Monday, October 22, 2007

Academy of Spirits, Part II

A few posts ago, I talked about the Academy of Fine Spirits, and I thought I would give a quick update on the class. Last week, we had our infusion contest judging - each of us was given a large Ball jar and some vodka, and an array of ingredients to select from. We had to infuse our vodka for two weeks, and then bring it back to the class. During the two weeks, we were not allowed to add or take away any ingredients, but we could place the jar in different temperature and light settings, as desired.

So how did I do?
Well, I didn't win the contest (Cara B. from Weber Grill Restaurant was the winner - congrats Cara!). Cara's infusion was fruit-focused, with mango, berries and pineapple. I had tried for a savory infusion, with cucumber, rosemary, cardamom and a bit of red pear. If I could have removed the cardamom and rosemary earlier, it might've been OK - since I couldn't, it was mostly a cardamom infusion with a bit of rosemary. It was interesting to see what others put into the jar, and what came out on the other side - it was a great supplement to the experimentation I've already been doing. Its much easier when you can adjust the process and ingredients throughout the infusion!

Interesting Random Tidbits
We were originally to have our midterm today (class was just cancelled this am), so I have been studying the last day or so. Here are a few fun factoids from the topics on our midterm:
  • Alcohol has been regulated by governments since at least 1770 BC (under King Hammurabi's code then)
  • Agave is a member of the amaryllis family (and is most definitely not a cactus)
  • An agave piƱa weighs 25-30 kilos and takes 8-10 years to ripen, once picked they are cut, steamed and crushed to extract sweet juice for fermentation
  • In tequila, the age statement refers to an average age of the tequilas blended to make that batch. In scotch and rum, it refers to the youngest spirit in the blend.
  • The term "single malt" can be used on a scotch made at a single distillery. It doesn't have to be from a single malting or even a single year, just all from one distillery.
There are so many rules for each type of spirit, its interesting (and we're only scratching the surface in this class). I've become extremely familiar with the rules for the products we make, but less so for other types of spirits. Its interesting to see what is and isn't required, etc. and where the distiller has flexibility and where he or she doesn't have any.

Hopefully I'll retain what I've learned for the midterm next week!

In the meantime, here is the recipe we made for a classic mojito. As you may know, the mojito is an old drink (ca. 1900), not a new one. It was invented in Cuba and popularized at a bar there in the 1930's. Supposedly Ernest Hemingway is credited with introducing it to the U.S. mainland. This is the original recipe (or so they claim):

Classic Mojito

1-1/2 oz White rum
1-1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1/2 of a Lime, Pressed
10-15 Mint Leaves
Soda water

Muddle mint in an old fashioned glass with lime and syrup. Just a few presses with the muddler, don't grind it into submission. Add crushed ice, rum and top with soda. Garnish with mint sprig.

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