21 December 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Toddy Drinking

Christmas is basically upon us. I am sure you are all as organised as we are and have planned down to the second your Christmas presents and when to buy them......but haven't actually done any of it yet!

We here at Drink Factory just wanted to send out a big Happy Christmas from all of us and wish you a happy time wherever you may be and whatever it is you may be doing. (For those of you who's places of work may be open on Boxing Day our most sincere condolences)

To celebrate the season we though a festive recipe was in order. Make sure you give this Hot Toddy recipe a go at home on Christmas Eve maybe.

(Not actual image)

Toddy Recipe:
50ml Somerset Cider Brandy 5yr
25ml Lemon juice

1 slither of unsalted butter

20ml Sugar syrup (2:1)
150ml Breton Cider Horses
Neck of lemon peel

Heat the cider in a pan till it at 80 degrees and
then pour into a Toddy mug with the rest of the ingredients

Flavour of the Week - Sandalwood

There are over 19 species that exist within the genus Santalum family. They grow throughout most countries and continents including Asia, India, Australia and Europe.

The tree's hit their most fragrant stage generally at a minimum of 8 ears old, however ideally 14 is the optimum age to get the most scent.

Often found in cosmetics and famed for it's health benefits, absolutes and essential oils have been made out of Sandalwood for a long time. It is also well known for enhancing flavours it is surrounded by, hence it frequent use in perfumes.

The essential oil is said to have a typically woody note, however it does retain a slightly lighter edge meaning it could potentially sit well alongside lighter more fragrant or citrussy notes.

Flavour - Woody base note, aromatic, light, bright, fresh,

Expanding infused Marshmallows

So they may not be the classiest or most refined of cocktail ingredient or garnish, but let's be honest, people love them and they are alot of fun.

We are yet to try this ourselves in the sous vide however I imagine it to work in a similar way. If you were to also add a flavoured liquid into the vacuum bag and vacuum both the marshmallow and the liquid it has alot of potential to infiuse the marshmallow.

Think rum marshamllows, cherry marshmallow, or, dare I say, flavoured vodka marshmallow.
Maybe not the most high end of ingredient, and be careful not to vacuum for too long as they are liable to burst or shrivel up, but certainly some Christmas fun!

Artisan Distilling Revoltuions - So what exactly is Artisan Distilling all about?

Written by and in collaboration with Jamie Baxter. Jamie was a master distiller at Chase Distillery where he was responsible for designing, installing, commissioning, running and then developing products. He now works as a consultant, working around the UK and South America aiding in start up small scale artisan distilleries.

If you are lucky enough to be shown around the Beefeater Distillery in South London, you will see some huge great pot stills that have been mothballed. These were originally used to clean up the alcohol coming in to the distillery as it was not of a good enough quality to make their wonderful gin. Nowadays however, the base spirit that they buy is excellent, and this is just one other ingredient that they purchase in addition to juniper berries, coriander seeds and all the rest of the botanicals. You see, Beefeater, in common with virtually every other gin distiller in the country, do not make their own base alcohol, but ship it in from elsewhere before re-distilling it with the botanicals to convert the neutral alcohol into gin.

EU Regulation 110/2008 sets out the legal definition of all spirit types within Europe, and gin (and indeed vodka) has to be made from “ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin”. This in turn is defined as ethanol with no flavour other than that of the raw material and at a minimum of 96.0% ABV. (The regulation also sets out maximum levels of certain residues, but I won’t bore you with that other than to say that these maximum allowed levels are lower in the finished product for London Gin than for other distilled gins). Every gin distiller therefore has to decide whether to make their own base ethyl alcohol, or to buy it in.

If you have read this far, you will be wondering why on earth I am telling you all this. The reason is that I have recently been drawn into a transatlantic discussion as to what artisan distilling is all about, and the point of view was very forcibly put across that a distiller who buys in neutral spirit rather than making it themselves is somehow cheating. Now, my gut feeling was to disagree with this, but it did start me wondering why I felt that way, and what therefore I would think is the defining characteristic of an artisan distillery. Most of us could probably write a list of artisan distillers in the UK and not argue too much over those distilleries on it. For example, I don’t think that anyone would argue that Ian Hart, the wonderful distiller of Sacred Gin, is not an artisan distiller, and he uses bought-in alcohol in his tiny still. But it is more difficult to decide why these names are on the list.

