Bathed and Infused
Where to try a sous vide cocktail
Sous vide short ribs? Been there, done that.
But have you tried a sous vide cocktail?
Local bartenders are lifting the ubiquitous cooking technique, in which ingredients are slow-cooked in vacuum-sealed bags in a controlled water bath, to infuse ingredients together to splendid, boozy effect.
Lisa Fetterman, CEO of Nomiku, the home immersion circulator used in professional kitchens, such as Saison, sees it as a natural cocktail-making tool. She says, "Using exact temperature to get precisely the flavor you want gives you the power to play god with aromatics. You can even use [sous vide] to make spirits à la minute."
We don't know about playing god. But sous vide is an incredibly effective way to infuse flavors into spirits without evaporating or breaking down the structure of ingredients, says bar manager Joe Cleveland, who began tinkering with compressed fruits, flavored syrups and infusions while working for molecular gastronomist José Andrés. At Coqueta, he sous vides ham and gin together for his Iberico-infused Tariff gintonic ($12).
At Alta CA, Ashley Miller wields her Nomiku for drinks, such as Strawberry Fields ($12), infusing Rittenhouse Rye with strawberries and vanilla in only one hour—which means you don't have to stand around later, waiting for a drink. "It's a chef's approach; we create infusions that simplify steps later, letting us prepare a cocktail quickly for the guest."
The vacuuming aspect also works well for Christopher Longoria's Strawberry Shrub ($12) at 1760, because "the honey-Viognier vinegar and Strega have nowhere to go but to get absorbed by the strawberries and herbs." At the Burritt Room + Tavern, infusing Dolin Blanc vermouth with cucumber and radish for the Vesper Lynd ($11) gives the classic cocktail a summery spin.
And over at Gather in Berkeley, Charles Crebs uses sous vide to speed up the process of making infusions and jams, such as the grilled lemon marmalade for his Amaro Sour ($12), from days or months to mere hours.
Expect more bathed and infused drinks soon: When it reopens in September, the new Quince will debut two: a fennel Pisco sour and a vodka and basil tonic with celery seed simple syrup.
That should seal the deal.