, Fernando made his spheres that he explained were more capsule like with a sort of burst of flavor/liquid in the middle.

Water, juices, any liquid works well as long as the ph isn't too low, but gelifier doesn't mix too well with liqueur or spirits. So, he mixed a gelifier (sodium alginate) with water, but also mixed it with maltrodextrin to help with the texture. He then mixed that mixture (one part sodium alginate to 3 parts maltodextrin) using a magnetic stirrer adding the gelifier powder mixture little by little to not make clumps, and added the Cointreau and gold flakes (obviously, edible 24 karat gold flakes) right before making the spheres.

While calcium chloride has been used plenty of times for this type of process for the calcium bath, Fernando said he found calcium chloride to be a bit aggressive as well as leaving an aftertaste, so instead he prefers to use calcium lactate.

One protip Fernando offered was that using a syringe to make spheres causes a small problem. The first liquid you drop into the calcium bath is going to sit in the bath longer than the last drop, becoming harder and harder. Also, it's a little time consuming when you have to make a whole bunch, so he found out that he could make a whole bunch by putting the liquid into a pearl dispenser, or in layman's terms, a parmesan cheese dispenser. The if you mixed the gelifiers properly, the liquid should be thick enough (and not clumpy) for droplets to rain into spherification ready droplets out of the cheese dispenser's holes.

Next was Xavier Herit, head bartender at restaurant Daniel here in NYC. He was also showing off the strawberry pearls he makes over at Daniel used in the Strawberry and Pearls, which is a strawberry margarita served with the pearls.

On thing that stood out to me about what Daniel was saying was his enthusiastic announcement that, "I'm here to show you that you can do it."

Xavier began serving the pearls a year ago, and he's been able to serve this product in an actual working bar. Daniel also added that it definitely helped with garnering attention as well as publicity for the bar.

"People would say, 'Oh, did you see the bartender with the syringe?'"

"Chemistry of Cocktails (How Alcohol Works and Its Implications for Mixology)"
Melkon Khosrovian, Modern Spirits

I think the most interesting bit I got out of this, and I think several other people from the seminar would agree with me, is the role of the proof of a beverage and the fat content of the food when it comes to pairings.

I have to admit, I'd never personally given that much thought when it came to cocktail and food pairing situations.

I mean, yes, things like flavor, portion, temperature and the complexity of flavors make a difference as well, as Melkon explained, but some people forget to think of proof.

The fact is that the higher to proof, the better the drink is at cleansing the palate of fatty foods. Melkon explained in depth about how fat is hydrophobic, so it repels water. Wine usually does not have enough alcohol to absorb and cleanse the mouth of some fattier foods.

To illustrate that point, everyone got a bit of cheesecake with two small glasses, one was just vodka, and another diluted. In a side by side comparison, I could tell that the full strength vodka definitely cleared up the mouth almost like an astringent to an oily teenager's face.