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Alchemist

Cocktail science

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[...]

Want more dilution?  Crack the ice into smaller pieces.

So, what do we learn from this?  We learn that freezing the mixing glass is good, resulting in a colder drink that can still have sufficient dilution.  We also learn that freezing the gin is bad, resulting in a cold drink but one that is unlikely to have sufficient dilution.

Fair enough. It is true that I was a bit lazy and didn't bother to crack the (regular home ice maker) cubes. Next time I will follow Dave's advice to the letter and report back.

BTW, I know somewhere on these forums, at one point, I espoused the use of frozen gin in Martinis. I have since seen the error of those ways and leave my gin and mixing vodka at room temperature.

Though, really the end result of the frozen gin was very similar to my experiments last Saturday with the frozen mixing glass. A very cold cocktail with almost no dilution.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Well given that Dave lives about 20 blocks from me, I can sleep well at night knowing that I have a backup reserve of chilled mixer glasses available in case of emergency.

Dave, if you ever want a super cold martini mixed in a chilled mixer let me know. :biggrin:

Hopefully when Sidecar Bar finally opens, we can convince them to have chilled mixers too.

John


John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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Does anyone else keep mixing glasses in the freezer?

Nope. Not in any bar I have worked in, nor in anyones house.

You need to hang around in a better class of bar, or make better friends. :smile:'

My friends and the bars I go to are just dandy enough, thanks anyway :raz:

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Does anyone else keep mixing glasses in the freezer?

In the experiments I have done, (all in the name of consistency and ecellence of taste) I have tried to reduce the variables involved in the process of mixing a martini but have found a curious thing.

If you stir up your perfect concoction and then measure, temperature, dilution etc and try to emulate this by adding a specific quantity of chilled water to your gin and taking it to the required temperature, somehow the result is not the same as mixing room temp Gin, Vermouth and ice (cubed/cracked/whatever) to the reqired consistency.

Anyone know why?

Cheers

Ian


Vist Barbore to see the Scottish scene.

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Hmm, I'm not much of a scientist but anyhoo... Have you checked the martini at different times after its been made with water? eg after 2mins, 5mins etc? I'm thinking that it would perhaps settle over time?

Alcohol molecules are fat soluble at one end and water soluble at the other which is why alcohols mix so easily with each other. Obviously this is affected by various flavour molecules in different types of alcohol, but the idea is the same.

When you make a martini, bonds are formed with water molecules from the ice. My theory is that these bonds form slowly as they are only really forming at the surface of the ice. This gradual process ensures that the flavours are blended slowly and fully creating a robust drink with strong bonds throughout.

However, were you to splash some cold water into the drink, the molecules would be rushing around each other trying to form bonds and the result would be a bit chaotic, with bonds being formed and broken very quickly. The bonds would not be spread evenly throughout the drink, so what you have an inconsistent drink which is constantly reacting. This is why I think the drink would settle over time were it to be kept cool so that temperature would no longer be a variable in the experiment. Also, if the water is cold and the alcohol is warm, they would be moving at different speeds and it would take a certain period of time for equilibrium to be reached. While this equilibrium is being reached I dont think the drink would be very robust; as the alcohol molecules are moving faster and are generally more volatile anyway they are going to be making and breaking more bonds than if the molecules are all moving at the same speed.

I may be wrong, but I'm working from a theory I heard a while ago that shaking a drink too hard can sometimes separate the flavours, especially delicate flavours like whiskey (can anyone prove/disprove this?) So that got me thinking about the ways in which different types of agitation affects the outcome of the drink.

Bartrainer - Fancy runnin into you here! Hope all is well! :smile:


Edited by varicose veins (log)

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varicose veins, I'm not sure I buy your "alcohol bonding" theory, and I'll tell you why: The spirits used to make cocktails are almost always at least 50% water by volume (i.e., 100 proof or lower) before any additional water in the form of melting ice comes into play. Therefore, logic tells us that any such bonding would already have occured long before any ice was introduced to the spirits (indeed, the hydroxyl group is what makes ethanol miscible with water). We should also understand that we're talking about relatively weak hydrogen bonds which are continuously being formed, broken, formed again, etc. Water also forms plenty of hydrogen bonds with itself.