So if it is not making your own base alcohol, is it the size of the still? Again the answer is no, this is too simplistic. Different products and different methodologies require different sized stills. When Sipsmith Distillery started up they advertised their beautiful pot still as being 300 litres. The fantastic Chase Distillery pot that I know so well is 2300 litres, and yet Sipsmith could produce more bottles of finished product than Chase at that time because they were using bought-in alcohol whereas at Chase we were making it all from potatoes and apples.

Is it the use of a pot still rather than a continuous still? Again no. The thing about designing stills is that there are many different ways of getting to the same point. Pretty much every still is unique, and the distiller must decide what system best meets his requirements (see my earlier blog). Now this might be a continuous still, or a pot still, or various combinations of the two - and this is without considering vacuum distillation and other more esoteric methods. I would argue that a pot still is generally “more artisan” than a continuous still, but this has rather more to do with the way it is run rather than the still itself. With continuous stills it is important to keep the flow rates, temperature profiles, steam pressures, refux etc. relatively even. Pot stills are more forgiving, and so continuous stills would tend to have rather more sophisticated control systems, which nowadays means a computer. Plc controls take the craftsmanship out of running the still – indeed these stills are usually run without an operator even being there, and the dictionary definition of an artisan is “a skilled workman” or “a handicraftsman”. At the risk of alienating computer programmers it is hard to see how this definition can apply to a computer controlled still. So it is not the continuous still itself that moves it away from the realm of the artisan, but the control systems often (but not always) associated with it.

So if I haven’t yet nailed down what defines an artisan distiller, what might disqualify a distillery from being one? Obviously big industrial scale plants are out, and so too are small plants owned by a large organisation – they should be privately owned and independent. This allows for greater risk taking and sheer bloody-mindedness.

The truth is that although everyone is talking about the new wave of artisan distilleries, they have been around for a while. They almost died out with tight excise controls, but the Somerset Cider Brandy Company has now been going for over 20 years. Edradour in Perthshire is capable of producing 2500 bottles a week. Their spirit is produced by just 3 men without automation and claims a history going back 170 years. But it is very true that this is relatively rare in this country. Scotland has around 100 distilleries of various sizes. By contrast, Austria has a similar population and 20,000 registered distilleries, including my cousin who has a tiny still in the shed in his garden where he distils a wonderful Zwetschken Schnapps from the half dozen plum trees there. Every now and again he produces something that he is incredibly proud of, and rightly too. I have come to realise that this is one of the defining characteristics of an artisan distiller for me. Every distiller perfects his recipe and strives to make each batch identical, however variation is inevitable and some batches are better than others. In a larger distillery these variations are blended away to maintain consistency, but the artisan distiller embraces the variability and indeed celebrates it by putting batch numbers on bottles. What is the point of that if each batch is identical?

So celebrate the difference with us. Keep close to the distiller, ask what’s new, what’s recommended, how the runs are going and buy direct if possible. In short, treat your distiller just like your local butcher. It’s a little time-consuming but worth it to get the best drop, and if the distiller can’t make time to talk to you, then that’s not an artisan distillery.

Stefanie Holt Interview

Stefanie Holt has been an easily recognisable face around the London bar scene for many years. She has been heading up the El Dorado Brand in the UK since 2008 and in January 2011 she took the next step and became the International Brand Ambassador for the rum and holds the post to this day.

1. What is the first cocktail you ever made?

Hmmm, I worked in a Belgian Beer bar which had awful creamy blended
cocktails on the menu, so I probably made a few of them (although I used to
hide the cocktail sections of that menu whenever I started a shift to avoid
having to make any!), but after that I moved to a proper cocktail bar and I
think my first one was a lovely, foamy French Martini. We made millions of
them and after my first shift it felt like my arms were going to fall off!

2. What are your 3 favourite drinks plus recipes; old, new and your own?

I think my favourite old drink recipe is a negroni. Love those equal
measures for making quickly/easily and it tastes soooo good at any time of

Favourite 'new' one that really surprised me was a Rhubarb & Coriander
Mojito that the Sanderson Hotel did with El Dorado a couple of years ago. I
think of Rhubarb as really British and very wintry, and Coriander as more
exotic and summery, so it was a surprise when the flavours worked so well
together. Nice & easy to make as well!

