Friday, November 30, 2007

The Joy of Bartending

We take a lot of pictures in the laboratory during our experiments. Only a portion of them make it to the site. The other day, we were looking through some of our old ones and did a double take when we saw this one:

I seem to recall this drink having an aroma of lemon and a remarkably clean finish, but the consistency was a little off.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nutmeg vodka: now with dangerous toxins!

Our most recent infused vodka experiment is nutmeg vodka. This experiment follows up on our recent clove-infused vodka, leading up soon enough to one of our most ambitious experiments yet, a five-ingredient spiced cider vodka.

Nutmeg has a long history in holiday drinks, being a traditional ingredient in egg nog and mulled cider. It is also used as a flavoring spice in cuisines around the world. What many people do not know is that nutmeg contains a mild hallucinogen known as myristicin. Consuming one to four teaspoons of ground nutmeg can cause mild euphoria and distorted vision (coupled with unpleasant side effects). Upwards of six teaspoons can lead to nausea, body pain, convulsions and even a psychiatric disorder aptly named "nutmeg poisoning." Fortunately, though nutmeg is a wonderful spice in lower quantities, consuming this much nutmeg straight up is generally unpleasant enough to prevent most people from trying to get a buzz from it.

We created our nutmeg-infused vodka using three nutmeg seeds. One nutmeg seed yields approximately three teaspoons of ground nutmeg. Let me check my math here... that's a total of nine teaspoons. You'll shoot your eye out, kid!

Don't worry, we're fairly certain that infusing vodka with whole nutmeg (as opposed to ground) is not going to impart most of its myristicin into the vodka. In addition, whatever amount of the chemical actually does find its way out will be distributed throughout a fifth of vodka, not a single drink, so as long as no one drinks this stuff from a beer bong, we should be pretty safe.

To begin the experiment, I cracked each seed approximately in half using very technical instruments.

We poured vodka over the cracked seeds and infused it for a little over a week.

The time came to taste the vodka... and then it whooshed by like one of Douglas Adams' deadlines. It seems that this infusion should run for somewhat less than a week.

"I'm torn on this one," Wayland wrote. "It's definitely nutmeg, but I think it's a bit on the strong side. I'd probably recommend a shorter infusion time when we put it in the cider. It's a bit bitter, but might work if it is mixed with something."

My thoughts ran along nearly identical lines. "Whoa, that was definitely some nutmeg. The flavor is spot on, but way too strong. It needs to be infused for a shorter length of time. Other than that, there is a mild vodka flavor but not really a burn."

Despite the extra time, we consider this vodka a success. The flavor is not so strong as to ruin the vodka, but mixed drinks will have to be proportioned carefully to avoid overpowering other ingredients. In the future, though, we will infuse it for a shorter duration.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cocktail Challenge #1, Part 1

A few weeks back I took a poll in the comments here in the blog and on LJ to let you, the readers, decided which two of our infusions should be joined for me to attempt to make a cocktail out of.

Well, I had planned on releasing the results of the cocktail challenge today.

We have one clear winner of what's going to be in the drink for that post:


However, we have a three way tie for the second. They are:

  • Black Tea/Lemon
  • Orange
  • Watermelon

So, once again, I turn to you our audience for help. Which of the above vodkae should be combined with Cinnamon (and whatever else I decide) for me to attempt to make a cocktail out of?

The voting on this will close on Saturday, so make sure to get your comments in quick.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm Looking Over a 50 Clove Vodka...

Back to the science lab again! This week, we've decided to make clove-infused vodka.

In our research into cloves, we found that cloves were used in the past for medicinal purposes for gastro-intestinal problems. So, maybe this will be the vodka that settles your stomach!

This is the first experiment of three we have embarked on to create spiced cider vodka. We decided we should attempt an infusion with each ingredient individually first, and we had all of the necessary infusions but two. The vodkae we already had were apple, orange, and cinnamon. And then we had to make two as of yet announced vodkae. Clove is the first. Stay tuned next week for the second, and then finally we'll ring in the month of December with a glass of holiday cheer with spiced cider vodka.

We obtained a brand new container of cloves, only to find we already had about 2/3rds of a jar left in our spice cabinet.

I took the tedious process of counting out 50 individual cloves, then poured the vodka on top of them.

Dance, my little drowning cloves! Dance!

After a scant two days of infusing, we decided the vodka was ready to taste.

Brendan liked it, but felt it was missing something.

"This is rather tasty, though it feels incomplete. It has a pleasantly musky flavor with just a hint of spice. I think it will be excellent in the cider combo, though I wouldn't necessarily drink it on its own."

