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Update

Long time, no post. It’s not because I don’t love you though. Thought I’d drop a little update.

Lately the Happy Camper Bar Car is taking up a lot of my time. We are doing the cocktails for the Cleveland Flea, Sunday Market, and a couple one-off street festivals.  As near as I can tell we sold at least 1,000 Mules last weekend at the Flea, and expect to do even more at a couple other events. We’ve also got a few weddings booked, and a couple events without the camper. It’s going to be a busy summer!

I’ve also got the Cocktail Calculator on its own site. After it went down (because Google shut down the service it was running on, Divshot) it was gone for a bit. I got a surprising number of Reddit messages asking where it went, so I brought it back. I’m preparing to pay a programmer to make it a lot better too with some new features. I intend to keep it free as well.

I’m working on a book on batching cocktails. It’s great because I’m writing it as I go along. I’ve already got a bit of experience doing high-volume events, and let me tell you, the price of any normal book is 1% of what it’ll save you in equipment costs, time, and anguish. Had I had the book I was writing and paid $1,000 for it, I’d have still had a good ROI. (And of course, it’ll be normal book prices.) I’ll be including a few of my best recipes.

I’m debating shopping around for a publisher. That’d give me a budget to do stunning photography, something I can’t do myself. While the book doesn’t require it, per se, it’d be helpful in some spots. Pictures of the parts of a corny keg are worth more than their thousands of words.

Lastly but not leastly, I’m also working on a store to sell some of the stuff I make for my own batched cocktails. My lemon and lime replacements, for instance. I can sell them relatively affordably and highly concentrated. I’ll probably size them for 5 gallon keg batches, though of course with a measuring cup you could use them for other batch sizes. If I succeed, the recipe for a whiskey sour will be something like add 1 bottle of fake lemon, x pounds of sugar, y gallons of water, z bottles of whiskey, shake and carbonate.

I’ve got a few other products I use on a regular basis to make good things by the gallon. Some are for batched cocktails specifically, some are just for whatever. All of them are going to go on sale. I’ll have more details soon.

 

Cider

I’ve recently gotten into fermenting cider. I’ve always loved cider, and always loved fermenting things. But for some reason I’ve always looked at hard cider as sort of a gimmicky drink for girls who don’t like beer. And then I tried a few good ones that changed my mind. We’ve got a great local cider maker (cidery?) called Griffin Ciderworks that does a few exceptional ones.

So I fermented about 12 gallons of the stuff, bought from a local orchard, in my homemade fermenter (i.e. a trashcan with an airlock). It didn’t end up airtight, even after copious amounts of shrink wrap, but the cider was pasteurized in advance (no preservatives) and I’d been careful about sanitation and pitched it with a solid amount of yeast so it all went well. It started at almost 16 brix and after a week it was at about 9% alcohol. I racked it from one container to the next and then used Pectinex Ultra-SPL to clarify it. From everything I’ve read about normal pectinase enzymes it’s supposed to take days or even a week or two to clarify, but with Pectinex all the solids had settled out in a day. I was able to rack it off with ease.

The favor of unaltered cider is interesting. There’s none of the sugar left, as the yeast consumes it all, so it’s tart. It’s not your normal apple flavor though, which is probably why they so often add malic acid to them.

While it’s drinkable straight, it’s not what I’d call delicious. It needs something. It needs a little sugar and maybe a little brightness.

As a result I’m playing around with different recipes. I’m toying with various acids (malic, lactic, etc.) and sugars. I’m toying with force carbonating. I also want to make a cocktail for my family party this weekend, probably a cranberry gin justino with fresh cranberry, cider, and brown sugar.

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So far after extensive testing I’ve come to the following conclusions.

  1. Some sort of sugar is useful. All of it was fermented out and the result, while palatable, needs a little bit of a bass note. Options I’ve tried so far are cane sugar, brown sugar, honey, and concentrated apple cider (the frozen stuff you get at the store) which I think is my preference so far.
  2. Some sort of acid is also quite delicious. I am guessing given the relatively high starting sugar content of the cider I purchased it had little acidity. This might not be true using different apples. So far I like malic, but once I get the level dialed in (and 1g/200ml is too high but better than none at all) I’ll play around with different options more.

Modernist Rosemary Collins

A couple months ago I posted my recipe for a Rosemary Collins. It was basically a Tom Collins that used a rosemary simple syrup instead of the usual plain one. I mentioned in the post that it’d probably make a great modernist drink, and this weekend I decided to test it out.

First I had to clarify the lemon juice. I wasn’t in a hurry (I had a few hours) but I had a lot of things to do and didn’t have the time to devote to agar clarification so I decided to try Pectinex, Kieselsol/Chitosan, and racking/filtering. I’d done that before with lime juice. It does work, it’s just low-yield and requires you to burn through a lot of Chemex filters.

The process is pretty simple really.

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1. Juice your lemons. I juiced 8 and came up with about 600ml of juice.

2. Stir in 2 grams per liter of both Pectinex and Kieselsol. (So in this case, about 1.2 grams of each.) Wait 15 minutes.

3. Stir in 2 grams per liter of Chitosan. Wait 15 minutes. You can see some separation is already occurring.

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4. Stir in more Kieselsol, still at 2g/l. At this point I went and did some lawn work and came back maybe a half hour later. It had separated pretty well.

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This is the point at which you wish you had a centrifuge. I could see how you’d get a massive yield out of it. But I don’t so I filter through a Chemex.

5. Wet your Chemex filter. Pour about 200ml through. You’ll see a slow, steady stream at first, followed by some dripping, followed by almost complete blockage. At that point you can pick the filter up and massage it a little. It will speed back up. Eventually it will get so blocked that even this no longer helps, just pour what’s left back into the beaker and start again with a new filter.

At the end it looks like:

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(Clarified on left, obviously, some of the unclarified on right. You can’t really see the Chemex filtering still more in the background.)

My 600ml of lemon juice came out to about 400ml of clarified. I only needed about 250ml for the cocktail I was working on, so I guess I got a little extra.

Then I put the cocktail together. It was:

250ml clarified lemon

250ml rosemary simple syrup

500ml vodka (it was for a party and I didn’t know if they’d be gin people)

500ml filtered water

This gives us a final ABV of about 13%.

I put it all in a 2 liter bottle and carbonated to 40 PSI. Usually I’d have done this with gin, and served over the rocks in a Collins glass with a sprig for garnish. But this was for a party and we were drinking out of red Solo cups straight. (Sorry, no pics of the final drink as a result.)

It was quite awesome. Everyone seemed to love it. I’d done basically the same cocktail a couple years ago, when I knew how to carbonate things but not how to clarify, and it tasted good but foamed out and ended up flat. It’s much better for the extra bubbliness you get from clarifying and is a great example of why you shouldn’t try to carbonate unclarified juices.