Monday, July 28, 2008

Pulling a Morgenthaler...

So, I started perusing the liquor cabinet, when I came upon some inspiration. Grape soda and Pop Rocks vodka. With even more artifical flavors than our legendary Red Dye #3 cocktail, how could I miss?

Well, miss I did. Surprisingly, it was very chemical tasting.

So, with the theory, in for a penny, in for a pound, I strove onward with the artificial flavoring and added about two ounces of Red Bull.

Unfortunately, this still wasn't right.

So, I added a spash of grenadine. Eh, this was better, but still tasted funny.

To keep with the theme, I added some Bright & Early orange breakfast drink, in stock due to a recent urge to return to my drinking roots. This made it drinkable. I decided to settle with this, rather than keep tweaking, because I knew I could drink it and didn't want to waste the alcohol.

As I sat outside, sipping on it, inspiration struck me. I put down my cigarette, ran back into the laboratory and said, "I'm pulling a Jeffrey Morgenthaler!"

Brendan and my lab assistant looked at me inquisitively.

"I'm adding bitters!"

They rolled their eyes.

I added a few dashes of bitters. And the drink became pretty damn good.

I let them both taste.

Lab assistant: "Wow, I would drink that! That finally gave it some body."

Brendan: "That's wierd! It actually worked."

Thank you Jeff, when a drink seems like it might suck, I will have to remember to add bitters!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

New Orleans MxMo

The Big Easy.

Crescent City.

The Birthplace of Jazz.

Paris of the South.


New Orleans is a city of many names, many cultures, and unique cooking. A place where folks flock to to celebrate Mardi Gras, a huge party well renown for drinking.

Unlike many of our fellow drink bloggers, we scienticians didn't make it to Tales of the Cocktail. So in order to participate in this month's Mixology Monday, we had to bring the tastes of New Orleans to our own humble lab. I scoured the net for something that felt sufficiently New Orleansy. Finally, I decided on the Creole, with a recipe found on Drink of the Week.

For those who didn't follow the link, the directions are as follows:


2.0 oz. Meyers's Platinum White Rum
1.0 oz. lemon juice
0.5 oz. Beef Bouillon
dash of Tabasco sauce
dash of Worcestershire sauce
dash of salt
dash of black pepper
lemon slice

In a shaker filled with ice, add the rum, beef bouillon, Tabasco, Worcestershire, lemon juice, salt and pepper and shake well. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with the slice of lemon.

When looking at this recipe, the beef bouillon made us a bit wary, but we decided to press on in the name of science. However, we decided we ought to add our own twist as well, so after making a recipe to spec and then we would make it substituting the bouillon for our new bacon infused vodka.

So, onward to the original Creole.

My impressions: "I'm impressed, this came out nowhere near as bad as I feared. But my, how it burns; though, what else would you expect with a name like Creole. I'm still sweating as I write these notes. Now, onto the taste, it's very citrus-y, the burn doesn't seem to creep up on you until after you have finished your sip. But it leaves your lips tingling and, for me a self-professed capsaicin freak, a bit of a burning of the stomach lining."

Brendan's impressions: "This was definitely an odd taste sensation. It had a spiciness that was quite nice, but the flavor juxtaposition of citrus, Worcestershire and rum was very unsettling. Tasting this drink is like noticing a glitch in the Matrix: you can't quite put your finger on it, but you know something is not right in the world. It's not bad, exactly; just unpleasant."

Brendan's rating: 1.5 flasks out of 5
Wayland's rating: 2.5 flasks out of 5
Overall rating:

Creole: Now with Bacon!

2.0 oz. Meyers's Platinum White Rum
1.0 oz. lemon juice
0.5 oz. Mad Scientician™ Bacon Infused Vodka
dash of Tabasco sauce
dash of Worcestershire sauce
dash of salt
dash of black pepper
lemon slice

This was prepared the same way as the regular Creole.

My impressions: "I didn't really notice a difference here. I don't know how it would be without the beef or bacon, but in this drink, there doesn't seem to be much difference. This one only seems to burn a little less, but I don't know whether to attribute that to the change of meat or to the varying measurements of a 'dash.'"

Brendan's impressions: "I now know that when I tasted the original Creole, I had only begun to feel as if I couldn't put my finger on something. In terms of flavor, I couldn't tell you precisely what the difference is. In both the beef and bacon varieties, these flavors are fairly well masked by the other flavors. But there was something beneath the surface that made this drink more unpleasant than the first."

