Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I could drink a peach for hours

Today, the Mad Scienticians are heading back into the lab to make a new vodka infusion. (You didn't think we were giving them up, did you?) This time, we are creating peach-infused vodka.

I don't know how the rest of the world associates peaches, but here the U.S., peaches are largely associated with the South; particularly Georgia and South Carolina. However, much as we learned about the kiwifruit, its history draws back much further than that. In fact, the peach and the kiwifruit share a common ancestry: both are native to China.

We obtained a large peach (the better to snack on the remaining portion) and sliced it thinly around the center pit.

We put a handful of peach slices into a science jar, poured in the vodka and topped it off with as many more slices as we could fit.

Our research indicates that this infusion should be fairly quick, no more than a few days.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Our next infusion: Chicken

Chicken infused vodka?

No! Vodka infused chicken.

Greetings one and all, it is I, the "other" scientician. Up until now, Brendan has taken a brunt of the load and written up all of the posts up until this point. In an attempt to even things up a bit, I promised to try and write more of the posts after the relaunch. So expect to hear a bit more from me as well from now on. Anyway, on to the science...

Our idea for this experiment was to take a dozen wings and then marinade them in our habanero infused vodka, in an attempt to transfer some of the flavor of the habanero pepper into the wings, thus giving them a bit more of a kick than our normal wings.

We made two batches of wings, a dozen marinated in vodka for several hours, the other dozen non-marinated for control purposes.

But first, I had to find the habanero vodka in our ever-expanding infusions cabinet.

They say the waiting is the hardest part, but compared to our normal infused vodkae that can take several weeks; marinading the chicken only took a few hours, which seemed relatively short, since we went on to other tasks while they marinaded.

Eventually, the time had arrived and we began to fry the wings. We started with the non-marinaded batch, so as not to risk contaminating the oil. Both batches were dipped in egg wash, then rolled into our Mad Scientician brand chicken batter - flour mixed with seasoning salt and a secret blend of spices. The trick is to balance the heat between the front and back end, with just enough saltiness to give the flavor some depth.

We tasted the non-marinaded wings and had the following reactions:


"The frying process always reduces the heat a great deal. When tasting the batter straight, it has a heavy burn. After cooking the wings, however, they're not nearly as hot. These are a little less hot than I'd like, but do have some heat and just enough saltiness."

My reaction was fairly similar:

"Pretty good. I think we got the batter right on this time... I'll definitely be interested to see how the infused wings turn out."

Since we cooked all the wings before tasting any, the habanero infused vodka infused wings were ready to try immediately after.

Personally, I was not overly impressed, but thought it might get better with a longer marinade time:

"There is a subtle difference here I'm not exactly sure I can put my finger on. It's somewhere in the middle. I thing we might have more success if we let them infuse longer."

Brendan, on the other hand, was not impressed at all:

"Those wings are a little hotter. It's not a large difference, but it's about enough to kick these up to where I like them (when I'm not going all out with the heat). However, there is an odd flavor to the wings, reminiscent of vodka, an effect that I haven't observed with other foods we've marinaded with our infusions. Most of those previous experiments have involved beef, so perhaps the chicken accepts more of the vodka itself, along with the infused flavor."

Later, we theorized that the remaining vodka was probably due to the cooking method. Other foods, such as beef roasts, cook long enough and hot enough that the alcohol evaporates. The wings don't fry for quite as long, so the alcohol may not have had time to evaporate. Not to mention, the fried batter and oil may have trapped the alcohol in the wings.

So I wasn't impressed and my co-scientician felt the marinade detracted from the overall flavor. So, unfortunately, I think we need to call this one a failure.

But, isn't that what science is? Pushing the boundaries to see just what we come up with.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The things we do in the name of science (part two)

Welcome back to Infusions of Grandeur for the conclusion of our multi-liquor filtration experiment! Before we head into the results, we'd like to take a moment for an administrative note. (You've been waiting with bated breath anyway, you don't mind, right?)

We are thinking of switching our blog feed to full-article syndication, rather than the short blurb that currently syndicates. However, Ye Olde Feedburner has informed us that over half of our subscribers read us on Ye Olde Live Journal, and we don't want to blow up everyone's friends list unless we're sure about it. So, we'd like to leave it up to you. Let us know which way you would prefer to read our feed; you can leave us a comment here on the blog, over on the LJ feed, or by e-mail at infusions -at- holyducttape.com. Thanks!