Hmmmm, my own; well its been a while since I have come up with anything, but I always love it when I use stuff on a bar that doesn't really move. There was one I created at the Groucho (called 'On Your Marx') which contained Pisco, limoncello, yellow chartreuse and lemon juice which was very tasty...

3.Tell us about a new flavour you have discovered recently?

It's not new, but I am mostly playing with Kummel at the moment; bit of a rediscovery as I used to use it a lot in comps.

4. If you could pass just one thing, on to an apprentice bartender or someone wishing to enter the drinks industry what would it be?

Oh god! Quite a few of my old trainees still call me 'Mum', so I'm sure they
would tell you I couldn't pass on just one thing! Mainly to have fun & to
smile, that you can never stop improving/learning and that going even a
little bit above & beyond pays dividends.

5. What does the future hold for yourself and what do you see happening in
the future in the industry?

I think the industry is pretty exciting just now as there are a few really
developed markets who are really pushing the boundaries, but also they are
influencing the more developing countries/cities around the world who are
growing & becoming advanced really fast. It's nice to see that bartenders
around the world are using the internet to form a global community and
sharing ideas. For myself, I'm pretty happy - I still have a lot to learn
about markets around the world, and my brand still has plenty of growing to
do, so I'm settled!

6. What has been your biggest satisfaction from working in the bar world?

I think the biggest satisfaction with this industry is discovering that you
can have a career/job you love and lots of fun. I think at school all jobs
sound quite boring and like proper 'work', and I never dreamed I would find
such a vibrant and interesting industry. It certainly wasn't suggested by a
careers advisor!

7. If you were to have a conversation with a cocktail, (and presuming it
could talk back to you and tell you its past). Which cocktail would it be
and why?

It's kind of pre-cocktail, but I reckon the most interesting
stories would come from Navy Grog, I'd want to hear all about the daily
routine as well as battles it played a part in! Get it to teach me some sea
shanties as well...

8. What influenced your drinks from outside the industry (I.e. art,

Science probably - I did genetics at university so things have to make sense
scientifically for me. When I was learning I thought of cocktails as
following formulas to make balance - they usually tasted good, but my
garnishes often needed some work!

9. If you where to break a bartending golden rule what would it be?

Goodness, I can't think of any golden rules now! I'm sure I have broken them
all at some stage...

10. Outside of flavour and the craft of the cocktail what in your opinion
effects the appreciation of cocktails and spirits the most?

I think the overall environment in the bar (decor, lighting, music etc)
affects the appreciation of a cocktail a lot, but the thing that can sweeten
or sour an experience in a bar the most is service - v simple and it seems
like people never stop banging on about it, but you can still walk into a
bar and be ignored while the staff talk to each other or do 'more important'
things, or be made to feel like a nuisance for wanting a drink.

11. If you where to champion a cocktail or spirit which would it be?

Apart from El Dorado & Rum? I reckon a spirit would be Mezcal - there is so
much fascinating heritage there as well as the interesting production
techniques, and that flavour - wow!

14 December 2011

Food Pairing: Fad or Totally Rad

Since its conception food pairing has been on the tip of every chef and bartenders tongue. Combine that with the work of people like Bernard Lahousse, who has created a website which offeres the easiest and most approachable access to possible combinations, it is definitely a "trending" topic you might say.

Recently though there has been more and more questions raised concerning the theory and whether it stands up both on a scientific level but also from a cultural and empirical level. We thought we would take a look at what is being said and then let people make up their own mind.

Lets begin with the basic premis of what food pairing actually is.

The more aromatic compounds 2 substances have in common the better they will taste when paired together. This idea is said to be even more true when these aromatics are shared amongst a foods "characteristic flavour"

In more practrical terms it means that we can take flavour A and substitute it for flavour B. The two flavours are not naturally something that would "work" together however due to their similar aromatics it means they should, in theory, be easily swapped out. This is the first step to creating a new combination.

The theory is also based on the idea that we taste volatile compounds 80% through our olfactory or smell. The other 20% is perceived through mouth feel and taste on the tongue.