Brendan's rating: 1.0 flasks out of 5
Wayland's rating: 2.5 flasks out of 5
Overall rating:

After both these varieties, we couldn't write a post about New Orleans without actually finishing a drink. So we moved on from the Creole to the Hurricane.

I guess I should be a good bartender and share some trivia about Hurricanes:

Of course, the closest Major League sports team to my home is the Carolina Hurricanes.

I myself have slept through a hurricane, Hurricane Fran; I awoke the next morning, wondering why my music wasn't playing. Apparently, my entire family spent the whole night awake in the living room scared. We were lucky, though; the only thing we lost was power for a week.

During another hurricane that came through the area, as a restaurant bartender, I walked in the door and asked my manager what our drink special of the day was. He said, "How about we run $2.00 Hurricanes?" Less than an hour later, the power went out and I hadn't sold one.

Finally, the day Hurricane Katrina hit, my manager at a different restaurant had the audacity to run Tilapia Pontchartrain. For those that don't know, Lake Pontchartrain was the lake that flooded into New Orleans.

Which brings us full circle back to New Orleans, so after much searching, we decided to use this recipe to make Hurricanes:

2.0 oz. Meyers's Platinum White rum
2.0 oz. Goslings Black Seal rum
2.0 oz. passion fruit juice
1.0 oz. orange juice
0.5 oz. lime juice
0.5 oz. simple syrup
0.5 oz. grenadine

Now, in my early bartender days, I was thrown behind a bar and told, "You're a bartender now!" Some of the drinks I would look up, but anything fruity like a Hurricane or a Mai Tai, I'd throw some juices together with some rum to create something tasty and sweet, and no one really noticed. I've come a long way since those days, but in my searches to make hurricanes, I noticed there were 50 billion variations on this "common drink."

But when making this recipe, this is what I noticed. This is nowhere near as sweet as I expected. In my old days, they come out sweet and fruity and the guest was happy. This is a lot more tart than I would expect, but I'm not finding that to be a bad thing. The tartness in contrast to the sweet of the rum, truly brings out the rums' flavors. I'm kinda curious how this would have turned out with a spiced rum also.

Anyway, by the time we had a hurricane for each of us, it was well into the early hours of the morning, and Brendan and myself, in "Big Easy" fashion, spent the rest of the evening on the back porch of the laboratory, sipping our hurricanes and talking, until I finally stumbled off to sleep.

Brendan's rating: 3.5 flasks out of 5
Wayland's rating: 3.5 flasks out of 5
Overall rating:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Iiiit's Bacon!

It is finally time to revisit our attempt at creating a bacon infused vodka. This experiment, perhaps the most disturbing bacon concoction since the Vodka God's Super Pork Bacon Bomb, is in fact twofold; in order to increase our odds of discovering the perfect bacon infusion method, we are peer-reviewing a method found on the blog Brownie Points, as well as a method of our own devising.

The Brownie Points method, as described in our previous post on the topic, begins as a straightforward vodka infusion, with a two-stage filtration process to remove the excess fat tissue. We infused a fifth of vodka with three bacon slices, storing it in a science cupboard for three weeks. The second batch, intended to avoid entirely the greasiness that has ruined other bacon vodka experiments we've learned about, was created using artificial bacon bits. After the three weeks were over, the two vodkae looked like this:

Here is an overhead view of the real-bacon infusion, to show just how much fat had to be filtered out.

We began by straining both batches of vodka through cheesecloth into clean science jars. We then placed the jars into the freezer, which theoretically would solidify much of the remaining fats, allowing us to perform the second filtration stage.

After several days in the freezer, both jars had a visible layer of sediment at the bottom.

We strained each vodka again, this time using a coffee filter. As we have encountered before, the cold vodka flowed very slowly through the filter. Rather than hold it in place for long periods of time, we attached the coffee filter to the funnel using a few binder clips around the edges.

At this point, it was time to taste the vodka. We decided, for better or for worse, to taste the fake bacon infusion first. I took the first sample, and quickly spat it into the sink.