As for myself, I thought it was a damn good drink on its own.

"That's a beautiful taste. I almost think you could sit there and sip on this on the rocks. It's sweet with a distinctively clove warmness. It has a bit of an odd taste near the back end, but otherwise this is excellent."

So, not a perfect review, but we definitely both approve. Stay tuned next week for the final ingredient, before embarking on spiced cider vodka.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Our new product line: Eau de Scientician

The other day, I got a call from our friend Bevin, for whom we recently developed lavender-vanilla vodka for her birthday. She was pleased with how the two vodkas turned out, though with a twist we never would have thought of ourselves. She concurred with us that the original batch, with the week-long vanilla infusion, tasted the best. She deemed the second batch, which was mostly lavender and not much vanilla, unworthy of drinking, but found another way to make use of it: as a perfume. It would seem that the lavender vodka has just the right level of scent for this purpose; the alcohol either evaporates or is undetectable (we have not tested this process scientifically).

Consider this, ladies: the first women's perfume that came up on a Google search, which happens to be Burberry London, retails for $41 per ounce. Lavender-vanilla vodka, created using our methodology, costs approximately $12 for 750 milliliters, or $0.47 per ounce. By volume, this is a savings of 98.85%, and the supply will last you forever.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Gift of Vodka: Lavender-Vanilla

Before we begin, we want to note that all comments on the blog site now require a "captcha" word verification. We've been getting a lot of spam posted in the comments - mostly in old posts, but it still needs to be stopped. It's important to us that all of our legitimate readers are able to comment, so we decided this was the best compromise. Sorry about the inconvenience.

Recently, our friend Bevin (who you might remember from our original caramel vodka experiment) had a birthday, and she had a special request for the occasion: lavender-vanilla vodka. We were only happy to oblige.

We have, of course, infused many batches of vanilla vodka in the past; it is one of our staples. However, we hadn't any idea how to proceed with the lavender. A number of websites our research uncovered recommended using whole lavender sprigs, but Bevin had provided us with a bag of loose blossoms, so we kept looking. We nearly decided to figure it out on our own, by tasting it daily until it was done; however, at the last minute, we found a post on a forum stating that such an infusion would be complete in a mere fifteen minutes, and any more would ruin it. We tested this theory using half a cup of lavender blossoms soaked in 750 mL of vodka.

The color began to change almost immediately, and sure enough, after a mere 15 minutes, the vodka had attained a light purple color and a strong but subtle aroma. We strained the blossoms out and tasted the lavender vodka without the second ingredient.

Both of us found the vodka to be subtly pleasant. "I had no idea what lavender tastes like or is even used for; I am a man, after all," I wrote in my notes. "But this vodka is very intriguing. It has a slight sweetness, and a complexity that is rare in many infusions that run for days or weeks. It has a very slight vodka flavor in the background, but no burn at all. I look forward to tasting it with the vanilla component."

"I do believe this is what lavender essential oil would taste like," Wayland wrote. "If my guess is correct, the lavender only changes the vodka flavor slightly, but it is the scent of the lavender that gives you the distinct taste."

Wayland tested his theory by tasting the vodka again, this time with his nose pinched to block the aroma.

"There was no flavor to the vodka this time... until I let go of my nose on the back end. Then it tasted like it smells again. To me, that proves that the taste comes mostly from the scent."

At this point, we sliced a vanilla bean lengthwise and placed it in the vodka as we have so many times before. We usually run vanilla vodka for about five days, though we felt that this may be too long for this infusion; we wanted a subtle vanilla flavor that would not overpower the lavender. We set out to taste it in two or three days. However, a series of unfortunate events prevented this from happening, and soon we found ourselves nearly a week into the experiment.

Fearing that the vodka must be ruined, and with Bevin's birthday fast approaching, I frantically began a second batch of vodka using the same steps. The next day, we tasted both batches for the first time; one after seven days of vanilla infusion (on the left, below), the other with a mere 24 hours.

The second batch was still close to the pleasant color of plain lavender vodka, while the original batch looked more like plain vanilla vodka. We granted the point to batch two in this round, but the most important test was yet to come.

We tasted the original (week-long) infusion first. "This has a nice blend between lavender and vanilla, I think," wrote Wayland. "My only complaint is a mild burn on the back end."

"I was surprised that the vanilla had not overpowered the lavender," I echoed. "In fact, the vanilla is a fairly light component of this vodka, though it does have a significant presence. There is still a hint of vodka flavor that detracts slightly, but not much."

