I’ve been feeling creative lately, but sometimes the pressure of doing a full photoshoot stops me from posting a perfectly nice drink. To address this I am starting a new series of “Sunday Night Sessions” wherein I will trade some production quality for actually posting a drink I find interesting.
Phone cameras are getting pretty good these days, so I feel like I can put out a passable product, but the point here is to not stress about it too much. This drink explores two different ideas that have been spinning around in my mind lately.
First, I have been increasingly fixated on finding ways to integrate fat into drinks. Cocktails are mostly lean. Many aromatic drinks have an expression of citrus oil as a garnish, such as variants on the martini and the manhattan, but for some reason, they stop there.
Some old comfort food classics like the White Russian and the Grasshopper incorporate milk or cream, and hot buttered rum tries to integrate butter into a hot toddy. More recently, (well, 2009) I saw this recipe for cold buttered rum floating around the internet. Someone figured out that you could create a delicious and stable butter syrup using ticaloid gum, and used it to make a cold version of the classic. Is a butter emulsion reconstructed milk?
Ticaloid gum is proprietary, and can be substituted by a 9:1 mixture of xanthan gum to gum arabic. It works really well in the butter, because it gives a produces a thick, creamy mouthfeel, but when I tried it with other oils I did not like it. One of my guests compared a szechuan chili oil emulsion with ticaloid gum to a mango smoothie, but it wasn’t the texture of a fresh blended mango, it was the texture of a bottled pasteurized supermarket mango smoothie. I did not find this to be appetizing. The texture distracted from the flavor, to the point of ruin.
Now I make my oil syrups with the scarcest amount of xanthan gum possible to achieve a stable emulsion. They still come out a little milky; the more fat you use, the creamier the syrup becomes.
Chemesthesis is defined as the chemical sensibility of the skin and mucous membranes. Chemesthetic sensations arise when chemical compounds activate receptors associated with other senses that mediate pain, touch, and thermal perception. These chemical-induced reactions do not fit into the traditional sense categories of taste and smell. Examples of chemesthetic sensations include the burn-like irritation from capsaicin and related compounds in foods like chili peppers; the coolness of menthol in mouthwashes and topical analgesic creams; the stinging or tingling of carbonated beverages in the nose and mouth; the tear-induction of cut onions; and the pungent, cough-inducing sensation in the back of the throat elicited by the oleocanthal in high-quality extra virgin olive oil. Some of these sensations may be referred to as spiciness, pungency, or piquancy.
I have been especially fascinated with chemesthetic sensations in drinks, and I have found that fats are ideal carriers for many of these compounds. Indeed, kumquat is rich in an aromatic compound called limonene, which is a skin irritant and which can produce a numbing sensation. It is found in the peels of most citrus fruits, but kumquat has a high concentration of it, and is unusual in that most people eat the skin of the kumquat whole, whereas other citrus has too much bitter pith.
If you’ve ever bitten into a citrus peel and felt that numbing sensation, then you know what I’m aiming for. It’s a similar, and equally enjoyable numbness to that of a szechuan peppercorn.
I found the idea for this drink in the Alinea cookbook, which I picked up when I was fortunate enough to visit them last year. In the book, he describes a dish in which one component is a candied kumquat filled with sesame oil and aquavit.
Come Quat About It
1.5 oz Aquavit, preferably caraway-forward
3-4 raw kumquats
3-4 poached kumquats, sous vide at 85C for 20 minutes
.75 oz black sesame orgeat
Muddle the kumquats until they are fully smashed, yielding all of their juice. Be sure to macerate the peels to get out as much oil as possible. Shake over ice and then double strain through a fine mesh strainer. This is laborious but worth it.
Garnish with black sesame seeds.
If you are serving this to a group, you might want to muddle and strain the drink in advance, and then shake it to order. Toasting the sesame seeds will help to increase their aroma.
Black Sesame “Orgeat”
45g toasted black sesame oil
.1 gram xanthan gum
Make a slurry of 10:1 granulated sugar:xanthan gum, and blend it together with a fork. In a microwave or a small pot, combine 100g water with 99g sugar until all the sugar is integrated and the syrup is clear. Add the oil and 1.1 grams of the xanthan slurry and integrate it using a hand-blender.