June 2, 2015

Get Your Chemistry Drinking on With Uncommon Goods Molecular Mixology Kit

I recently received the Uncommon Goods’ Molecular Mixology Cocktail Kit in the mail – without even ordering it! I know, I’m lucky (and trying not to be smarmy about, too). It’s an interesting combo kit in a way, with three boxes covering fun ways to science-up three classic drinks, the Margarita, Mojito, and Cosmopolitan.

Each box contains recipes for three different molecular mixology takes on the drinks, including making “caviar” bubbles, tasty foam, and what I’d call liquid “spheres,” as well as the food additives and some of the tools needed to make the drinks. It’s like a little chemistry kit that just needs booze (and sometimes some mixers and stuff) to take your drinking into another realm, a sorta futuristic feeling place that’s still awfully jolly (oh, I suggest when you get your molecular mixology on, you do it with friends. It’s even more jolly. Of course this is pretty much true with all drinking)!

Oh, wait, before I get in to my experimenting with the kit, I suppose a little about UncommonGoods might be, well, good. Heck, instead of me trying to talk it out, let me tell you what they say:

UncommonGoods is a retailer that endeavors to feature unique designs and handcrafted gifts created in harmony with the environment and without harm to animals or people. We make it our mission to support and provide a platform for artists and designers; in fact, half of what we sell is made by hand. Most of the products we carry are created right here in the USA, and about one-third of our entire collection incorporates recycled and/or upcycled materials.

And now you know! And now we can get to the drinks. I took on (with the help of wife Nat) the Margarita sphereification first (and, I’ll admit, it’s the only one so far, though I look forward to more), cause in some past molecular drinking, I always love the sphere-ing. Really!

The kits come with nice little recipes books. I’m not gonna walk through every step, cause that’d get long. But will give the highlights. You mix a little calcium lactate with some water, orange liqueur, and mango, freeze it into spheres (in the handy sphere freezing tray), mix some water and sodium alginate, drop the frozen spheres in it, then rinse them with water, and top them with tequila, coconut milk, and lime. Boom!

The instructions were by-and-large pretty good (it would have been nice to have a general idea how long the spheres will take to freeze, as the instructions just flow as if that doesn’t take time – but that’s pretty easy to figure out). I wasn’t a huge fan of the tequila-and-coconut milk combo as it was, honestly. But I loved making more of an actual “deconstructed” Margarita (as they call it in the book), just with tequila, lime, and the orange liqueur (I used Gran Gala) mango spheres:

I love, love, love slurping the tequila and lime and sphere, and then breaking the spheres open in my mouth (hah, that sounds bad – but tastes so, so good). The whole process creates this little skin around the orange liqueur/mango liquid combo, and when you bite down, all that flavor is a blast. A blast! Very swell stuff.

I can’t wait to try more, both the other recipes for the Marg and the other two cocktails, but also playing around with my own recipes using some of the science-y stuff that came along. Neato!

September 10, 2013

U.K. Drinks, Part II: 69 Colebrooke Row

In the recent U.K. Drinks Part I post, I talked about drinking ales at Cornwall pubs, and how lovely it was. But I also spent a little time in a town I like to call Londinius (or Matt Berry likes to call it that, and I imitate him), and had some swell drinks there, too. The swellest though, and what I’m devoting this post too, were at a bar with no name that resides at 69 Colbrooke Row (and, funny enough, the check actually says “The Bar With No Name”). It’s a well-known spot, thanks to the bartending and chemistry of renowned shaker Tony Conigliaro, whose book The Cocktail Lab: Unraveling the Mysteries of Flavor and Aroma in Drink, with Recipes, recently came out. You should buy it, if you’re at all interested in cocktails. And why would you be here if you weren’t? Anywho, I’d always wanted to visit said bar, and was stoked to finally get there. I started with a drink called Terroir, which is a word I can’t pronounce. It’s also a straight spirit they distill at the “lab” up the street – distill from clay, lichen, and flint! Really.


If you see a drink on a menu that’s a distillate of clay, lichen, and flint, how can you get anything else? You can’t. It comes poured at the table straight from the bottle,


and was delicious, slightly sweet, even, with earth tones, as you’d expect, and undercurrents of the air you smell when roaming the hills of France. From there, I went to the Avignon, on the server’s suggestion (more about said server in a minute). It was a combo of Merlot Cognac, Chamomile syrup, and smoked Frankincense. I kid you not! It had an amazing complex smokiness that started with the glass itself – turns out, they smoke the glass, too, in some mad scientist machine at the lab. The drink had layers of smoke and smelled, almost as if you were drinking from a chasuble.


At this point (and after Nat had a few drinks, which I’m not detailing cause really then you’d know the whole menu and not want to visit the bar yourself, which you should. So I’m leaving you with a bit of mystery) I wanted something a bit more umphy, as both the early drinks, while awesome, had sweeter notions. After talking it through with our server (hold on, more on him in a sec), he suggested an old favorite I hadn’t had in years, the Remember the Maine. A perfect idea! It’s like a Manhattan jagged with absinthe more-or-less, and fell right into place. Sadly, I was having too much fun to take a picture.

But that wasn’t it (and no, we weren’t stumbling – we were there a while, and the drinks were well-sized, meaning not like buckets). On the advice of that same server, and actually on the dime of that server, as he bought us this last drink, we had the Prairie Oyster shot. Now, don’t faint (if you know I’m a veg, that is. If you don’t, now you do). There wasn’t a real oyster involved. What was involved was cool as heck, and I’m going to try and describe it, but not do it justice. But here goes. They take tomato water and herbs, and place it into a handmade mold that looks like an oyster, then immerse it in a chemical solution that makes the outer layer form into a “skin” of sorts, and the whole thing look oysterish. Then they place it into a custom-made ceramic “shell” and top it with house pepper vodka and some other goodness. Then you shoot it. When you take a bite (which I suggest) of the tomato “yolk” or “oyster” it bursts with this fantastic rush of vegetal-ness, herb and spice, and pepper. It’s yummy.


So, the drinks were interesting, tasty, and reliable. Which wouldn’t mean nearly as much if the service wasn’t so darn great. Everyone working there was friendly, the place itself is cozy, there was a piano player knocking out 1930s, 40s, and 50s hits, there’s a Bogart-y shadow on the wall going up the bathrooms:


and the whole atmosphere is neat. And our main server was super helpful, so enthusiastic about the drinks, as well as knowledgeable, and very friendly. He greeted every table with a “Hello Ladies and Gents” and kept everyone happy, with the help of the other amiable employees. And, his name was Coco.


He told us he’s opening his own bar in London soon, so when you visit 69 Colbrooke Row, which you must, ask them where Coco’s bar is, so you can visit it, too.

Rathbun on Film