Next, we sampled the second batch, with the day-long vanilla infusion. Not entirely surprisingly, this was not long enough. "The vanilla component is still there," I said, "but it's even lighter than before, essentially an afterthought. This vodka is good, but it's not much different from the straight-up lavender."

Wayland's comments were similar. "This wasn't as good as the first. The lavender flavor is a bit too overwhelming. I think, like the first, the vanilla needs more time to infuse." Then he made fun of me for panicking.

In the end, we gave both batches to Bevin, mainly so she could estimate what the plain lavender vodka would taste like using the second batch. We were quite pleased with how the first batch turned out, and may make another bottle of it for our own stock.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Improvising a Drink: The Process

I stared across the array of vodkae before me. It had been far too long since I played with an original drink, so I carefully perused the large variety of options. Finally, I looked at ginger and almond. We had made very few drinks with those two, so I challenged myself. What could I do with these?

My brain wrapped around the possibilities. I had a wide variety of ways I could play with these two. Finally, I settled on adding apple to the mix, but still, I thought it needed something.

And then I had a moment of "that might work."

I poured one shot apple, one shot ginger and one shot almond over ice into a rocks glass, then topped it off with sour mix. A quick pour into the shaker and then back into the glass... and it was time for the moment of truth.

Hmmm. This tasted like sour mix, with a hint of apple around the edges. Despite my hopes, this drink just wasn't right.

I pondered some more, once again letting my eyes glance over the options. There just didn't seem to be a proper mixer to go with these three. So I decided I'd make a "martini," with one part of each. As I poured each of the liquors into the shaker, my mind had another thought, "Let's add some spice to this."

To my dismay, our experiments cabinet was devoid of both jalapeƱo and habanero vodkae. The only item that I could come up with that would give it a bit of spice was cinnamon. So I added one part cinnamon as well.

That was a mistake. The cinnamon overwhelmed the "martini." I could find a hint of apple and some ginger around the edges, but the flavor was overwhelmingly cinnamon. Again, it just wasn't right.

Finally, I went back to my original thought, one part apple, one part almond and one part ginger, shaken and poured into a cold martini glass. This was an interesting drink. At first sip, the flavor of the drink is fairly neutral. Soon, the ginger becomes the dominant flavor in this one. You taste a slight hint of the apple, but the almond is almost non-existent. It's not bad. I don't think I could drink it on a regular basis or even more than one in an evening, but of my three attempts, this was the one I actually finished.

This post started as an attempt to document a process of coming up with a cocktail based on two vodkae to begin with, sort of an "Iron Bartender" type of challenge to myself, if you will. And then inspiration flashed, rather than me attempting to come up with a drink from ingredients of my own choosing, I thought it might be fun to have the audience of the blog come and play along. So, my friends, I will give you a list of ingredients. Anyone who wants to pick two can do so and tell me which two in the comments. After a reasonable period of time, I will tally up the voting and the two vodkae with the most votes will be the next subjects of my "drink challenge." The choices I give you tonight are:

  • Orange
  • Watermelon
  • Apple
  • Black Tea/Lemon
  • Cinnamon
  • Pop Rocks

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A peach vodka tasting in two acts

Yikes! Okay, it looks like our relaunch didn't go as smoothly as we initially planned, but now we have a system! This from the guys who produced the catchphrase "Plans are overrated." Expect us to post more frequently in the future. For really!

We first tasted our peach vodka on a fine Thursday evening after four days of infusion. The research we conducted indicated that this would be plenty of time, but this was not to be. The vodka had attained a light orange-pink tint, but not much else. "This has very little peach flavor, no sweetness to speak of and is a bit sour," I wrote.

Wayland's take was similar. "There's definitely a strong vodka burn with this. I didn't get much peach flavor at all."

The vodka went back into the science fridge to infuse further. We tried it again a week later, for a total of 11 days of infusion. Our feelings were more mixed on this second try.

Wayland liked it in general but was slightly let down by it. "This is very good, except for the back end. It had a crisp, sweet front end, and a smooth, almost tasteless middle. It also left a sweet, peachy aftertaste. However, between the middle and the aftertaste, the vodka left a spoiler that marred an otherwise great vodka. This is good, but if not for the sour/burning back end, it would be great." (Wayland later clarified that the vodka had ruined the ending of that week's Stargate: Atlantis.)

I seemed to have gotten all the parts Wayland didn't like, but without the good parts to balance it. "Sourness is the wrong term for it. So is vodka burn. What I got is a tingling sensation that started dull and intensified through the back end. Quite unpleasant, though it does taste a little sweeter now."

We decided to give it some more time and see what happens. Of course, after that we kind of forgot about it, so it may have been left too long. But now it is in the system, so we will find out soon enough.