As for whether shaking a drink can "separate the flavors" or "bruise the gin" and that sort of thing, I think it's purely mythology. Of course shaking aerates the drink, which can have an effect on texture and flavor that may work better with some spirits and some cocktails than others. But if a drink is good when shaken, shaking it "too hard" isn't going to hurt it (unless this results in excess dilution or ice shards or some other obvious defect).


--

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I have been lead to understand that 'bruising' gin is a metaphor about the aromatic quality, similar to bruising mint or other herbs. Of course I may be completely mistaken, and at any rate it still doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Although on second thought, it does seem that shaken gin drinks sometimes display less of the aromatic quality of the gin, though my first instinct would be to attribute that to the fact that they normally contain other ingredients that would obscure the botanicals (cream, juice, eggwhite, etc). Or I could be dreaming the whole thing up.

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I've always figured that "bruising the gin" was a metaphor for the cloudy appearance of a shaken Martini as opposed to one that is stirred.

As for the aromatics, I would assume that the areation/oxidation of shaking would increase volatile aromatics rather than reducing them.


--

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[...]

Want more dilution?  Crack the ice into smaller pieces.

So, what do we learn from this?  We learn that freezing the mixing glass is good, resulting in a colder drink that can still have sufficient dilution.  We also learn that freezing the gin is bad, resulting in a cold drink but one that is unlikely to have sufficient dilution.

Fair enough. It is true that I was a bit lazy and didn't bother to crack the (regular home ice maker) cubes. Next time I will follow Dave's advice to the letter and report back.

BTW, I know somewhere on these forums, at one point, I espoused the use of frozen gin in Martinis. I have since seen the error of those ways and leave my gin and mixing vodka at room temperature.

Though, really the end result of the frozen gin was very similar to my experiments last Saturday with the frozen mixing glass. A very cold cocktail with almost no dilution.

I guess this is part of what I meant when I said the Martini can be a bit of a headache for a beginner. Some of the confusion over which way to chill a Martini comes from the fact that an Extra Dry Martini and a wetter standard Martini aren't really in the same category of drinks, although they have the same name.

Both drinks are best served ice cold, but the optimal strength and the role the vermouth plays are very different in the two.

In an extra dry Martini, the vermouth is for aroma, and the optimal strength is around standard liquor strength (ie 40% abv). With that as a background, putting a bottle of 40-45% abv gin in the freezer and pouring it straight into a pre-chilled Martini glass with a misting of vermouth and the appropriate garnishes seems like a reasonable way of doing things. It's certainly less hit or miss than doing it the other way of using room temperature 45+% abv gin and trying to finesse the stuff into just the right amount of chill and dilution using cracked ice and a slow stir.

On the other hand, in a wet Martini, the vermouth is for flavor, and the optimal strength is roughly half that of the extra dry. Here using ice to chill the ingredients is a better idea, because the drink needs that dilution.

And of course because the mythos of the Martini partially rests on its drinkers being anally particular, there are an infinite number of degrees of dryness in the spectrum between the two types, where the vermouth slowly changes roles, the optimal strength increases, and the little details like cracked or crushed, small cubes or large, freezer gin or room temperature, shake or stir, etc. etc. etc. fluctuate about.

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Are you confusing aroma and flavour as two distinct things. Aroma is flavour whether it is experienced through the nose or the mouth.

I would disagree that the optimal strength for a dry martini is different to that of a wet one. I can see an arguement for the same ABV at the point of serving and as such the method for each having to vary to achieve this but that ABV will be significantly below 40%.

I'm not sure of the science but in my experience alcohol carries flavour better than water... ie higher strength spirits seem to have a more intense flavouor so I think that there will probably be an optmum ABV that will carry the maximum flavour but be just soft enough so as to be burn free on the palate.

This doesn't even take into account temperature.

Cheers

Ian


Vist Barbore to see the Scottish scene.

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Are you confusing aroma and flavour as two distinct things.  Aroma is flavour whether it is experienced through the nose or the mouth.

Ths misunderstanding is between flavor and taste. I think mbanu was using the word "flavor" when perhaps "taste" would have been more apropos. I have posted this information elsewhere on the site, but perhaps it makes sense to repeat it here...

