Rejection on one end opens multiple other doors. I was lately asked to write an article on Molecular Mixology which I misread as Molecular Gastronomy and wrote a 1300 words saga about the branch of cookery I was alien to. I learnt a lot reading passionately about it. But the editor rejected it, of course, and it ended up landing on my webbie. (Every Dish Has A Mole To It) Still the work was to be done and molecules played with.
Any good piece requires better study before finally framing it in to a timeless read. And while studying and exploring my way to a gullible molecular mixology piece I found out about the ‘Mojito of the Future’. Mojito, (pronounced Mo-hee-to) is a simple classic drink with five basic ingredients: White rum, sugar, mint, lime, and sparkling water. The recipe is a play of proportions and certain logics. Rum is made from molasses, one of the bi-products (read waste) from sugar production. It is overly sweet and husky and its spirit, thus, is not the smoothest drink to shoot. To cover its harshness and cut through easily its aftertaste sugar and lime were accompanied by it. Mint would make the drink much edible and wouldn’t let the sour aftertaste dominate. Soda was, well, just to dilute the effects.
Making it is simple but making it simple is difficult. In its basic form a bartender would mix lime juice and sugar syrup along with mint leaves and muddle them to bring out the essential oils from the herb. To this white rum is added and gently shaken. With shavings of ice, or a lazy man’s crushed ice, chilling the glass the mix is poured over it with a splash of sparkling water to make it refreshing. Sparkling water has been replaced and the thrown is now bestowed upon commercial sparkling soda water. How simple was that?
Eben Freeman, one of the legends of this branch of fixing drinks, is a New York based mixologist. He is well respected in the trade and not knowing him is almost a crime. He, along with Bacardi Rum, painted the future of one of my favourite classics. And boy I was impressed. To understand how he did it you must understand the basics of how molecular gastronomy works. Cocktails are nothing but mere inspiration of what chefs do in the kitchen; play of culinary techniques and food science. Simply put it is the amalgamation of ingredients to make a perfect dish which’s a play of flavours, textures, and most importantly human emotions. Coming to the liquid side of it the principles remain the same but the inspiration alters. And that’s what Eben did.
Starting with mint leaves, briefly blanching them followed by shocking them in ice water seals its pours and concentrates its flavours and essential oils. Eben then blends them (in a blender) to take their juice away and later mixes it with gelatin to form a puree-like consistency. Same goes with the lime juice, no blanching done their though. The two mixtures are then drop-by-drop poured over liquid nitrogen to form lime juice and mint puree pearls. The logic is simple, liquid nitrogen freezes the gelatine outside to form an edible film around the liquid inside making it look like caviar, or simply a balloon. He then takes rum and adds soda to it. To make things more fun he adds Xanthum gum to this mix. This gum increases the density and viscosity of the mix and makes it slow, or lazy as I see it! In a Collins Glass he then pour all his green mint puree pearls and straw-coloured lime juice pearls and to this rapidly pours the lazy mix. The pearls stay suspended due to altered density and viscosity and so does the carbon-di-oxide from the soda water. No ice, no garnish, pure magic!
Molecular gastronomy came as the scientists tried developing a more polished appetite and started messing up with the dynamics of our daily meals. Chefs were happy as this gave an edge to play with in their boring fire-play cooking. And to accompany their technologically-mastered dishes they introduced molecular mixology. The moral yet remains the same, surprising the human senses. And this study of food and beverage guarantees that. To that Bon Appetit and Cheers!!