The Art of Spherification: Taking Your Cocktails To The Next Level

If there is an occasion where any bartender, mixologist and in fairness anyone who is passionate for drinks should be looking for inspiration and new ideas then it is the annual IMBIBE LIVE business show which was held this year again in London in Kensington Olympia.  With various new and brilliant alcoholic and soft drink brands to taste, masterclasses to attend and key people to learn from this year we found ourselves sitting in one of the most amazing seminars held by Marc Alvarez. Marc is the Group Bar Manager of elBarri Adrià in Barcelona, a fabulous complex of world class restaurants and bars masterminded by brilliant chef Albert Adrià. Albert was joined in this glamorous project by his brother Ferran Adrià – former head chef of elBulli who is regarded as one of the best chefs in the world and more importantly the godfather of molecular gastronomy as such. His recipes implementing foams, caviars and spheres in the most outrageous looking dishes gave way to similar techniques being used in cocktails which are defying the best cocktail bars in the world these days.

 

The eight cocktails Marc introduced to us,  were all incredibly creative and using the most modern techniques and there was one that particularly caught our attention. The Claridge presents you the super smooth mixture of London Dry Gin, Dry Vermouth, Triple Sec and Apricot Brandy but in this case it is the garnish that gives you that extra touch of brilliance that separates a good drink from an unforgettable experience. At first glance you may think it is a dried apricot but actually it is a beautiful apricot sphere dipped in some sugar that gives you a burst of incredible flavours when tasting it.

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Implementing these techniques may not be easy therefore we decided that in this post we will guide you through the process (art) of spherification including the basic (resulting in smaller pearls or so called caviars) and reverse spherification (larger, softer spheres) techniques which make your cocktails look and taste a lot more exciting. To make it more interesting we will give you a couple of cocktail recipes to accompany your newly learned techniques.

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To begin with you will need to do some shopping either in a pharmacy or order your products online. Sphere making requires precise measures and extreme patience thus get yourself ready for a long afternoon but most importantly don`t forget to enjoy it.

BASIC SPHERIFICATION

Ingredients for the Apple and Mint Caviar

For the flavoured liquid: 1g Sodium Algenate, 200g cold apple juice, 60g mint syrup

For the bath: 1g Calcium Chloride, 200g water

To create the perfect mixture you need to carefully mix the Sodium Algenate with your flavoured liquid (0.5%) in an immersion blender until it completely dissolves. To get rid of the air bubbles you need to pour it through a fine sieve, cover it and put it in the fridge to rest for a couple of hours or until all the bubbles are gone.

For the bath you will need a 0.5% Calcium Chloride content and it can be easily stirred into the water since it dissolves fairly easily. You will also need to prepare a simple water bath that will rinse off all the saltiness from your caviar that it gets from the Calcium Chloride.

caviar

Once both mixtures are ready get a pipette or a syringe, fill it with some of the liquid and start creating droplets in your calcium bath from a height of 3 inches. Keep stirring the caviar for about a minute with your slotted spoon and then transfer them into the water bath.

Also remember that these type of spheres need to be served almost immediately otherwise they will form a compact gel.

Amaretto & Rhubarb Sour

caviar cocktail
Ingredients
 

30 ml Amaretto
20 ml Rhubarb Liqueur
25 ml Cloudy Apple Juice
25 ml Lemon Juice
10 ml Sugar Syrup
2 Dashes Angostura Bitter
25 ml Egg White

Method

Dry shake all ingredients
Add ice and shake once again
Strain in to a glass full of ice
Garnish with a dried apple slice and the caviar


REVERSE SPHERIFICATION

Ingredients for cherry sphere

For the flavoured liquid: 200g of cherries stemmed, pitted, blended and strained, 50ml Violet liqueur, pinch of cinnamon, 2g Calcium Lactate, Xanthan Gum (optional)

For the bath: 1g Sodium Alginate, 200g cold distilled water

To create the flavoured liquid you need to make sure that the density is that of a thick cream. You can reach this by slowly adding Xanthan Gum to your mixture until you reach the right consistency. Again to get rid of the air bubbles, cover and store it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Flow 1

For the perfect bath carefully mix the Sodium Alginate with your cold distilled water (0.5%) in an immersion blender until it completely dissolves. To get rid of the air bubbles cover it and put it in the fridge to rest for a couple of hours or until all the bubbles are gone.

Fill a measuring spoon with your liquid and carefully tip it in the bath. Make sure you keep gently stirring and not let them sit at the bottom otherwise they will flatten. After 2 minutes transfer your sphere with a slotted spoon to a simple water bath to wash off any unwanted flavours.

dropping sphere

The biggest advantage of reverse spherification is that the spheres can be stored for later usage without getting damaged. Ideally store them in the same liquid you used to create the spheres.


Modern Aviation 

caviar cocktail 2

Ingredients 

50ml Botanist Gin

25ml fresh lemon juice

7.5ml Maraschino Liqueur

7.5ml Creme de Violet

Method

Shake and fine strain in a Martini glass

Garnish with a Cherry&Violet sphere

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