Flavor and taste are not quite the same thing. Taste is the sensation produced by the activation of taste buds in the mouth and throat area by certain chemicals. Smell is the sensation produced by the activation of olfactory receptors by certain chemicals. There is another chemosensory mechanism called the "common chemical sense" through which various nerve endings (especially prevalent in the naturally moist areas of the body) react to certain chemicals to create sensations such as the burn of capsaicin, the sting of ammonia, etc. These senses combine with other sensed elements such as texture and temperature to produce the impression that we call "flavor." As many people understand, smell is perhaps the most important contributor to the perception of flavor.

The new edition of McGee's On Food and Cooking has this to say:

(Page 387) Flavor is a composite quality, a combination of sensations from the taste buds in our mouth and the odor receptors in the upper reaches of our nose. . . There are only a handful of different tastes -- sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory or umami, while there are many thousands of different odors.  It's odor molecules that make an apple "taste" like an apple, not like a pear or radish. . . So most of what we experience as flavor is odor, or aroma.

(Page 591) . . . Recent research has shown that taste sensations affect our smell sensations.  In a sweet food, the presence of sugar enhances our perception of aromas, and in savory foods, the presence of salt has the same effect.

It is true, however, that there are certain additions made to drinks that are there primarily for their aromatic (smell) contributions rather than their taste contributions. One could make the argument that the minute quantities of vermouth added to the modern "super-extra-dry Martini" are there for their aromatic qualities. I would argue that they're there simply for the sake of tradition and make little if any meaningful contribution.

I'm not sure of the science but in my experience alcohol carries flavour better than water... ie higher strength spirits seem to have a more intense flavouor so I think that there will probably be an optmum ABV that will carry the maximum flavour but be just soft enough so as to be burn free on the palate.

Higher abv spirits tend to have a more intense flavor than their lower abv cousins, this is true. Rittenhouse 100 proof has more flavor than Rittenhouse 80 proof. But I wouldn't necessarily agree that this is because "alcohol carries flavour better than water." Rather, it is the case that the lower proof spirit was diluted with more water to bring it down to bottle proof. Take straight whiskey, for example. Assuming that the whiskey comes out of the barrel at 125 proof, a liter of 100 proof whiskey would be comprised of 800 ml of barrel-proof whiskey cut with 200 ml of water. A liter of 80 proof whiskey, on the other hand, would be comprised of 640 ml of barrel-proof whiskey cut with 360 ml of water. That means that there would be 160 ml more of barrel-proof whiskey in the 100 proof liter, for an increase of 25%. Considering this, it's no surprise that Rittenhouse 100 proof has a more intense flavor than Rittenhouse 80 proof. The effect is magnified when we are talking about products like gin, that start out at a much higher abv before being diluted to bottle proof.


--

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Just to clarify, my comment wasn't specifically about Martinis, more about the most efficient way to chill a stirred cocktail and still get appropriate dilution, whether it is a Martini, Manhattan, or Improved Holland Gin Cocktail.

So, leaving aside the whole Super-Extra-Dry-Martini controversy, I will link another topic johnder started, with some interesting observations on Shaken vs. Stirred. Unfortunately, he did not include cocktails stirred with cracked ice in his experiments.

Shaken? Stirred? Cloudy? Bruised?


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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OK, no strictly scientific experimentation; but, a first experiment with cracked ice and a frozen glass.

I know I'm risking pomposity here, and also that almost no bars in the world actually use either cracked ice or frozen mixing glasses.

So, the first thing I did, PG&E be damned, is turn my freezer down to minus 5. Rick over at Kaiser Penguin suggested this. Not sure how big a difference 5 degrees makes. Rick swears by it. What the heck.

The experimental subject was the Blues Cocktail.

Put a pint glass in the freezer to chill the night before. Yesterday, ran enough ice through the ice crusher to fill the glass. Added my booze and gave it a good long stir.

The cocktail was very cold and had a silky texture. I think dilution was OK. Though, probably gin will be a better test than a whiskey which is fully enjoyable at room temp. You will note I made 2 cocktails. Sometimes the wife enjoys these cocktails, sometimes not. In this case, not, so I stashed the second cocktail in the fridge while I enjoyed the first.

First cocktail was noticeably colder than the fridge cocktail I enjoyed later in the evening.

