May 4th, 2012

cap, captain miss america

Science! Starring Mycology and High-Proof Alcohol

So my pals at Industry City Distillery are making some awesome crazy beet sugar vodka:

It’s now on the shelves in NYC, and as of last night, I got to take home some samples which I am very excited to play with next week.

With stills they’ve built from the ground up, the distillery is like some kind of adult Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory; they’ve taken fractional distillation to a level that I’ve never seen before, where they can isolate each unique flavor note in the final product before blending them together. It’s really fascinating and awesome to watch these guys work– and a little like being on an episode of LOST, with a buzzer that rings and demands someone’s attention every twenty-two minutes on the button. Dave, the chief-mad-scientist of the operation, showed me pieces of the new still they’re building and a bunch of other exciting bubbly mysterious stuff.

I headed over there with a sampling of my flavored marshmallows (the Fernet ones seem to be the favorite) and a mission: to make a cocktail using a chanterelle-infused vodka the ICD guys had put up for an event.

I’d played with chanterelles before, in a sugar syrup, but the night before, I played around with several simple vodka cocktails, not having actually tasted the chanterelle infusion. When I got over to the distillery, I was presented with a bottle of high-proof liquor that had been steeped with mushrooms.

Dave & I diluted the chanterelle-infused vodka in tiny proportions to get the flavor and texture we liked best– the flavor was so mild, but the mushrooms imparted a meaty texture to the vodka that was nice– and once we’d settled on a solution for the vodka-to-water ratio, I got to mix drinks…


Getting into the mad scientist spirit of the thing, this is the first time I have mixed a drink with pipettes. In fact, up until the moment I did it, I had NEVER CONSIDERED SUCH A THING.

It makes sense; it’s how people add bitters to alcohol. But this was a first. Using the pipettes created such amazing precision that I was able to add very specific and delicate notes to the drink; which was good because the flavors in the mushroom vodka were so subtle. After various experiments, with Dave and Peter being my tasting guinea pigs, we settled on a drink that involved vodka, the chanterelle-infused vodka, Dolin’s blanco vermouth, Cocchi Americano, black pepper syrup, and champagne vinegar. I was working in such tiny proportions that some ingredients found their way in in amounts that could be recorded in drops.

It was pretty awesome, because normally when I make drinks, I’m working in proportions that are first off, not nearly as precise– I mean, how many cocktail recipes call for a “dash” of something? But also, I usually think in 1/4 oz increments. Breaking things down even more was super fascinating and changed the way I was thinking about what I was mixing…in a way that was utterly appropriate, given the product and the locale.

I got sent home with samples that I got to pick from specific, unique cuts of the vodka– that is, bottles of undiluted individual isolated flavor notes, which means there will definitely be some playing going on.

If you are in New York, you should check out Industry City’s vodka. Here’s a map of locations where you can buy the real thing. These guys are awesome and I can’t wait to have more to tell you all.

Mirrored from Nommable!.