Tag Archives: modernist

The Pink Hornet

A month or so ago, inspired by a trip to the farmer’s market, I wanted to make some strawberry rhubarb gin. I decided to do a poor man’s justino. Since my dad didn’t love me enough to be an Arab sheik and create me a billion dollar trust fund with which to buy centrifuges, I have to do it on the countertop. I’ve mentioned it here before but I’m lazy and have been drinking so the basic process is as follows:

1. Blend together your liquor, fruit, and Pectinex enzyme, just like you would any justino.

2. Because your parents didn’t love you enough to bequeath you centrifuge money, leave the result sitting on your countertop until they separate.

3. Pour through coffee filters, all the while cursing your dad. It’ll take you a few as they clog quickly. It helps if you carefully first pour through the clear top stuff. It’ll go right through. When you get to the cloudy part, strain through a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer. That’ll save you a little time, but not as much as if your dad started an oil company instead of working for the post office.

In this case, I used strawberry and rhubarb with Beefeater gin. (I used 200g of each fruit to 750ml of Beefeater). I first sous vide cooked the rhubarb at 61C/142F for an hour. Then I blended them all together. I forgot about the mix for a couple weeks, but it’s high enough alcohol that it doesn’t matter.

After tasting I decided to add in some Boy Drinks World Serrano Cocktail Spice I had picked up at Tales of the Cocktail. Man I love a good bitters. Or in this case maybe a tincture? Whatever it is, it’s fucking fantastic.

Final recipe:

The Pink Hornet*

2 oz. strawberry rhubarb gin

1 oz. lemon juice

1 oz. simple syrup (1:1, by weight)

1.5 droppers (about 3 dashes) of Boy Drinks World Serrano Cocktail Spice

Shake and strain, my friend. Shake and strain. Or get your dad to do it for you. It’s the least he can do.

Strawberry Rhubarb Gin Poor Man’s Justino

200g hulled strawberries (so maybe 225g before)

200g rhubarb

750ml Beefeater Gin

3g Pectinex Ultra-SPL

Cut the rhubarb into 1/2” chunks and arrange into a single layer in Ziploc or vacuum bag. Cook in immersion circulator at 61C/142F for an hour until tender. (If you don’t have a circulator, you could probably just use a simmering pot of water over low heat.)

Blend everything together and set in a round jar to separate. You’ll see the mixture separate a little more every day for a few days, then it will remain pretty static. Once it stops coming apart you’re good to go.

Carefully pour the clear liquid off the top through a Chemex filter. For the rest (the bulk of it) strain through a fine mesh strainer, then through a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer, then finally through Chemex filters.

(If you don’t want to do a justino, you could probably do either a rapid infusion with an ISI, or an old-school infusion by just soaking the fruit in the booze, but you won’t get the flavor intensity and sparkling clarity of a justino.)

*As I was making it, my friend got stung by a hornet so big it could be Godzilla’s enemy in the next movie. Hence the name.

Force Carbonated Paloma #1

I often, when developing my own recipes, go through many attempts to get one right. This is a new series on one I am working on. You’ll get to see them in progress as I try to achieve perfection.

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Let me put this out there right off the bat: I fucking love palomas. They’re among the simplest of cocktails (tequila and grapefruit soda with a lime) and the tastiest. They please serious cocktail lovers and your average 11 p.m. barfly equally. Women love them. Men love them. They’re the Tom Hanks of cocktails. I don’t know why there isn’t one on every cocktail menu.

So one of the things I’ve been meaning to do with my newfound modernist toolkit is make a bad-ass paloma. Clarification and carbonation skills are really about all you need, and both of those are quite simple in this case. Grapefruit is pretty easy to clarify for a citrus. (See my Gin and Juice post for instructions.) It’s also great for batching, especially in a carbonated drink, because it doesn’t degrade like other citrus fruits. I’ve stored a gin and grapefruit juice with it for a week and it was perfectly fine. Dave Arnold says it even freezes well.