There is difference in the effect of the spoon on crushed ice and cubes. I'm used to the cubes moving and the liquor circulating more. With the crushed ice, the ice pieces just sort of move around the spoon.

So no real conclusions yet. Intrigued enough that further experimentation is in order. I do wish I had a thermometer that could register temperatures below freezing.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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OK, no strictly scientific experimentation; but, a first experiment with cracked ice and a frozen glass.

There is difference in the effect of the spoon on crushed ice and cubes.  I'm used to the cubes moving and the liquor circulating more.  With the crushed ice, the ice pieces just sort of move around the spoon.

I’ve always assumed that there was a big difference between cracked ice and crushed ice.

I saw cracked ice as a “broken” ice cube and crushed ice as a “smashed to bits” ice cube.

Cracked ice, a few pieces. Crushed ice, MANY pieces.

Rich


"The only time I ever said no to a drink was when I misunderstood the question."

Will Sinclair

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I’ve always assumed that there was a big difference between cracked ice and crushed ice.

I saw cracked ice as a “broken” ice cube and crushed ice as a “smashed to bits” ice cube.

Cracked ice, a few pieces. Crushed ice, MANY pieces.

Rich

Hmm...

I don't know that I've noticed much difference between what I get when I crack ice by hand and what I get out of my ice crusher. But, maybe I get carried away cracking the ice?

Another variable to consider!


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I’ve always assumed that there was a big difference between cracked ice and crushed ice.

I saw cracked ice as a “broken” ice cube and crushed ice as a “smashed to bits” ice cube.

Cracked ice, a few pieces. Crushed ice, MANY pieces.

Rich

I think the problem here is that an Ice Crusher is not really crushing the ice, it is breaking it.

At the moment I have been experimenting (too much time on my hands :biggrin: ) with breaking ice. I have been freezing water in ice cream containers, and then smashing the ice with a "spanner" (aka. monkey wrench), and the ice just shatters into snow, cold (not about to melt snow). I used it in a drink and it was completely different from crushed ice made with a hand-cranked ice "crusher". The hand-pulverised ice, monkey wench if you please, survived longer in the glass, and did not just turn into water after a short while.

I wonder if the "hold some ice in your hands and hit it" is really cracked ice, as I like using ice from a big block that it struck and then cracks, surely producing "cracked ice"; Not machine produced ice cubes that are broken in half with the back of a knife.

My first youtube cocktail spectacular will be a Sherry Cobbler and a Madiera Julep. I think a little intro sequence of "ice meeting steel" ("say hello to my little friend") would be in order.

On another note Norwegian water produces clearer ice, which fractures/ cracks much easier than London, England frozen water.

Cheers!

George

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I think this is going to another level when it’s not really all that technical or complicated.

Crushed ice is ice that has been cracked repeatedly.

You may be able pack it into the shape of a ball, but it is no where near as fine as snow.

It’s Slurpee ice…

It's the ice that the fish monger displays his fish on...

It has nothing to do with “crushing” the ice.

Cracked ice is ice that has been broken into small pieces but you can NOT shape into a ball. The pieces are still individual.

It’s just smaller, jagged versions of the original cube or block.

Not to small, but small enough to fit in a glass.

Rich


"The only time I ever said no to a drink was when I misunderstood the question."

Will Sinclair

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I think this is going to another level when it’s not really all that technical or complicated.

Don't blame me, blame E-gullet :biggrin: .

Crushed ice is ice that has been cracked repeatedly.

Well, to me, crushed ice is ice that has been crushed.

You may be able pack it into the shape of a ball, but it is no where near as fine as snow.

It’s Slurpee ice…

It's the ice that the fish monger displays his fish on...

It has nothing to do with “crushing” the ice.

I think that the ice that Fishmongers use is not really crushed, as I am sure that FMs have ice machines that specifically spit out small sized pieces of ice.

Cracked ice is ice that has been broken into small pieces but you can NOT shape into a ball. The pieces are still individual.

Okay, that sounds okay. But I think the "mould into a ball" test is not really the common test used.

It’s just smaller, jagged versions of the original cube or block.

Not to small, but small enough to fit in a glass.

I think this is very interesting, and so I will endeavour to smash/ crush some ice for the E-gulleteers!!!