So in short we can put this flavour with that flavour because they share aromatics. Regardless of what we have "learnt" through our experiences of taste, or ideas we have formed on what should be served with what, scientifically the two will work. This does not detract from the fact that the flavours must still be balanced and a symphony created between the two.

The idea was given birth back in 2002 by Heston Blumethal. He was searching for alternatives for salt when he stumbled upon the combination of white chocolate and caviar. Bemused and intrigued, equally, Heston sought answers. They came from a man named Benzi who cited the combination of pork liver and jasmine. It was a similar anomaly of delicious flavour combination, and worked because they both share the volatile compound indole.

Maybe the best visual illustration of the principle can be seen over at Khymos and is illustrated below.

The letters represent a food and the colours represent how many odourants / volatiles/ aromatics they have in common. In the example below A and K have no aromatics in common however they taste delicious together .
Because the colours are similar we can see that A and C share aromatics. It would be unsurprising that the two would taste good together and indeed taste similar.

Here we see A and Z. Despite the letters being at opposite ends of the scale Food Pairing shows us that they share key aromatics and so should taste similar.
Imagine A is a prominent experiment in a dish. The colours surrounding it are traditional accompaniments. We see this in the way the colour tones are matched.
Based in the Food Pairing theory we can then add Z into the mix, as it shares similar aromatics to A and so should sit well with the surrounding flavours.

Following this theory one step further we should be able to substitute A for Z entirely. Carry on the process with the surrounding ingredients and it will slowly but surely become an entirely new dish.

Some have begun to argue that the idea is just a fad sweeping through Europe. Used as a method to separate kitchens, and their chefs, based on 'those who do' are excellent and pushing the boundaries. 'Those who don't' are average and doing nothing innovative. There may be some truth in to this, however the idea has already been around for a solid decade and seems to be gaining pace rather than slowing. Especially with the advent of it's path leading towards bars and drinks meaning we are seeing more weird and wonderfully unapparent combinations springing up on Cocktail Menu's all over the globe.

A study was conducted recently which offered some interesting, yet hotly contested, findings.

Undertaken by Yong-Yeoul Ahn at Harvard University. The group mapped and studied over 56,000 recipes taken from website Epicurois.com, Allrecipes.com and the Korean site Menupan.com.

The recipes were split into geographical groups. I.e Asian, North American, European and analysed to understand the flavour sharing components between them.

The results found that recipes from North America and Western Europe lean toward ingredients that share flavours. However Southern Europe and East Asian cuisine tend to avoid ingredients that share flavours and actually leant more toward a concept dubbed 'Antipairing'.

Now, arguments abound that this has more to do with location, availability, tradition, and cost in some cases. Rather, that in certain places these dishes are eaten out of necessity rather than for the pleasure of flavour combinations. Others contest that Asia is actually one of the most successful examples of Food Pairing theory.

Whether or not this theory applies to drinks is another question. An entirely new study could be conducted on cocktail ingredients and their origins. However one thing is for certain currently the Food Pairing theory is laying down the gauntlet of how far we can push drinks combinations. The idea of savoury flavours within cocktails is only just really being breached, beyond Bloody Marys, Bull Shots, and dare I say bacon infused vodkas we have stuck to what people know and are comfortable with.

I think we would be hard pressed to find another time when people's mind were more open to food and drink breaking down boundaries.

JJ Goodman meets Drink Factories Marcis Dzelzainis

After participating in the Beefeater 24 G&Tea competition a couple of weeks ago (His recipes you can find HERE) Marcis has now sat how with JJ Goodman who is doing a series of interview dubbed "You're Hired".

JJ: Tell us where you’re at and what are you working towards?

MD: I work for Tony Conigliaro as the operations manager for 69 Colebrooke Row. What I’m working towards? I haven’t a clue! But that’s the whole point of working for Tony: you never know what’s around the corner.

Who’s behind it?
The infamous Tony C and the lovely Camille Hobby-Limon

What was your previous job?
I was assistant bar manager at Quo Vadis

Why did you leave?
Tony offered me the opportunity to work on a wonderful project, which was to become the Zetter Townhouse.

What are you drinking at the moment?
Pina Coladas

Where do you drink on your day off?
Happiness Forgets on Hoxton Square..............

