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Ultimate Whiskey Sour & Koji-Popcorn Sour

To all my regular readers, apologies, I haven’t posted anything for a while. One reason is the far too early eternal departure of my MacBook Pro.

Liefe has to go on (in a pandemic without computer....) - but my workhorse always have been my laptop.

Anyways - In my social distancing I have been busy - cocktails on a different level. Two of those I will present right here and now.

People who know me or read regularly my blog understand, that I am pretty innovative - but I hate to create drinks without context. In fact I believe that most drinks should reference things (and mostly drink categories) people know. On the other side I hate, if people are meddling with drink categories and classic drinks. There is still no Green Apple M@rt1n1 (why don’t you call it cocktail?) or a French M@rt1n1 (or Espresso M@rt1n1 which is an Espresso Vodka) for me! 

So the margins to do something innovative and creative are very small. But I guess I did it - and if other people would take it on, it could become big!

In this case I have been taking on a venerable classic - the whiskey sour. Look - there is nothing wrong with the classic recipe... but my testing revealed, that it is good, but not as good as it could be.

One variation is a new technique - cocktail augmentation (or is it spirit augmentation?). In theory it is simple - all spirits (arguably except of vodka) have a distinctive flavor profile. Cocktail augmentation takes this respective profile and enhances the respective (beneficial) aromas. The vessel we could use could be an flavor essence (pretty tough to do), you could infuse the spirit (which would limit the use of the bottle as well as shorten the lifespan) or could use a flavored (augmentation) syrup for the sour - an option I have considered as most practical.

The “disadvantage” is, that the respective syrup is especially made for the spirit, which you are using for the respective cocktail. However as it is a signature drink, it isn’t really a huge issue.

In case of Noir’s Ultimate Whiskey Sour, it is based on Wild Turkey 101 (Bourbon).

Hence the syrup has the typical aromas of Wild Turkey 101 - plus some typical Bourbon aromas (e.g. hints of coconut, vanilla, cherries, caramel - which enhances the cocktail. Important tent though is, that the syrup cannot be go too “obvious” in one direction! 

Long story short, the results are amazing - and every guest who tried the sour said, that he or she never had a better Whiskey Sour. 

I am not posting the exact recipe here, because every bartender (or bar) might use a different bourbon- and my recipe as it is works with Wild Turkey 101. But the concept is much more important than the exact recipe.

(Just as additional Information, the syrup was made in an immersion circulator at 60°C for about 12 hours).

The second Whiskey Sour might might be even more odd... but probably also even cooler.

I thought about making corn syrup (which is not only sweet but also taste like corn!) - but it is kinda impossible to do so, if your base (corn) is full of starch. 

I did previously a popcorn infused sour, but was also not really happy with the popcorn infusion. Enter koji. For bartenders who take their inspiration out of the culinary world, this shouldn’t be too much new: koji is the mold, which is up used to make a lot of Asian (and especially Japanese) things like: miso, soya sauce, sake, amazake, tempeh and so on.

It is a mold, which basically is the equivalent to the western barley malt - only it is used for many more applications. Koji consist a ton of α & β amylase enzymes. Koji has a lot more tricks at hand... but in our case it can convert starch into sugar.

On the way, it also creates some pretty amazing flavors (well depending how long it “ferments”.

If you are dealing with enzymes, one thing is extremely important: temperature. Hence if you have got an immersion circulator: great- if you don’t have one, your life becomes far more complicated (you could use an instant pot on yoghurt function or a slow cooker on warm function - however have to keep the lid partially open and you have to control, that the temperature doesn’t become too hot - but also not too cold... ) or you buy an amazake machine (this might be cheaper than a immersion circulator - on the other hand it doesn’t have so many applications and it is only available in Japan)...

So how it it made?

First of all you have to make a starch congee. You basically can use any starch (corn, rice, other grains...) and have to cook the heck out of it until it is a slush. Popcorn is pretty simple, when it is already puffed (and you want to puff it, as the chart aromas are an important component of the characteristics).

Then you cool it down. That is important - you can kill the enzymes (or the mold, which creates the enzymes) if it is too hot.

Next- you add the koji rice to the slurry. I have got “rice malt” which you can use for amazake and shio-koji. This is optimal. 

Shake it - add it to an air proof container (freezer bag etc) and add it to the water bath between 55 and 60°C (I use 57 or 58°C - this gives me a bit safety - 60°C is the maximum - and I don’t want, that anything goes wrong and the enzymes die - however 55° Is  dry low and the liquid could become acidic or could not convert 100%).

Leave it at this temperature for at least 8h up to 12h.

After that, it depends on you. If you have got a centrifuge (my dream...) you could centrifuge the heck out of the liquid and make it clear. Otherwise you can let it stand and it separates itself a bit (but not as much I would like). You could add sugar to make it more shelf stable - or not (it is already surprisingly sweet). You could also cook it to increase the natural sweetness - however please note, that some aromas come out of the koji-transformation, and might be heat sensitive.

Yeah - and then you can use it as syrup for another whiskey sour. Personally I used Four Roses Small Batch which works exceptionally well. These popcorn aromas are really great with the softer and floral character of the whiskey. 


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