An LCL Update

So Ted is finally done writing the biographies for all 50 51 bartenders (and for those of you keeping score, yes, we added one more bartender to the LCL fold since Tales of the Cocktail: David Shenaut in Portland OR, currently satisfying customers at Teardrop Lounge) and I have completed organizing the recipes for 100 102 cocktails and the associated homemade ingredients. Everything has now been handed over to editorial staff (OK, we don’t have any real staff but we do have real editors to help us out). Book production should to being soon.

I must say it was lots of fun going over all of the recipes again. I think I had forgotten how many great cocktails were made last winter and spring in the run up to the photo shoot. I’m also quite pleased with the level of detail I was able to provide regarding the more arcane and complex homemade ingredients. For example, below are the instructions for making “Smoked Cider Air,” an ingredient in Daniel Hyatt’s Still Life with Apples, After Cezanne. Because this turned into such a total disaster during the photo shoot it was super-important to me to figure out where I had gone wrong and how to avoid doing so in the future. That’s all rolled up into the recipe notes.

Smoked Cider Air

Still Life with Apples, After Cezanne, Daniel Hyatt

1/4 tsp. liquid smoke concentrate
1 liter pasteurized (clear) apple cider
1 1/2 gm. soy lecithin granules
1/2 gm. xanthan gum
An 8-quart food-grade plastic container
An immersion blender

1. Pour cider into the plastic container.
2. Add liquid smoke, soy lecithin and xanthan.
3. Mix and froth the mixture using the immersion blender, keeping it just below the surface to form a thick layer of foam (“air”).
4. Skim the very top (driest part) of the “air” and add to the cocktail.
5. Re-froth as necessary to make more foam.

Notes:

Let me begin by saying that while making “Smoke Cider Air” requires some odd ingredients, special equipment and new techniques, anyone who undertakes it will be rewarded by being able to savor a most excellent cocktail, one of my favorites in the book. And baring that, you can always visit Daniel Hyatt at Alembic in San Francisco and have him make one for you.

After some spectacular failed experiments in scaling (down) I have concluded that this is one recipe that must be made using the quantities specified by the bartender if it is to come out right. It seems wasteful to make this much unless one is making a lot of drinks (since you can get an almost infinite amount of the “air” from a liter of cider by replenishing the lecithin and gum when it stops foaming) however the various problems I encountered trying to quarter the recipe (measuring such small amounts, inadequate foaming and catastrophic precipitation of the lecithin when put atop the cocktail) led me to this conclusion.

It is also very important to do the blending in sufficiently deep and wide enough container. The recommended the 8-quart food grade white plastic container is very affordable and can be purchased at most any restaurant supply store. I’d also get a lid to go with it as well.

Xanthan gum can be found a some specialty spice stores, Indian groceries, cake baking supply stores and of course on the web. If you can’t find xanthan gum, you may try tragacanth gum, which may be easier to find. You’ll probably have to tinker with the amount to use but keep in mind it’s the lecithin which creates the “air” – the gum simply helps to stabilize it.

You will need a precision electronic scale accurate to less than a gram in order to measure the xanthan and the lecithin. These are much more affordable than they used to be but are still not totally cheap. You might ask around and see if you can borrow one.

Finally, unless (or even) when it is very dry, the “air” will have a tendency to precipitate some amount of lecithin into the cocktail once it has been spooned on top. (My conjecture is that this is a reaction with the acid in the Maple Syrup Gastrique, another homemade ingredient used in this cocktail.) In extreme cases, you will have a literal rain of lecithin pouring into the otherwise translucent cocktail. Not much to do but sink it and start again.

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