Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Molecular cocktails: it's all in the mix

Ferran Adrià started the hydrocollised  ball rolling, then Heston got in on the act and now mixologists are the latest to dust off their test tubes and try their hands at molecular gastronomy. 

For the month of October Hush bar in Bond Street are offering a six-strong molecular cocktail menu devised by a duo of not-so-mad scientists Pedro Solorzano and Boris Ivan - the Blumenthals of the cocktail world.

During our mixology masterclass they seem keen to point out that the secret behind creating the perfect molecular cocktail is getting the quantities spot on. Too much alocohol and the cocktails won't freeze, too little and you've got a mocktail. 'You have to take all the elements out of the cocktail, separate them and reintroduce them in a different way', says Solorzano. 'The key is to keep the elements separate by mixing them at the correct speed', adds Ivan. 

First up I learn how to make a Piña-Cavia-da (a Piña Colada festooned with tiny rum-filled caviar-like balls). A syringe is thrust into my hand and I'm handed a white tub full of calcium chloride flakes. Flashbacks to grammar school chemistry lessons and the nightmare that is the periodic table ensue. I mix 1 1/2 spoons of the flakes into a glass of water and give it a good stir while filling my syringe with a sweet gloopy mixture of rum, apple juice and sodium. 

I then syringe drops of the rum mixture into the 'calcium bath', which makes the rum emulsify into tiny hydrocollised balls. A full syringe only gives you a teaspoon of balls - molecular cocktails are an intricate art and demand extreme patience on the part of the maker.

Pedro whips out a tub of pineapple and coconut sorbet from the fridge and spoons it into a martini glass, sprinkling it with the hydrocollised rum. It's not something you can really drink, more an alternative pudding. I plunge my spoon in, making sure I get a good dose of the rum caviar. It's hideously sweet, but the balls do taste of the Element 8 rum they were made with.

I also try my hand at the Caipiroli (a Caiprini shaped like ravioli), made from a mixture of rum, lime juice, syrup, green food colouring and sodium alginate. Dipped in the calcium bath, the mint green mixture is frozen for 10 minutes in a square mould. It's much stonger than the Piña-Cavia-da, and considerably more appealing to the tastebuds, especially when paired with the suggested green apple slices. 

Another molecular delight on the list is the B58 - a take on the B52 with the usual Baileys and Kahula and a shot of rum foam that explodes in the mouth. The glammest cocktail has to be the Element Fizz, a mix of Prosecco, rum and Grand Marnier caviar that floats ebulliently round the glass chasing the bubbles.

'We're off to Spain tomorrow to showcase the cocktails in Barcelona', Boris informs me, as he dips into the fridge and brings out his latest experiment – strawberry beer sorbet. 'We're planning on pouring it into the beer bottles and serving it like that. I want to bring all the elements of the kitchen back into the bar. The bar is the new kitchen'. 

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