posted by Nastassia Lopez
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas Holiday in the lab. A thick layer of liquid nitrogen has settled in, our intern Fabulous is canvassing local Christmas tree stands for fallen pine branches, and the drinks are flowing.
Wednesday night Dave and Nils hosted the FCI holiday cocktail demo. They made sure everyone left well sated, and stumbling.
The Douglas Fir Feliz Navidad Cocktail
The best freaky cocktail I’ve had. The creation story: As wee kids on different sides of the world, Dave and Nils liked to chew on the branches of their respective Christmas trees. Fast forward 30 odd years–they jointly craved a drink with that gnawing-on-pine essence. They sent Fabulous down to the local tree stand to gather some Douglas fir boughs. Back at the lab, Dave distilled the branches with Justin Timberlake’s 901 Tequila. They mixed the pined tequila with clarified lime juice (see stupid simple lime juice clarification here), simple syrup, and a bit of salt. The flavor was like being hit in the mouth with a Christmas tree.
Cubing Your Juice
For you home bartenders: Instead of shaking with ice, freeze your mixing liquid in ice cube trays (such as the clarified apple juice in our Apple and Gin Cocktails). It’s much easier to pop a few cubes into the shaker, add the alcohol, and shake until the cubes have fully melted. You will have a perfectly chilled, consistent drink every time. You’ll have to shake a long time, and your hands will get really cold–as one of our attendees pointed out, you can also skip the shaking altogether and throw the cubes and alcohol into a blender.
Before you freeze the juice, measure how many ounces an individual cube in your tray holds; you can count out the ideal amount of cubes per drink and get the same result every time. Easy!
It’ll make all your cocktails better. We spend entire days rotovapping, clarifying, and distilling alcohol, but our drinks–especially drinks with fruit juice–are never finished without a pinch of salt.
I’m particular about my French fries. I like them crispy, but not to the point where they lose that delicious starchy potato center. I also like them really salty. Dave and Nils make them perfectly:
Start with a couple good russet potatoes. Peel them. Cut them into your preferred fry baton thickness (1/4 inch is standard).
Pre-blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes until they are just cooked. Drain. While hot, dry on a baking sheet (with a fan) until they are completely dry. This step is the real secret.
Fry in hot oil (338 degrees F/170 degrees C) until the outside is hard and crisp but the fries are still blonde. Allow the fries to cool. They will turn limp and soggy. Fry a second time at 365-380 F/185-193 C till golden brown and super crispy. Season with salt. We served the fries with a side of mayo blended with chorizo oil.
Smooth-Talking Your Way to Liquid Nitrogen
We like to use a lot of liquid nitrogen to chill glasses, drinks, ice cream etc. Inevitably there are a few curious people at our demos who want to get their hands on some liquid nitrogen for home use. Liquid nitrogen is not illegal, but tragic things can happen when it is handled improperly. Dave is writing a longer post on the safety and handling of liquid nitrogen, so don’t get any till you read it. Once you know the safety drill here’s Dave’s tried-and-true method for the first-time LN purchaser:
Even if you know what you are doing, calling and ordering LN for the first time can be daunting. Pick up the phone, call your local welding supply store, and have a conversation that goes something like this:
“Hi, I need to rent an LS 240 LN dewar.” Translation: LN stands for liquid nitrogen. A dewar is a container to hold liquid nitrogen. LS is the term for the larger liquid storage dewars. 240 is the number of liters it holds. You could also ask for an LS 180 or, less commonly, an LS 160.
Then say something like, “Yeah, I know there is a $2000 deposit. Yeah, I only need it for a couple of days but I know I have to pay the whole month’s rent.” Don’t worry, you’ll get the deposit back. The monthly rental is about $35.
Order fairly early in the day. Finish with, “I’d like it tomorrow at such-and-such address. Oh yeah, I need to rent a take-off hose. I don’t have one lying around.” That’s it. Your LN will show up. The nitrogen will cost you around $100 and will be more than enough for your party. Deliveries from welding supplies are typically Mon-Fri only, so order Thurs for a Sat party.
Don’t say anything like this:
“How do you handle this stuff safely? I’ve never used this before. How do you hook it up? Etc., etc.” This line of questioning is sure to leave you dewarless. And you shouldn’t be ordering anyway if you don’t know the answers.
Up in those cold, dark, Nordic countries, people take the holiday edge off by consuming Glögg – a mulled wine made of port, red wine, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, simple syrup and cloves, finished with aquavit. Nils concocted while Dave red-hot-pokered. The drink is usually finished when the flames get to eyebrow-singe height. Perfect for those cold, snowy nights.
Traditionally, Glögg is served hot. Because Dave and Nils like to toy with tradition (and because they really like bubbles) they also carbonated the Glögg and served it cold. I liked it much better this way. You didn’t get the burn of the spices or that tangy aftertaste that mulled wines leave on your tongue.
Remember that when carbonating alcohol, the psi must be higher than for non-alcoholic drinks. Alcohol absorbs more CO2. We carbonate most mixed drinks to around 40 psi at zero Celsius, and re-carbonate at least 3 times. Let the Glögg (or whatever alcoholic drink you’re carbonating) sit for 3-4 minutes to let the bubbles dissipate before releasing the top and serving.
Gingersnap Sandwiches with Blue Cheese Filling
The Glögg was accompanied by another Swedish holiday treat: two gingersnap cookies around a delicious blue cheese filling. If you make one cookie this holiday season, make it these mind-blowingly good ones.
150 grams of butter
400 grams granulated sugar
160 milliliters molasses
20 milliliters vinegar
525 grams white bread flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 cups quality blue cheese
1 cup sour cream
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently. Add the eggs, one at a time. Add the molasses and the vinegar slowly to avoid separating the mixture. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture and mix just to combine. Force the dough into a flat rectangle. Wrap and chill the dough until firm. Divide the dough into 50 small, equal portions. Roll the dough into balls. Dredge the balls in sugar. Place the cookies on a parchment lined sheet pan. Bake the cookies at 350 degrees F for 7-10 minutes. They will spread, the sugar crust will begin to firm up in the middle.
For the blue cheese filling, blend blue cheese and sour cream until smooth and creamy. Spread the filling between two cookies, sandwich-style.