Read the rest of the interview at over at View London HERE

Drink Factory Guardian Feature

A very warm and Christmassy thanks to everyone who made it to the Drink Factory Masterclass. A special thanks to Alex Petridis fo this article in the Guardian. You can read the entire article HERE.

Have a read to find out what he thought of the practical home applications of some of our techniques, his occasional "eureka!" moments compared with his slightly more often miserable failure moments and where his passion for cocktails began.

Ferran Adria - Final Harvard Lecture of 2011

The man who really does need no introduction Ferran Adria graced the Harvard stage with the final lecture of 2011 last week.

The El Bulli mastermind was joined by Jose Andre who acts as both a translator and also takes the opportunity to add his two cents to what Ferran has to say.

The lecture begins with Ferran explaining his thoughts and process behind finding the concept for El Bulli and how despite initial criticism, and many people scoffing at the idea he followed through and turned what was a simple 50 seat restaurant, open for 10 months of the year, into arguably the worlds most famous restaurant in the world.

He then goes on to describe a project, set to roll out in 2014, called The El Bulli foundation. The project comes in collaboration with Telefonica, who are a communications company, ,and it's basic goal is to create platforms to share their knowledge.

The project will include an idearium, a brainstorming room, the kitchen workshop, with all the ideas and creativity being open to the public. He explains the idea around the 50min mark. It truly looks groundbreaking both visually and conceptually.

Flavour of the Week - Linden/Lime Blossoms

Lime (UK) and Linden (US) Blossoms are derived from a variety of tree called Tilla. There are around 30 species of the tree and they exist in most temperate climates, but with the largest variety being found in Asia.

Despite what it's name implies the blossoms have no relation, by species or by taste, to the citrus fruit.

The blossoms/fruit are taken from the leaves of the tree and are commonly used either dried or as an essential oil or tincture. The flowers themselves are edible and are also said to be very tasty when used as a tea, in addition to having various internal and external health benefits.

The flavour works very well with o.j peel, blackcurrant or fruits that have slightly deeper notes. As a scent it is used more often than simple beeswax tincture for it's more complete and round flavour.

Flavour: Floral, rich honey aromatic.

07 December 2011

Beefeater 24 G&Tea Recipes

In reaching the finals of the Beefeater 24 G&Tea finals 69 Colebrooke Row's and Drink Factories very own Marcis Dzelzainis was one of only two participants left representing the UK.

The remaining participants spanning Canada, Greece, Italy and UK were put through two rounds. The first was "Flavour Matching" where each contestant was randomly assigned a tea and allowed to build a cocktail from there. The second round was "Tea Ceremony" where the participants had to come up with a ritualised tea ceremony to serve and accompany their cocktail.

We can now bring you Marcis' two recipes (unfortunately minus high quality photos) and their serves.

Round 1 - Camellia Cocktail

"I really wanted to accentuate that sensory connection you make with sencha tea and the seaside. It can have quite a seaside, seaweed taste, so I'm transporting the drinker by creating a personal beach for them." - Marcis

Camellia Cocktail 

Glass: Ceramic Japanese tea cups
Garnish: Grapefruit zest
Method: Stir all ingredients with ice then strain into cups 

40ml Beefeater 24 gin 

2.5ml Lemon sherbet (finely grated zest, sugar and lemon juice)

20ml Homemade kiwi cordial (made with kiwi fruit cooked sous vide and then separating in a centrifuge) 

5 drops Sencha tincture (made from tea brewed twice)

Round 2 - Tippy Assam

A black Assam tea that produces a darker and stronger liquor after brewing for 3-4 minutes at nearly boiling point, with raisin notes and a more tannic character

Tippy 24
Glass: Coupe
Garnish: Grapefruit twist (discarded)
Method: Rapid infuse tea and gin using nitrous oxide in a siphon. Shake all ingredients with ice then strain into a chilled coupe.
50ml Beefeter 24 gin infused with Tippy Assam tea (3g tea to 350ml gin)
25ml Salted Uzu and lemon juice (1:5)
25ml Plum wine
15ml Elderflower cordial

For the rest of the contestants recipes head over to Class

Tasting Tips

Though many of us will do this all the time, many of us will also have asked am I doing right? Well, yes, you probably are, however this post is more of a general reminder and some informative bits of knowledge that other, not so seasoned tasters, can take away with them.

