Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of the cocktail. All too often they are overly sweet or sour. A well-balanced cocktail is quite another matter. Case in point: the Violet Fizz at Tailor, NYC. Even as I ordered it I was leery, but curious. No need, it was light, bright, and perfectly balanced.
Bloody Marys seem to belong in another category altogether. It may be due to their texture that they feel more like a fluid meal...something to sate your appetite, rather than pique it.
On a recent shopping trip, I was surprised to find young lovage tucked in among the herbs, something I have never seen in super markets in my area...surely a good sign. I cannot think about lovage without conjuring up a memory of the late Adelma Simmons "The First Lady of Herbs" at a lecture that I attended years ago at Caprilands Herb Farm. She was nearly 70 at the time, yet spoke passionately and extensively about herbal cultivation, lore and uses. She threw out one tidbit that I have carried with me since, but have never implemented: the use of lovage stalks as straws.
So, there I stood, at the market, with a bunch of lovage in my hand, and it spoke to me, and what it said was "Make me a Bloody Mary!"
When herbs speak, one must listen.
Gelatin Filtration is a technique that Harold McGee wrote about in an article in the New York Times in which gelatin is combined with a flavored liquid, frozen, and allowed to drain. The gelatin forms a net which traps fat and particles as it thaws, resulting in a clear liquid with pure flavor. This method can be applied to stocks, sauces, or purees and provides an alternative to a Superbag or the egg white raft method which, arguably, draws flavor from the liquid which it clarifies. It is groundbreaking in its simplicity, requires no specialized equipment or ingredients and provides infinite possibilities. The only drawback is that it needs to be planned ahead--its always been a 3 day process for me. You can read more about this and other progressive techniques at the highly innovative Ideas in Food.
Applying gelatin filtration to a Bloody Mary base of seasoned vegetable juice produced a light colored, crystal clear liquid that tasted identical to the base. To give a visual and textural reference back to the original cocktail, I added a sphere made from the base. In order to suspend it, I blended some Xanthan into the clarified liquid.
Spherification is another technique developed at elBulli in 2003 in which sodium alginate is mixed with a liquid base and dropped into a bath of calcium chloride. The alginate reacts with the calcium, forming an orb with a gelatinized membrane surrounding a liquid center, similar to a raw egg yolk. There is also Reverse Spherification, in which a base is combined with calcium in the form of calcium gluconolactate and dropped into an alginate bath. Spherification is now considered passe by some, although I continue to see it come out of cutting edge kitchens, I think largely because it offers a playful delivery of flavor. This process is explained in depth on the Texturas site (elBulli product line) and demonstrated by Martin at Khymos in this videoclip.
2 lbs. ripe tomatoes lemon juice, to taste
3 stalks celery jalapeno hot sauce, to taste
1/2 cup lovage leaves salt and pepper
2 scallions dash Worcestershire
Pass vegetables and herbs through a juicer or liquify in a blender with 1/2 cup of water. Add remaining ingredients, adjust seasoning to taste. Strain through a sieve. Measure out 4 cups of base and transfer to a saucepan, setting the rest aside in a covered container in the refrigerator and reserve for spheres. To the saucepan add 2 tsps. powdered gelatin by sprinkling it over the surface. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk it in over medium high heat until base just begins to simmer and gelatin has completely melted. Remove from heat, let cool and transfer to a bowl and place in freezer overnight or until frozen solid. The next day, line a colander with cheesecloth, pop out the frozen base and place it in the prepared colander, set over a large bowl and transfer to the refrigerator to drain for 24 to 48 hours. When it appears that the base has fully drained, remove colander and discard the solids. When ready to serve, add 1 part vodka to 2 parts of clarified base.
2 grams sodium alginate 2.5 grams calcium chloride
60 grams water 500 grams water
140 grams reserved base
spheres- place the water and base in a container with high sides. Sprinkle on the sodium alginate and blend in with an immersion blender. (This can also be done in a high speed mixer). Set aside in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours to allow the bubbles formed during blending to dissipate.
bath- combine calcium chloride with water in a bowl and stir until dissolved.
to form spheres- with a rounded spoon, scoop up some alginated base and slowly submerge into bath, tipping spoon to allow sphere to release. When skin has formed, lift sphere out of bath with perforated spoon and transfer to a clear water bath. Use immediately as sphere will continue to react and harden.
Note: because the finished cocktail has little viscosity, the spheres will sink to the bottom of the glass. If you wish to suspend them, blend 1 gram of Xanthan into 500 grams of finished cocktail.