Having filtered each of our cheap-ass liquors through a water filter five times, it was now time to bite the bullet. Which is literally what some of them felt like. For each type of liquor, we first tasted the unfiltered cheap stuff that we had set aside, then a medium-grade equivalent, and finally the filtered cheap. We began with the gin. Below, you see the unfiltered sample stored in one of our trademarked ex-soy sauce bottles (because we're classy folks with a reputation to uphold), and the filtered back in its original bottle.

We are both vodka drinkers at our core, so our relative unfamiliarity with other liquors (at least in their straight form) may reduce the complexity of our analysis somewhat. Though we occasionally use rum or whiskey in a mixed drink, gin is a liquor that we seldom use for anything, other than the occasional Long Island Iced Tea. This, despite the fact that as our fellow drink-blogger Jeffrey Morganthaler recently proved, gin is simply infused vodka, something we are intimately familiar with.

We poured two samples of the unfiltered Aristocrat gin and drank.

This gin is rough, to be sure, with a heavy burn going down. I did find the flavor intriguing, though -- no, not good at all, but interesting enough to intrigue me about the real thing. I had tasted straight gin before, but not in many years, probably in my early days of drinking.

"It's basically like a cheap vodka with fruit around the edges," Wayland commented. "It isn't as bad as I thought it might be."

The next gin was Tanqueray, which differs from Aristocrat in more than just production standards: whereas Aristocrat is 80 proof, Tanqueray is 94.6 proof. Though this could be advantageous for some purposes, it made it more difficult to compare the flavor fairly.

"That actually burns worse than the cheap stuff," Wayland wrote. "Of course, the additional 15 proof might have something to do with that. The flavors were similar, but to me, the burn really detracted from the flavor." Personally, I felt that the difference between the two was only faintly apparent.

Finally, the first moment of truth had arrived. We poured samples of the filtered Aristocrat gin and drank them.

Wayland seemed positive about it. "This was much smoother than the first two. I don't think any flavor was lost through the filtration process either."

My reaction was not quite as optimistic. "The harshness is somewhat abated. So is the flavor. It tastes like thinly flavored vodka now."

The light rum came next. We use rum a great deal more than gin, but usually it is either gold or spiced rum. I can't think of a single instance when we've used light rum, other than one weekend filled with Anti-Voyager Zombies, several years ago.

Again, the unfiltered Aristocrat was not as bad as we expected; it was almost smooth, but not quite. The flavor was sweet, but very mild. The burn was relatively light as well. On the whole, it was fairly neutral and unremarkable.

Our mid-grade benchmark was Myers's Platinum White. Though this was meant to be our good rum, I felt a sense of foreboding already from their inability to use proper grammar in their own brand name.

"This wasn't as sweet as the Aristocrat," Wayland noted, "but it was still fairly smooth. It wasn't bad, but I think I actually prefer the cheap stuff."

There was definitely more flavor to this one, in my opinion, but it wasn't a sweet flavor. The label calls it a "rich, buttery flavor;" I wouldn't go that far, but this would be decent in a cocktail.

The filtered Aristocrat, again, was a reduced version of its former self in most factors. The burn was almost completely vanquished, but there was not a great deal of flavor remaining. "It's not as sweet as the unfiltered, but I think it's still sweeter than the Myers's," Wayland noted.

"I could sit and sip this," I said, "but there would be no point in doing so."

Things took a turn for the worse when we tasted the Aristocrat Gold rum. "This is definitely the worst of the rums so far," Wayland commented. "It's sweet, but has a touch of sourness to it as well. The burn is much more than was present in the lighter rums." I described the taste as "mild sweetness, followed by a harsh burn."

As we stated in Monday's introduction to this experiment, we erred in our selection of a mid-grade benchmark by getting a dark, rather than gold, rum. Therefore, the comparison is not really fair, but we're going to make it anyway. "This is pretty much quintessential rum as I think of it," I noted after tasting the Myers's Original Dark. "Strongly flavored and a little sweet, with a burn that's strong, but not too harsh. I wouldn't drink this on the rocks, but it's pretty good, certainly better than the light."

