It must be ultrasonic month here at Seattle Food Geek headquarters, ‘cause I’ve got another high-frequency food hack.  I recently bought an ultrasonic mist generator to use as a humidifier for a meat curing chamber I’m working on.  These little devices emit ultrasonic waves (around 20KHz) which cause the surrounding water to cavitate into a very fine mist without raising the water temperature.  Since the mist is so fine (about 1 micron) and is instantaneous and low-temperature, I thought it might be a great way to disperse aromatics around a food or beverage.  I ran a few experiments to see if it would turn alcohol into mist, but unfortunately most of the results were very poor. 

Rum did bupkis.  Whiskey gin were the same.  Dry vermouth produced a small amount of mist, and absinthe on it’s own produced a decent fog.  However, since Absinthe is meant to be consumed with added water anyway, the cocktail you see above was the best result I achieved in my limited testing.  From what little I can gather, I think the mist generator relies on a relationship between the frequency of the emitted ultrasonic wave and the speed with which sound travels through water in order to produce the mist.  Sound waves will move at different speeds in liquids with different densities, so perhaps tweaking frequency of the transducer would allow me to directly mist other liquids.  Just a theory. 

The mist generator has a ring of garish, color-changing LED lights built in – this is not part of the intended effect.  However, the mist produced above the drink does add something nice to the act of drinking it; the aromatics of the absinthe are amplified by becoming airborne, so you get a pleasant hit of anise aroma before you make contact with the drink.  I think there’s potential to this technique, but until I can make mists out of whatever liquid I want, and without having to submerge a plastic doodad in your cocktail, I’ll consider this to be a “promising prototype.”

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centrifuged watermelon cocktail
I sure do love watermelon.  I also like cocktails, particularly refreshing cocktails with just the right amount of kick.  I came up with the idea for this drink after having a watermelon and strawberry agua fresca at a local Mexican joint.  The flavor was fantastic, but the texture of crushed watermelon and strawberry felt messy in my mouth – it was like sucking down a glass full of pulp.  I decided to ditch the strawberry and clarify the watermelon using my centrifuge.  It did a fantastic job of separating out the solids (including a very thin layer of “watermelon butter”, which was bright pink and a little tart) and leaving me with a clear juice that tastes very strongly of everyone’s favorite comedically-shashable fruit.  To give the drink some edge and balance, I add a splash of tequila and a shot of hot sauce.

Makes: 1 cool cocktail
Total Kitchen Time: 1 minute (+15 minutes prep, + 30 minutes wait)

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. centrifuged watermelon juice (see below)
  • 1 oz. Cazadores Reposado Tequila
  • 2 drops Tabasco Sauce

To make the centrifuged watermelon juice:

  1. Cut one fresh watermelon into halves lengthwise, then halves again.  Remove the flesh from the watermelon, leaving the bitter rind.  Cut the watermelon into 2” pieces.
  2. Working in batches, puree the watermelon pieces until smooth.  Divide the mixture evenly between your centrifuge containers.  A typical watermelon will yield about 2 liters of puree. 
  3. Centrifuge the watermelon puree for 30 minutes at 1300Gs.  Carefully remove the centrifuge containers and skim off any film that may have formed at the top.  Decant the clear watermelon juice into a 2 liter container.  You may want to decant through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to ensure that solid matter doesn’t accidentally come along for the ride.

Note: if you don’t have a centrifuge, you can clarify the watermelon juice by holding it near, but not too near, an active black hole.  The extreme gravity will clarify out the juice.

To make the Hot Gallagher:

  1. Combine the watermelon juice and tequila in a cocktail shaker full of ice.  Shake vigorously and pour into a lowball glass over cubed or cracked ice. 
  2. Garnish with 2 drops of Tabasco, or another favorite hot sauce. 
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sarsaparilla 
There are contemporary drinks, throwback drinks, retro drinks, vintage drinks… and then there’s sarsaparilla. Until a few weeks ago, I had only heard sarsaparilla mentioned in cowboy movies.  However, at a recent visit to Tilth (Oprah voice: amaaaaazing) I saw it on the menu and had to try it out.  It is refreshing, herbal, lightly carbonated and (to my surprise) non-alcoholic.  Maria Hines, the lovely and talented chef/owner of Tilth was generous enough to share her recipe, which I’ve adapted below. 

Total kitchen time: 10 minutes
Makes: 2 liters

Shopping list:

  • 3 cups organic brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups cut sarsaparilla root (available from online sources)
  • 1 liter club soda
  • Special equipment: French press
  1. Add the sugar and water to a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil.
  2. Remove the lid and strainer from your French press and add the sarsaparilla root.  Fill with the hot simple syrup (sugar water) and let steep for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Reattach the strainer and top of the French press and, well, press.  Pour the liquid into a container (glass iced tea bottles work great).  Refrigerate until ready to serve, or store cold for up to 2 weeks.
  3. When ready to serve, combine 1 part sarsaparilla syrup with one part club soda over ice. 

This is a really delicious, refreshing afternoon drink.  Plus, there’s no high-fructose corn syrup – just good ‘ol fashioned brown sugar and water.  At Tilth, the drink is served with a beautiful shard of ice in lieu of ice cubes, which we all know are totally played out.  To make your own ice shard, freeze a small Tupperware container full of water, then go all Psycho on it with a screwdriver and mallet. 

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