Though we usually avoid using artificial ingredients in our infusions, we had hoped that using artificial bacon might eliminate the residue that real bacon leaves, particularly in the Vodka God's attempt. However, I can only describe the results as an atrocity. From the very instant this substance made contact with my lips, I was overcome by revulsion. I was only able to process the very front end of this taste sensation, and had already spat it out before it really registered. If you can imagine extracting the almost-but-not-quite flavor of artificial bacon bits into a liquid form and drinking it straight up, with an uncut alcohol kick for good measure, you might imagine what this was like. Which is exactly what it was, brainiacs that we are. All in all, it was quite possibly the most horrifying experience I have been exposed to in the making of this blog.

As if reacting to what it was witnessing, my long-serving Powershot A70 camera chose this moment to drop stone dead. As a result, the rest of the photos (and probably for the next few posts, at least) were taken using Wayland's iPhone, so please excuse the lower image quality.

In spite of my reaction, Wayland dutifully drank his sample in the name of science. The second portion quickly rejoined the first.

"Ugh. That's salty and disgusting," Wayland wrote. "I don't think I'll ever burn that off of my taste buds as long as I live. The thing is, it does taste a lot like bacon bits. But without the crunch, you realize just how bad imitation bacon bits are. Without the crunch, they are horrible pieces of evil destined to destroy your taste buds."

It is interesting to note that while I have reacted poorly to several of our infusions, this is the first time that Wayland has ever had a spit-take with our infusions. He may not always like them, but he always at least gets them down. It seems that the man who once drank bottles of Cisco in college (and woke up fresh the next morning) has finally met his match.

In accordance with several international laws, we opted to rid the world of yet another potential weapon of mass destruction, and poured this vodka down the sink.

At this point, it was quite late, so we decided to postpone tasting the real bacon infusion for another night. The next morning, however, Wayland skipped town, putting thousands of miles between himself and this experiment, and did not return for a week. He claimed that he was on vacation, and had planned it months before. I knew the truth, though. It took the entire week just to clear that taste off of the palate.

Eventually, however, we knew we had to finish the evaluation. We had much higher hopes for the Brownie Points batch; after all, it had been tried before, apparently with decent results.

We poured two samples, raised our science glasses and... drank!

As we had hoped with all of our might, this batch was much better than the other. "It's a little rough on the front end," wrote Wayland, "but that's definitely bacon. It's salty, but not overwhelmingly bad-salty like the artificial bacon bits. I think it captures the bacon flavor quite well, although I admit it is a bit unsettling to drink bacon."

I believe I spoiled the test by taking the full shot Wayland handed me. (We normally do half shots for experimental sampling.) It was difficult to get down at first, but once I began to process the taste, I found it to be a fair representation of bacon. Indeed, there were instants where I found it quite tasty. This is certainly a vodka to be sipped in small doses, but I think it is quite successful.

So, there you have it. Sorry it took so long, Katherine! We're ready whenever you are.

Monday, July 14, 2008

In that case, what's a "Gotham City?"

Cucumber is an idea which has come up a number of times when Wayland and I have discussed possible vodka infusions, and several of our readers have also mentioned it in comments and e-mails. For a long time, however, we put the thought on the back burner, thinking that the mild flavor of cucumber may not come through as easily as many of our other vodka flavors.

Eventually, we discovered a cocktail which made us rethink the role of cucumber, as it pertains to vodka: the Metropolis, courtesy of Svedka Vodka. (Warning: this website involves sound, and is also annoying in myriad other ways. The drink we're referring to is the first to appear under "future cocktails.") We were intrigued by this unusual-sounding drink, which involves muddled cucumber slices, vodka, sour mix and a splash of vanilla vodka, and determined to try it out. It was, in fact, very refreshing and tasty; we wondered if it could be improved by an actual cucumber infused vodka, and what other creations such a vodka could inspire.

Wayland began the experiment by slicing a cucumber, then cutting each slice into quarters to increase its surface area. We then cut off the skin, to prevent bitterness.

We sliced away the skin using a straight cut from corner to corner, resulting in small, triangular wedges. This was a time efficient method, though as my calculations determined, we discarded more than a third of the cucumber this way:

Sadly, this is not the first time we have used algebra and alcohol in conjunction.

Since cucumber is, as we said, a fairly mild flavor, we're estimating that this infusion will take at least three weeks. We will update with its status after the first tasting. Meanwhile, stay tuned for the results of our notorious bacon infused vodka, coming later this week.