Making the soda myself should yield a much higher quality drink than simply buying Fresca, Jarritos, or what have you. While not bad, even the best commercial brands still don’t taste quite like fresh grapefruit. You also can’t really mix the ingredients without flattening the carbonation a bit, and most store-bought beverages aren’t bubbly enough for my taste to begin with. Using modernist techniques I should be able to get a bubblier, better tasting drink than anything you can get otherwise.

The process was pretty straightforward. I had some agar-clarified grapefruit juice leftover from my holiday party gin and juice. So I took a shot at my own paloma.

I wanted to try out acid phosphate, and I’m glad I did. I love this stuff! It adds a little brightness without the bitterness inherent to acids like lime and lemon. I might try mixing in a tiny amount of malic acid next time.

Here’s the first take on the recipe.

Paloma #1

12 oz. agar-clarified grapefruit juice

2 oz. agave nectar

4 oz. Tequila (I used Olmecca Altos Reposado)

6 oz. water

1 oz. Aperol

1 dropper saline solution

12 drops acid phosphate

Mix, chill, carbonate, serve in Collins glass with lime wedge and straw. Makes about 4 glasses. (I expected two but wasn’t accounting for how much ice is in a Collins glass).


1. Might want to add a little clarified lime juice next time. This is one of the hardest things to do at home, since quick agar clarification without a centrifuge is a huge pain in the ass. I need to invest in a salad spinner anyway, since I want to do every Liquid Intelligence recipe for this blog and that’s one of them. I’m not sure it’s necessary; the acid phosphate is quite good at providing a little more tartness to the grapefruit juice. But it’d be good to try. Just having the drinker squeeze the wedge in worked fine though.

2. Might want to use a Blanco tequila next time. (Or maybe chitosan/gellan wash the Reposado? Would that give you a better flavor with a clearer color?) The initial coloration was an unappealing brown since the grapefruit juice is nearly clear. I added the Aperol for both color and flavor (I love the way it pairs with grapefruit) and I love the flavor, but the color is still not quite there. May have to swap out the agave nectar for fructose for the same reason. I’m not sure I would have felt the need to add the Aperol if I had used a Blanco, but I’m glad I did and will probably keep it.

3. I need to get a better measurement system for the acid phosphate. I think I should scale it. I love what it did for the flavor for sure. But the drops that come out of the bottle seem widely variable. My guess is this is about 1/4 oz. in this one. I’ll do better on that score next time. ChefSteps recommends 0.05%-0.1% phosphoric acid (not exactly the same as acid phosphate, but close) so I’ll try that. I also might dial it up just a notch if I don’t add clari-lime. Before the lime wedge went in, the drink wasn’t quite balanced, though maybe I should just allow for the fact that the drinker is likely to squeeze in a lime regardless.

4. It tasted good, but needed more tequila. I think next time I’ll just omit the water. Carbonated drinks always taste overly-diluted before you bubble it, but I think I had done some math wrong. I was aiming for 15% ABV and ended up at 6%.

Next time I’ll try

8 oz tequila

12 oz clarified grapefruit

1 oz Aperol

2 oz Agave nectar

Christmas Cocktail: Cranberry Vodka Justino “Martini”

Those who know me know I’m not a vodka guy. I love liquor, so the idea of drinking something scientifically designed to taste as little like liquor as possible is just silly. But the entire world is not yet enlightened, and so vodka persists as the most popular base spirit in America. (Whiskey is closing the gap though.)

I’m throwing a family Christmas party, like I do every year, and I wanted to make a crowd pleaser for the people who won’t drink a Manhattan. So I decided to tech it out a little. I was in a grocery store and saw a bunch of fresh cranberries, and thought surely there’s a cocktail there somewhere.

So step number 1 was making cranberry vodka. I used Dave Arnold’s Justino method. I blended 750 ml of Sobieski (my vodka of choice, because it’s very cheap and very flavorless) with 250g of cranberries and 2 grams of Pectinex Ultra-SPL. I let that sit for a few days until it separated.


The cranberry puree actually floated mostly to the top, so I couldn’t rack it off like I could with the banana rum or pumpkin rye. I decided to just pour it through a coffee filter and hope the particles were large enough to not pass through.


