Monday, October 10th, 2011
I guess I’m getting old. I don’t say this because my fortieth birthday is approaching like a speeding bullet, but this: I know that cocktail carbonation is the hot new thing right now, but if someone hands me another carbonated Manhattan I’m going to cry into it, I swear.
Believe me, I’m all for innovation in this little business of ours. I mean, crap, I’ve made quite a name for myself capitalizing on it. But just as I don’t think we need to run around barrel-aging every god damn liquid out there, I fail to see the longevity of a glass of carbonated Barolo, and I’ll be damned if I want my Sazerac full of bubbles.
That said, there’s nothing like a little fizz on the tongue. I’ve always been enamoured with the sorts of long drinks you find in European cafes: the Americano, the Aperol Spritz, and the Bicyclette. These afternoon refreshers share a common structure of a low-alcohol bitter base, a measure of fortified wine, some citrus oil, and a sparkling component for length. They’re light, palate cleansers, appetite awakeners, and thirst quenchers. God damn they’re delicious.
What if… okay, what if we could take a café cocktail, which traditionally relies on just a splash of sparkling water or wine for its fizz, and carbonate the whole thing: base spirit, modifier, lengthener, garnish and all? And what if we could keep it bottled and perfectly chilled to control dilution by omitting the ice? Now that, my friends, might be a reasonable use of a carbonator.
Born from the Jerry Thomas era and inspired by a brown-bagged Pisco and fruit juice variation I tried at Aviary in Chicago last month, the bottled sparkling café cocktails we’re currently serving at Clyde Common are tailor-made for our particular beverage program. There are benefits from a service standpoint to the pre-bottled cocktail, of course, but we also have some very specific reasons why these café coolers work well in this carbonated format.
- They are, essentially, spirit-driven, so there is no need to worry about spoilage.
- The entire drink is carbonated, providing a more complete experience than simply adding a sparkling finish as one would do when building these drinks à la minute.
- And the whole bottle is pre-chilled, eliminating the need for ice and maintaining perfect dilution from beginning to end.
Anyway, there’s the reasoning behind it, let’s begin:
You’re going to need some equipment to get started here, the primary piece of equipment being a carbonator. At at home and in my bar, I use a very inexpensive carbonator called the iSi Twist ’n’ Sparkle (it’s like $35 on Amazon). Next you’re going to need some empty bottles (we use clear 187 ml Champagne bottles at my bar, check your local homebrew shop for other options, just make sure they’re crown-cappable), a bottle capper, and some bottle caps.
The Twist ‘n’ Sparkle will carbonate three cups of cocktail at a time, so use this basic formula for three cups of Americano:
Bottled Carbonated Americano
6 oz sweet vermouth (something drier than Carpano; think Cinzano, Dolin Rouge or Martini and Rossi here)
4.5 oz Campari
13.5 oz water
1 orange, peeled with a vegetable peeler, zests squeezed into the mixture to express the oils
Carbon dioxide is much more soluble in cold liquid than warm, so you’ll need to get this mixture cold. I typically make a batch a day ahead of time, and then store it in the fridge. Your call.
Fill the carbonator and carbonate according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once it’s done doing its business, you’re going to need to fill some bottles, and rather quickly before the carbonation dissipates.
I have a small funnel attached to a piece of plastic tubing that has been trimmed to fit my bottles’ height exactly. This is going to allow us to fill the bottles from the bottom, and avoid a big, bubbly, heady mess (those bubbles mean carbon dioxide is escaping your solution). Slowly fill each bottle and cap using your handy bottle capper.
We serve these drinks to our guests in the bottle, with no glass or ice alongside. I think a fun part of the experience is sipping them directly from the bottle, enjoying the maximum amount of fizz as the drink hits your tongue and releases its bubbles. It’s playful, it’s whimsical, sessionable, drinkable, and fun. And, as you can see from the video below by our friends at Small Screen Network, it’s easy.