Modernist Cocktails

Photo Credit: Aaron N. Tubbs

Modernist Cocktails

Modernist techniques changed my approach to cooking. Somehow they never bled over into cocktail fabrication until recently. While at Total Wine, I ran into the Molecular Mixology Kit from Molecule R. I could not resist!

The $60 mostly seems to be paying for a fancy box and packaging. The actual additives and tools included are pretty cheap.

Inside the kit are a few transfer pipettes, a spoon with some holes in it, some measuring spoons, and some sachets of Sodium Alginate (spherification), Calcium Lactate (spherification), Xanthan Gum (stabilizer/thickener), Soy Leicthin (emulsifier), and Gelatin (jello shots).

A reverse spherified pocket of orange juice in some midori.

The kit also makes mention of siphons and liquid nitrogen, but doesn’t come with these things. Instead, it’s centered around the ingredients mentioned above. So this is not perhaps an outright modernist cocktail kit as much as a kit of food additives and some instructions on how to use them. I remain pretty excited by this, and that toys like this are available on the shelves of a mainstream liquor store.

A gin and tonic of sorts. A little bit of blue curacao in the tonic water to make some color, but otherwise it's tonic caviar suspended in gin via spherification.
Stable cold and alcoholic whipped cream on top of some warm spiked coffee.

At $60, this is not much of a value. Effectively it’s some measuring spoons, a few dozen recipes, and a few dollars worth of food additive powders. The box design is quite fancy and pretty, so presumably the other $52 goes to profit and marketing.

A Cosmopolitan with white cranberry foam stabilized on top, using Soy Lecithin.

Of course, the average consumer is unlikely to go purchase lab equipment and food additives in bulk (i.e. at reasonable prices). I can’t say the tariff is worth it per se, but there is a lot of value here for people just experimenting in the field.

A rum and coke, if you will. The rum is thickened with Xanthan Gum, in order to support the spherified coca-cola (sodium alginate set in a calcium lactate bath).
Perhaps the most impressive looking result. Reverse spherified stout in some cider. Not good, but interesting!

My general experience with the kit has been positive. With a few exceptions, the recipes work. Many of the recipes are not particularly good cocktails. Adding modernist techniques to mediocre cocktails makes a mediocre modernist cocktail at best. Liquors seem to be selected more for color than for flavor. A lot of the spherified solutions are largely flavorless (a problem since spherification often requires/promotes dilution), thus relying only on their form/texture for novelty. Some of this violates aspects of modernist cuisine, as we’re not using fresh/interesting/intense flavors, and just going for the surprise/novelty thing.

Fancy jello shots. Didn't turn out very pretty.
Perhaps one of the better tricks; just a reverse spherified pocket of orange juice in some vodka. Makes for an interesting screwdriver shot.

So, the kit works, but the recipes strive more for visual appeal and textural surprise than flavor. They are not in general recipes one is likely to repeat, but the techniques provided can be applied to more interesting beverages.