Tuesday, March 09, 2010

From the Kai Lab: Creating My First Cocktail!

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing.  ~Wernher Von Braun

Seeing my glorious creation glisten in the bright light of the afternoon sun filled me with a glowing sense of pride. Upon waking the next morning, that glowing feeling had been replaced by nausea, an aversion to all odours, and the need to tell the person poking my eyes with needles to stop. In hindsight, it would have been prudent to ease back on the number of glasses of "research" I drank which got me to this point. The things you do for the chance of winning tickets to the biggest cocktail competition in New Zealand!

What's this all about? Well, it started when awesome Wellington-centric blog, The Wellingtonista, ran an informal cocktail competition. Up for grabs was a chance to win a double pass to the 42Below Cocktail World Cup finals. Usually held in Queenstown, this year they're in Wellington, so to mark the event, Wellingtonista had the idea of a contest where you had to create a Wellington-themed cocktail using 42Below product and submit the recipe to them for scrutiny. I spent some time thinking over this one with my flatmate Tina, cousin and former long-time Welly resident.

A brainstorming session was in order. We spent time blurting out things that reminded us of Wellington - "Blanket man! Traffic holdups? Bucket fountain! No, wait: homeless dudes playng cricket on Cuba street while being yelled at by window-anxious shopkeepers to piss off!". Finally, we settled on the idea of the civil servant. Wellington is home to the country's civil service, so now it was just a matter of identifying their consumption habits. What does a civil servant eat and drink while seated at their desk? Aniseed balls...cups of tea...egg sandwiches...people's souls! We now had enough information to make a start - time to get to work in the Kai Lab... 

Not the Kai Lab

I figured a simple infused syrup added to vodka would be the key, using star anise, lemon, and black tea. Also, rather than use a standard simple syrup, I've been itching to try a gomme syrup, something I came across while reading through posts over at the Cocktail Chronicles. A gomme syrup is a 2:1 sugar/water syrup, made very smooth tasting through use of gum arabic (which I found at a cake decorators store; also easily found online). This isn't a particularly sophisicated drink, but it is after all my first ever effort. After several attempts at finding the right quantities (too much star anise initially - far too potent; original tea quantity generated insufficient flavour which disappeared when added to the vodka), I came up with this, the definitive recipe. I call it:

A Very Civil Servant

Firstly, you'll need to make the gomme syrup:
1 cup caster sugar
0.5 cup water
2 tbspns gum arabic, dissolved in 2 tbspns water
4 tips of star anise
4 tbspns black tea (leaves) in a tea infuser

This will make more than you need, so adjust accordingly if you wish.

Dissolve sugar in water over heat; add your dissolved gum arabic, stirring all the while (use a wooden spoon, not a whisk). Bring the mixture to the boil - it will foam up, so keep an eye on it so that it doesn't spill over and burn on the element. Remove from the heat, skim off any scum, then pour through some doubled-up muslin into a jar. Pop in the tea infuser and star anise, screw on the lid, then leave to infuse ovenight.

To make the cocktail: fill a cocktail shaker with ice, 45ml of vodka, 15ml of the black tea and aniseed-infused gomme syrup (it wouldn't hurt to strain it again, just in case some of the tea leaves have escaped from the infuser), and a squeeze of lemon juice. Shake, then strain into a chilled martini glass. The aniseed is quite subtle, as is the tea, and there is a pleasant underlying caramel flavour present. Hope you like it, and finger's crossed for a win :)

Pretty, eh! The blown-out black brolly's just a painted cocktail umbrella - a nod to Welly's vigorous winds.

A big thank you to Hinerangi, Stacey and Zana for their help.


Kathleen said...

Oooh, that sounds really lovely! Will have to have a go myself...

Nigel Olsen said...

Tell me what you think of it, if you do. I wonder how it would taste if I used lemon-infused vodka rather than straight lemon juice?

Nicole said...

Love the look! The brolley is perfection. Bet it taste's awesome!

Sasa said...

GREAT piece - love the writing. You're back with a bang - welcome back to t'internets.

Lou said...

Great black outfit. Very Welly.

Greenfairy38 said...

Love the umbrella, a great touch! I'm a civil servant and I'd definitely chuck this down my neck after a hard day's pen pushing. Good luck for the competition.

hungryandfrozen said...

The umbrella makes it! Sounds like a fun challenge, even though I'm not an aniseed person I love the sound of these flavours.

Anonymous said...

Sounds great, I love star anise! And what a great name for a cocktail, I'll pass this onto hubby since he will drink anything in a martini glass made mostly of spirit! Good to have you back blogging again.

Nigel Olsen said...

Thank you, people. Now, let's get drunk!