Just What is Molecular Mixology?

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If you’ve asked that question yourself, we’re here to help. Molecular mixology sounds intimidating. The phrase itself may conjure images of a cocktail being presented in a cloud of thick mist as though a mad scientist is handing someone a bubbling potion. However, the practice borrows heavily from molecular gastronomy and uses science to create (or at least enhance) flavors, textures, and appearances, elevating the guest experience.

Liquid nitrogen tends to be popular amongst those trying their hand at molecular mixology. Mists, gels, foams, solidified liquids, and heat are other common forms of this approach to cocktail creation. There really is no reason to be intimidated by this scientific approach to building cocktails, although many of the tools used can be quite expensive. Luckily, not all of the equipment is prohibitively pricey. For instance, immersion blenders are used to make gels and foams, and blowtorches and iSi whippers are possibly the simplest and least expensive bit of kit involved in molecular mixology. You’ll also want a digital scale, perhaps a dehydrator, and syringes, none of which will break the bank.

On the higher end of the price spectrum are sous vide machines and rotary evaporators, also known as rotovaps or rotovapors. The latter can range in price from $2,000 to over $11,000 depending on brand. While impressive, that’s a large expense for what many would argue is a gimmick, novelty or trend. Of course, if your bar is part of a restaurant that features molecular gastronomy you already have access to plenty of the equipment you need. It’s probably best, though, to begin your adventure into molecular mixology with simple tools and techniques.

Reverse spherification and frozen reverse spherification, as an example of a place to start, is how cocktail caviar is created. Substances that contain high amounts of alcohol and/or acid are combined with calcium lactate or calcium lactate gluconate and dripped into a bath of alginate in the reverse spherification method. The frozen approach to the method calls for freezing spheres that contain calcium lactate gluconate prior to delivering them to an alginate bath.

Another “simple” molecular mixology technique is gelification. Simply put, this is how liquids are turned into solids using a gelling agent. Agar-agar, gelatin and pectin are common gelling agents. The end result can be considered to be an elevated jello shot. In fact, this is one way to create edible cocktails.

Molecular mixology, to be certain, rides the line of impressive technique, wow factor, and gimmick. When done correctly, mixologists can create innovative cocktails and garnishes that elevate the guest experience.

Items to Consider:

  • Syringe
  • Miracle berries or miracle fruits
  • Digital scale
  • Immersion blender
  • Hand blender
  • iSi Whip
  • Vacuum sealer
  • Sous vide machine
  • Dehydrator
  • Rotary evaporator
  • Hot Infusion Siphon

Techniques to Study

  • Gellification
  • Taste-changing cocktails
  • Cocktail marshmallows
  • Nitrogen cocktails
  • Spherification
  • Reverse spherification
  • Frozen reverse spherification
  • Dehydration
  • Infusion
  • “Paper” cocktails
  • Suspensions
  • Clarified cocktails

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