Knowledge is the enemy of indifference - Study your products. Learn what botanicals go in what gin, learn the subtle differences in the soil, climate, or distillation and then attribute them to the spirit.

Try and make a mental note that this botanical tastes like this. If possible try and get hold of fresh ingredients and then smell/taste them alongside the spirit. Your pallet and sense of taste can become encyclopedic in the number of flavours/areas/methods of production it can recognise.

Beyond this make sure you use your own words to describe flavours and create personal associations. These can then be built into a table and refered to in dire times or when you are so far into the tasting memory lapses occur.

Your nose knows - Your sense of taste is profoundly reliant on your sense of smell. Always go in with the nose first but be careful not to reach in too close as you may burn your nasal receptors and smell nothing but ethyrs.

Be sure you set your nose back to "neutral" inbetween each smell otherwise you will be smelling part of the previous spirit. This is easily done by smelling the skin on your hands which has a neutral odour.

Your are never wrong - True, there are certain aspects of a spirit that everyone should be able to taste and recognise however tasting is SUBJECTIVE. Try not to take others lead on what you can taste. The quote "Madness is rare in an individual but the rule of groups" often springs to mind when the room nods in agreement with a confidently stated flavour.

This leads back to the earlier point about being sure to recognise as many flavours as possible meaning you can confidently make suggestions. Everyone will perceive flavours slightly differently and everyone has a different threshold for what they can and cannot taste. This does not affect peoples ability to pair flavours and understand what works and how.

Dilution is good - Never be worried about diluting a spirit. Various studies have shown that, in whiskies particularly, adding water actually releases new flavours that would not have been present prior.

Myth - Do not trust anyone who tells you that a certain kind of glass is better for tasting because it means the liquid hits points of your tongue. The tongue map is not accurate and we now know that we can sense each kind of taste with very little difference all over the tongue.

Caramelized Cream

Having never been a big fan of drinks with cream I wasn't exactly gripped by the idea of "caramelized cream". However I went away and gave it some thought. With the light of a new day came an open mind and some inspiration.

The main reason for my disdain of creamy alcoholic drinks is their taste. Cream, for me doesn't impart a great deal to any drink beyond thickening and texturising. Flip that on it's head though and why not add flavour to cream whilst retaining the texturising effect.

We can thank Ideas in Food, for the news. The recipe goes like this.

Add o.5% baking soda to the cream. This will have the effect of expediting the browning process. The mixture was added to a mason jar (it is essentially a jam jar pictured below) and the lid loosely screwed on. An inch of water was then added into the bottom of the pressure cooker and turned on at a high pressure for 2 hours. Once the pressure had naturally dissipated the cream was left looking brownish in colour and with rich deep nutty notes.

Essentially what you are doing here is cooking the sugars in the cream and "caramelizing" them to release the deeper, sweeter flavours.

An alternative method to try, is placing the cream in a airtight jar or sous vide bag and then cooking in a water bath for around 15 - 20 hours until brown. The cream will curdle however this can be addressed simply by blending the mixture. This method is time consuming but cost effective.

The resulting product can potentially be used to add a new dimension to a cocktail. Perhaps a Caramelized White Russian, or a Irish Coffee with a distinct edge. Let us know if you come up with anything exciting!

Flavour of the Week - Pine Needles

Now I can't say I have ever heard of pine needles being used in Western cooking, (let us know if you have or know of any recipes) however I do know that they are used in Korean serves and Asian cooking. Firstly because the flavour they impart cannot be substituted and secondly because they are easily available and can be picked directly from the tree.

All pine needles are edible, however the amount of flavour varies greatly so be sure to either ask advice when buying or taste before harvesting.

Alternatively Pine Needle Extract is easily available both over the internet or from health food shops. In addition to having a distinct aroma and taste the extract boasts a wealth of health benefits.

It is said to work very well as a vinegar, and sit comfortably within a gin or cranberry juice.

Flavour - similar to juniper in ways, deep citrus, fresh, clean

Portrait Created with 3.2 Million Dots

Clearly this does not have anything to do directly with drinks, or catering. However as people that appreciate art in all it's forms, especially when that art is taking something known and mundane to add a new dimension and pull it back from the brink of obscurity, we hope that you will enjoy this not only for the skill of the artist but also for the cinematography and editing involved.