Boom, it worked.


Next  up, what to do with it. The cranberry vodka that came out was very tart. (Not surprising if you’ve ever eaten a raw cranberry.) Since I had made it for my family, many of whom are the sort to ask for a “martini” and mean something sweet, colorful, and probably with vodka served out of a martini glass, I wanted to come up with something they’d enjoy that wouldn’t make me hate myself for serving.

If there’s one liqueur that’s sort of sweet and acts like bartender ketchup, it’s St. Germain. So I constructed a cocktail.

2 oz cranberry vodka

1 oz. St Germain

1/2 oz. lemon juice

1/2 oz. 1:1 simple syrup

3 drops saline solution

1/2 dropper (roughly 1.5 dashes) orange bitters

I shook and strained into a chilled martini glass, and garnished with a lemon twist. I meant to snap up a picture, but I had a family Christmas party underway.

The guests seemed to love it. It looked pretty and didn’t taste like liquor. It wasn’t the sort of drink I’d generally make for myself, but it wasn’t bad. If I were making it for me I might dial back the simple to 1/4 oz, as I tend to like things a bit less sweet than your average “martini” drinker. But really it wasn’t cloying even like that.

Liquid Intelligence Review

Last week I picked up Liquid Intelligence. I wanted to wait to write a review of it until I had a little time to digest the whole thing.

First off, I should say that I have a hetero-man-crush on Dave Arnold. I’ve been listening to Cooking Issues for well over a year now. He’s answered numerous questions of mine, some cocktail related. I’ve experimented with many of the concepts in the book before it came out. I bought some Pectinex Ultra-SPL, for instance, and agar, and did a few different juice clarifications. I built my own carbonation rig. I’ve read his work on chilling and dilution and watched all the YouTube videos. There isn’t much he’s done that I haven’t heard about.

So I was afraid going in that there’d be nothing I haven’t heard before. Turns out, there’s quite a bit in there I didn’t know, and there’s a lot more depth on some of the things I did know.

Dave (he’s answered enough of my questions that I feel like we’re on a first name basis) goes into depth on the science of cocktails. Want to know which sugars are sweeter upfront but fade faster? (Hint, things containing fructose, like agave nectar.) Or which acids to use when? The ingredients section has you covered.

Every bartender, whether professional or enthusiastic amateur, needs to read the section on ice. It clears up many misconceptions in the bar industry. There are 25 pages devoted to it, and they’re worth the read possibly more than anything else in the book.

His section on Cocktail Calculus has a balance chart that shows, at a glance, the sugar, acid, and alcohol levels of a cocktail. His formula lets you develop cocktails almost mathematically. That’s really interesting to me, and something I hope to play around with more. I’m debating even making a cocktail recipe creation app based on it.

The section on carbonation will help even those of us who’ve been doing it at home a bit. It had never occurred to me to mix nitrous with CO2. His clarification flowchart will help you figure out how to clarify any juice for bubbles. He’ll help you troubleshoot problem commons. (I think everyone who carbonates has had a drink foam out, only to turn the PSI up and have it foam out even more.)

To do most of the stuff in this book you’re probably going to have to get out of your comfort zone if you haven’t done any modernist cooking or mixology. The good news is, Arnold includes a ton of ways to do recipes at home that require little to no equipment. Armed with basic bar tools, an ISI Whip and a Modernist Pantry account, you can do most of the recipes.

It won’t be cheap. And it won’t be easy. Most of these drinks take preparation. There’s a list of classic cocktails, but if that’s what you’re looking for (something to stir up and drink right now) PDT or Death and Co. are better books. This isn’t meant to be a list of classic recipes, and they’re included more than anything to give you a jumping off point in terms of balancing your own new ones.

However if you want to push the limits of what a cocktail can be, and don’t mind some prep work (hell, the bottled cocktails save you work at the party) this is THE book right now.

I decided when I went through the book that I am going to undertake a new project too. I am going to make every recipe in that damned thing, as faithfully as I can, and post them here. Just watch for the Liquid Intelligence tag.