We love fizzy cocktails, which we typically make with fizzy wine or club soda. As you’d expect though, both of those ingredients change the flavor profile of the drink (we sometimes make whiskey sours without club soda just because of that). So what if you could carbonate a drink without the added flavors or dilution?
There are several home carbonators on the market. Unfortunately, most of them seem to require you to carbonate large amounts of liquid. We usually want to carbonate at most 2 or 3 cocktails at a time, so maybe 12 oz or so rather than 32 oz. As a result, we’ve never seriously considered them. Recently though, we received an offer to test out the Drinkmate (see our Sample Policy to understand what it means that we’re talking about it). The big selling point for us was that you can carbonate any amount of liquid, and with that in mind, we decided to run it through its paces. Sure enough, you can carbonate even single cocktails, which is awesome. The device itself is easy to use. It also uses “standard” CO2 canisters, which is nice, because you are likely to find a canister that works with it at your local Target. Given that we could now conveniently carbonate single cocktails, we set out to try it on a couple of classic cocktails to see what carbonation alone (as opposed to fizzy ingredients) does to the flavor profile of the drink. For our first drink, we went with the Robert Burns, a classic spirit-forward cocktail. What will carbonation do to it?
- 2 oz blended scotch
- 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
- 1 dash orange bitters
- 1 dash absinthe (we used 1 bar spoon)
Stir with ice. Strain. Garnish with a lemon or orange twist (we chose orange).
- Nose: Orange, caramel, malt, cola. Hints of caraway, dill, and hoarhound candy.
- Palate: Intro is fizzy orange, almost like an orange soda. Malt and cola on the mid-palate with toasty caraway and pumpernickel bread notes. Finish is slightly tart and bitter, though not as bitter as the still version. Anise at the end. Overall, more orangey and sweet than the still version, with the scotch more muted.
- Nose: Overall nose is fainter. Scotch notes of malt and caramel stand out more.
- Palate: Anise and caramel to start. Mid-palate is strong, rich malt and cola with hints of caraway and dill, underpinned by strong bitter notes like burnt coffee. End of the mid-palate into the finish is bitter orange and a tiny bit of clove.
To our surprise, carbonation changes the flavor profile quite a bit, sweetening it up and smoothing out the rough edges. This is unexpected. Both Dave Arnold and Darcy O’Neil have some really good information in their respective books about what carbonation does. So we were expecting a tarter, less sweet drink. Yet for both of us, that was not the case in what we tasted. How intriguing. Would our second cocktail have a similar result?
For our next round, we went with the Corpse Reviver #2. This is a cocktail that in our minds seems like a great pairing for carbonation. Note: Drinkmate says that you should not carbonate anything with pulp in it, as it can clog the mechanism and cause, ahem, explosively messy results. Dave Arnold has a good section in his book about how to approach this. However, we’re a bit cavalier, plus given the Drinkmate’s ability to carbonate small amount, we were willing to take the risk. After doing several tests, it seems to handle pulp just fine assuming you only do small amounts, and take care not to fizz the liquid up into the top of the mechanism (almost impossible to do with the amounts we’re working with). We’ve only done at most 2 cocktails at a time and when shaking it we’re very careful to not be overly vigorous.We have yet to run into any issues. YMMV. After all that, how did the Corpse Reviver #2 turn out after we carbonated it?
Corpse Reviver #2
- 1 oz gin
- 1 oz Cointreau
- 1 oz Lillet Blanc
- 1 oz lemon juice
- 1-3 drops of absinthe (we put in a bar spoon because we like absinthe)
Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with a cherry.
- Nose: Same as the still one but stronger, with some juniper notes.
- Palate: Sweet lemon soda and juniper to start. Mid-palate is sweet orange and oxidized wine. Lemon-y, sweet-tart finish. Much less tart, surprisingly, and not as astringent as the still one. The effervescence seems to carry the sweetness in little bursts across your tongue.
- Nose: Lemon, orange, coriander, birch, slight anise.
- Palate: Sweet lemon and orange on the front. Mid-palate is coriander, juniper and a hint of birch beer. Finish is tart, dry, and slightly astringent, with mineral-y wine notes.
In both cocktails, carbonation seemed to enhance the sweet and fruity flavors of the drink, in addition to adding some fizz. It definitely makes for an interesting variation on a standard cocktail. Especially with the lighter, citrus-heavy drinks, we could see this becoming a routine switch-up on the recipe during the warmer months. Our verdict: A good carbonator is a welcome addition to our set of bar tools, and one we’ll have to experiment with more to get a better idea of the full range of what we can do with it.