Wayland didn't react as well to the Myers's Dark. "Ugh! Something about that hit my gag reflex. This was the least sweet of the rums we've tasted. Something about the flavor of this just didn't agree with me."

Finally, we sampled the filtered Aristocrat Gold. Remember from our Monday post that this rum had been noticably reduced in color during the filtration process. "I probably liked this the best of the darks," Wayland said, as if that was a compliment. "Although, it seemed the most diluted of the group."

"The loss in flavor is less significant than the loss in burn," I noted, "but that's just because there was so much burn to lose. It still has a little bit of flavor and a little bit of burn, but overall, it seems watered down."

Whiskey was our next stop.

Whiskey gains its deep color from the oak casks in which they are aged. The label states that Aristocrat whiskey is aged for thirty-six months. You would think that after all that, they would take the time to remove the splinters.

This was easily the harshest of the liquors we tasted this night. "Someone call the cops," I said. "We just found a shine runner."

Once our palates had recovered somewhat, we followed up with the old standby, Jack Daniel's. "Much smoother by leaps and bounds, but it is still a bit harsh," I noted. Jack is a favorite of ours for mixed drinks, but it's still not a shooting drink for us. "This was alright," Wayland said. "There was a bit of a taste on the back end that I wasn't overly fond of, but otherwise it's okay."

The filtered Aristocrat whiskey followed the trend set by the previous liquors. "Much smoother still," I said, "but yet again, the filter has removed a lot of the flavor, resulting in another watery-tasting drink."

"This was definitely the best of the whiskeys," Wayland commented. "Of course, it also had the least flavor, so it might just be my own vodka bent."

We could put off the inevitable no longer. It was now time to move on to the tequila, or as we know tonight's cheap brand, "Pepe Motherfucking Lopez."

There is some history between us and Pepe. Seven years ago, a party was held in Wayland's honor. In those days, Wayland's standard drink was the screwdriver, which he tended to pour at quite a heavy mix. At this particular party, one of our "friends" decided he was going to get Wayland wasted, and offered to make him a screwdriver. What Wayland didn't realize at the time is that the screwdriver was spiked with Pepe Lopez.

It was this night that we learned that vodka and tequila do not mix. Wayland didn't get particularly drunk, but he did get sick and spent the rest of the night unconscious, accumulating Reddi-Whip about his person.

Naturally, Wayland would take the first taste of the Pepe tonight.

"That definitely wasn't pleasant, but the taste was mercifully short lived," Wayland said. "I think I can go another seven years before trying it again."

I managed to avoid the tequila that fateful night long ago, but I wouldn't get off so easily this time.

"Damn, that burns. Actually, it's not exactly a burn, it's a gag trigger," I commented once I was capable of doing so. "I know why there's no worm in it. It dissolved without a trace."

Our next sample was Jose Cuervo Especial, which fared somewhat better. "That didn't gag me... quite," I said. "The taste is strange, kind of spicy, but not the kind of spicy I like."

"Jose was definitely smoother than the unfiltered Pepe," said Wayland. "I'm just not a fan of tequila, I think. This is drinkable, just not a first choice."

Lastly, it was time to find out whether the filtration process could do anything to help Pepe along. We poured samples of the filtered tequila and drank.

Wayland noted some improvement. "Of the three tequilas we've tried, this one I might drink again; it was fairly smooth. Not bad, but I'm never going to be much of a tequila drinker, just something about the taste."

I found that the tequila had the very odd property of tasting watered down, yet triggering the gag reflex anyway, though not nearly to the extent of the unfiltered Pepe.

The results of this experiment were disappointing, but not altogether surprising. The filtration trick works so well on vodka due to its simplicity -- it is essentially a mix of water and ethanol. Other liquors, having more complex flavors, contain more compounds that are meant to be there, but can be removed by filtration, reducing it to a seemingly diluted taste. If you are simply looking to make a lot of mixed drinks and get drunk, this may be an option for reducing the harshness of your drinks, and perhaps even the hangover effects (we did not test this theory). However, if you're drinking because you particularly enjoy rum, gin, whiskey or (god help you) tequila, you're better off by far to make the investment and drink decent liquor.