Bring the pain (and your Amex)! This cocktail is difficult to execute (and can get pricy). The highlights of this preparation, in my opinion, are the workarounds I created to accommodate for the $6,000 in equipment I was unwilling to purchase for this project. Namely, a Pacojet (currently priced at $4,999) and a vacuum chamber (generally priced at around $1,000). In addition to the equipment, you’ll need about 5 pounds of heirloom tomatoes.
Beyond those workarounds this cocktail preparation has many steps, and I would classify the whole ordeal as complicated, and, unfortunately, not worth the trouble. But it sure looks good!
Here’s the path I took along with some of my recommendations for sanity and success.
Step 1: Worcestershire Ice
This was the easiest part. Mix Worcestershire and water and freeze in 1 ¼-inch cubes.
Step 2: Celery Marbles
Not too bad. Blanch and then juice celery. Add sugar and salt. Inject into 5/8-inch spherical mold. (Note: I found that coating the plunger of the injector with a small amount of vegetable oil made the process of injecting much smoother and more precise). This was the second time I used the spherical molds, and this time was much easier. Since there’s no alcohol in the liquid these marbles froze rapidly and solidly, and I was able to pop them out of the mold without any issues, unlike the marbles in the Zombie Panda preparation. So far so good.
Step 3: Cracked Fresno Ice
Piece of cake, no pun intended. Juice a few fresno chilies. Mix with water. Freeze in a cake pan, then crank into shards with an ice pick. This ice packed a pretty spicy punch!
Step 4: Tomato Sorbet Noodles
Here comes trouble. This step calls for a Pacojet, which I don’t have and don’t plan on getting. However, my Cuisinart ice cream churn did the trick just fine. You rough chop about a kilogram of heirloom tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt. Wrap in cheesecloth and then suspend the cheesecloth above a bowl. (Note: I did not have a bowl with sides high enough to suspend the mass of tomatoes above the pooling liquid, so I employed large mason jars and yogurt containers on the side of the bowl for extra height). The tomato water slowly drips out. It’s extremely delicious. Frankly, I think you could add a shot of vodka to this and call it a day.
To the tomato water you add sugar, a gelatin sheet, salt, glucose, and ice cream stabilizer. Chill it thoroughly and then churn in the ice cream maker. It turns into a perfect sorbet. No Pacojet needed. Now comes the challenge. Using a pastry bag with a fine tip (I found the wider of my two fine tips to work best) you pipe the sorbet into a bath of liquid nitrogen, making a sort of nest. It works. But I think the problem is that you need to store them in a freezer that is colder than what I have at home. When they come out of the liquid nitrogen they are hard and brittle. But after warming up in the freezer they’re soft and mushy. I’d recommend making these immediately before serving the cocktail. And make sure you have a very cold tray to place the noodles on when they come out of the bath. At room temperature you have mere minutes to use these before they melt. You can hold them a bit longer in the freezer, but time is your enemy. I really don’t prefer this particular item because it’s expensive (about $12 in tomatoes, plus $$$ in liquid nitrogen) and time consuming, and it doesn’t hold up well. When the noodle hits the liquid in the cocktail it almost immediately dissolves. #notworthit
Step 5: Cocktail Base
Roast about a kilogram of heirloom tomatoes in the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Let them cool, then puree 700 grams worth in a blender at high speed along with Absolut Elyx Vodka, St. George’s Green Chile Vodka, lemon juice, salt, sugar, Banyuls Vinegar. Strain through a chinois then add some black pepper. Personally, I found this way too sweet. If I made it again I would reduce the sugar by half.
Step 6: Compressed Celery
Here comes hack number two. This step calls for the use of a vacuum chamber, in which you force sweetened celery juice into celery stalks. I don’t have that. But I recalled reading about creating a similar effect using an iSi Whip in the book Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold. Here are the steps: (1) seal the sweetened celery juice and the celery stalks inside a vacuum bag (you can also use a Ziploc bag with all the air forced out); (2) place the sealed bag into the whipper, then fill the whipper with water up the fill line; (3) charge the whipper with one charge of either CO2 or N2O, shake a bit, then let rest for two minutes; (4) very slowly vent the whipper, then let the whole thing rest for five minutes; (5) repeat step 3; (6) very slowly vent the whipper, then open and remove the celery. What’s happening here is that the pressure inside the whipper is increasing enough to actually force the liquid into the celery. You vent slowly to prevent the liquid from rushing right back out when the pressure is released. I started the process with 100 grams of liquid in the bag with the celery. At end of the pressurizing I was left with about 50 grams of liquid, which causes me to believe I successfully forced about 50 grams of liquid into the celery stalks. IMHO, this was not worth it. The celery was juicier, I guess, but it was definitely not sensational. Maybe the result would be different with a vacuum chamber. For a mere $1000 you can find out!
Step 7: Assemble The Drink
Fill a glass with a few shards of the fresno chili ice, then add 10 celery marbles, one Worcestershire ice cube, a few more shards of chili ice, 10 more celery marbles. Garnish with one of the tomato sorbet noodle nests and one stalk of super celery. Serve alongside a small carafe of the cocktail base. Put on your running shoes because time is short before that noodle goes limp!
I wanted to love this, but I didn’t. It was complicated, and I didn’t really like the taste. It was too sweet. As I write this I still have four servings of the cocktail base, and I’m trying to figure out how to modify it to make it taste better because I don’t want to throw it away! If I come up with something good I’ll update this post.