Cheers!

George

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[...]

Cracked ice is ice that has been broken into small pieces but you can NOT shape into a ball. The pieces are still individual.

It’s just smaller, jagged versions of the original cube or block.

Not to small, but small enough to fit in a glass.

Rich

Then perhaps I mis-spoke.

The broken ice that comes out of my so-called ice-crusher is nowhere near small enough to form into a ball. It is about the same size as ice cubes when you smash them with a hammer or bat. A good mix of pieces, jagged around 1/4 inch at the longest, with a bit of ice dust.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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[...]

Cracked ice is ice that has been broken into small pieces but you can NOT shape into a ball. The pieces are still individual.

It’s just smaller, jagged versions of the original cube or block.

Not to small, but small enough to fit in a glass.

Rich

Then perhaps I mis-spoke.

The broken ice that comes out of my so-called ice-crusher is nowhere near small enough to form into a ball. It is about the same size as ice cubes when you smash them with a hammer or bat. A good mix of pieces, jagged around 1/4 inch at the longest, with a bit of ice dust.

No, perhaps I didn't explain myself well.

My "ball" hypothesis is weak. I wish I had the time to take some pictures to show what I mean!

I may have misunderstood what I’ve been reading, but here is what I’ve come to understand about crushed vs. cracked ice.

I have the same type of ice crusher which I pull out for serving drinks over crushed ice (i.e. Mai Tai) or the rare recipe calling for a drink to be stirred or shaken with crushed ice (usually requiring the entire contents of the shaker to be poured into the glass and more crushed ice to be added to the drink).

I also have a Lewis Bag which I pull out for making cracked ice. I just usually give the ice cubes (long, residential freezer, machine made wedge types or the big ones from my new Ikea 2” molds*) one or two whacks to break each cube into two or three pieces. Actually, I think this is pretty much what the Pegu Club does as well.

Now, if I’ve been confusing the two and they are actually one in the same, please let me know! ANYONE!

Thanks, Rich

*Thanks to Donbert!


"The only time I ever said no to a drink was when I misunderstood the question."

Will Sinclair

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I'd say that "crushed ice" is comprised of fairly uniform pieces that are no larger than the size of a pencil eraser. "Cracked ice" is comprised of pieces of differing sizes, with most not being larger than the last joint on one's thumb and the rest being smaller. Crushed ice must be produced with an ice crushing machine or by repeatedly whacking a bag of ice with a heavy implement until it is uniformly pulverized. Cracked ice is best produced one cube at a time by holding a cube in one's hand and striking it sharply with the back of a spoon. This will usually produce three large irregular pieces and several smaller pieces.


--

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I believe sir, that we are in agreement.


"The only time I ever said no to a drink was when I misunderstood the question."

Will Sinclair

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I'd say that "crushed ice" is comprised of fairly uniform pieces that are no larger than the size of a pencil eraser.  "Cracked ice" is comprised of pieces of differing sizes, with most not being larger than the last joint on one's thumb and the rest being smaller.  Crushed ice must be produced with an ice crushing machine or by repeatedly whacking a bag of ice with a heavy implement until it is uniformly pulverized.  Cracked ice is best produced one cube at a time by holding a cube in one's hand and striking it sharply with the back of a spoon.  This will usually produce three large irregular pieces and several smaller pieces.

I shall give it a try right now.

Thank you sir Kinsey!


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Cracked ice is best produced one cube at a time by holding a cube in one's hand and striking it sharply with the back of a spoon. This will usually produce three large irregular pieces and several smaller pieces.

Do you put a clean towel in your hand when cracking? My palm got pretty cold while experimenting with this last night, err... morning.

By the way, not having been to Pegu Club, I'm curious.

Do they really crack the ice as slkinsey describes to order?

I guess they have an ice cube machine that makes larger cubes than the standard home ice maker, but, still that's probably 3 or 4 cubes for every martini or manhattan.

edit - spelling.


Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Both Pegu, D&C and I think Flatiron crack ice to order for stirred drinks. No towel in the hand, just cube and spoon. The drinks have probably 4-6 cubes in them, all cracked -- the mixing glass is filled pretty much %80 with ice.

It's hard core.

John


John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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