Here's a method that gets ice balls started using the cooler method for making clear ice. This comes courtesy of Dave Michalowski, for I saw it on his Facebook page and asked if I could steal his pictures to share. Thanks Dave!
He says, "I am using the round containers for the ice balls. I got them at the Container Store and they work perfectly. I believe they are three inches across and will snuggly fit into most old fashioned glasses. I saw off the end off the cylinder so the air doesn't get trapped in the bottom."
Dave carves his spheres from the cylendars using a Japanese paring knife, something I've not been brave enough to try yet.
Recently I watch the documentary The Botany of Desire on Netflix, based on the Michael Pollan book of the same name. Of the four plants they focussed on, one was the potato. And as I was planning a trip to visit a potato vodka distillery, I decided to take notes.
The Origin of the Potato
Potatoes originate in the Andes mountain in South America and were first domesticated 8000 years ago. There are more than 5000 potato varieties in the Andes region.
The potato in the wild is poisonous, but over time people bred out the more poisonous ones. Early Peruvians grew many varieties of potatoes depending on the altitude/direction of the hill.
Potatoes were grown by Incas. Spanish conquistadores brought them back to Europe.
The Potato in Europe
In Europe potatoes grew well in poor soils in northern countries, wet areas where grains were hit or miss. The potato provides an immense amount of food per acre. It may have helped the industrial revolution to happen, as less people were needed in the fields to grow it.
The Irish planted almost exclusively one strain of potato. In 1845 a wind-spread fungal spore brought by a ship spread across the whole country and turned the potatoes black within weeks. The Irish potato famine lasted for 3 years and killed many people. Monoculture = bad.
The Potato in America
Each year Americans consumer 7.5 billion pounds of French fries. Russett-Burbank is the potato variety used to make those fries everywhere in the world- and in particular by McDonald's. Pollan says “Monocultures on the plate lead to monocultures on the land.”
When you have a monoculture it essentially stops evolution of that plant, while the pests who want to prey on the plants continue to evolve. And once one finds a way to get one plant, it have access to all of them.
Monsanto has genetically engineered potatoes to kill the potato beetle, its main pest. People started planting them, and McDonald’s used them in the late 1990s but after consumer pressure and a potential PR problem, they phased them out. This effectively killed the genetically engineered potato. That said, corn, soybeans, and cotton are all genetically engineered by Monsanto.
But when growing a monoculture, you have to choose between using lots of pesticides or using genetically engineered crops. The solution, says Pollan, is not to grow monocultures.
Last night was the grand finale, the Summer Ball, for the G'Vine Gin Connoisseur 2011 World Finals. For the contest the bartenders had to set up and decorate a bar, serve a cocktail all night, and win both the approval of the crowd and the judges.
The cocktails were judged by Phil Duff, Audrey Fort of G'Vine, and Gaz Regan. The attendees of the ball were given 5 tokens each, which they could give to the bartenders with the best drinks at the event.
Gegham Ghazaryan from the bar Xandom in Alicante, Spain, won not only the most tokens of the night but the competition overall.
His drink was:
Coupage Floral by Gegham Kazarian, Xandom, Alicante
1½ shots G'Vine Floraison ¾ shot June liqueur ¾ shot pink grapefruit juice ½ shot lime juice ½ shot cardamom and ginger syrup ¼ shot blueberry reduction (that had cardomom and many other ingredients in it)
Method:Shake everything except the reduction with ice. Strain into a crushed-ice-filled old fashioned glass. Dash the reduction on top. Garnishwith blueberry, ginger, cardamom, cassia, lime and grapefruit peel flambéd withFloraison and June.
For those of you who've been paying attention to the competition overall, here are the top winners for all the individual competitions.
Make Your Own Gin: David Wolowidnyk, Jeff Bell, Gegham Ghazaryan & Guillaume Ferroni
Speed Drink-Making: Torsten Spuhn, Solomon Siegel, David Wolowidnyk & Guillaume Ferroni & Javier Ruiz Vera
Free Pouring: Terry Cashman, Michael Pazdon, Jill Saunders
Aroma Exam: Gegham Ghazaryan & David Gonzalez, Jeff, David Wolowidnyk & Guillaume Ferroni
Written Exam: Michael Pazdon, Torsten Spuhn, Guillaume Ferroni
Summer Ball Cocktail (Judges): Gegham Ghazaryan, Jill Saunders, David Wolowidnyk
Summer Ball Cocktail (Crowd): Gegham Ghazaryan, David Gonzalez, David Wolowidnyk
So there were a great representation of people winning different challenges and honestly I had no clue who was going to win overall until it was announced.
It's been a great week and a pleasure hanging out with these awesome bartenders. This was a tough competition to win, so a huge congratulations to Gegham Ghazaryan!
On the day before the last in the G'Vine Gin Connoisseur 2011 World Finals here in Cognac, France, the contestants entered the Speed Pouring Challenge.
The contestants had to make the same drinks as in the speed mixing competition - two Gin and Tonics with different tonics, a Jasmine (gin, Campari, Cointreau, lemon), Floral Martini, and a Negroni. This time, however, they needed only to pour the spirits in the glasses they'd be served in without jiggering.
They were then measured for accuracy in quantity. I believe the slowest time was around 21.5 seconds and the fastest at 54 or so seconds. (The slowest time was by celebrity guest Gary Regan!)
After the competition, we took a boat ride down the Charente River to the La Ribaudiere restaurant.
We took the opportunity to use the boat ride for a capella karaoke.
Then at the restaurant the bastards had the non-competing bartenders (the hangers-on like myself and Gaz Regan) make the punch. Nobody told me this trip was going to be hard labor.
Currently it's Friday, the last day of the contest. The bartenders are taking a two-hour written exam while the bloggers are blogging. Tonight is the grand finale Summer Ball - more to follow - along with the name of the winner - tonight or tomorrow!
The third challenge of the G'Vine Gin Connoisseur 2011 World Finals is all about aroma. First contestants (and bloggers) learned about aroma and then took a quiz about it.
In the seminar, we learned about the link between aroma and emotion, and aroma and memory. These links are not even logical- if you hear a dog barking or bad noises when you’re in a rose garden, in the future when you smell roses you may associate that with an uncomfortable sound.
Bad smells are useful for self-defense too - a large portion of people who are hurt in fires have a compromised sense of smell - they didn't smell the gas or the smoke. The loss of the sense of smell causes loss of appetite, diminishes quality of life, and causes accidents as above.
We then did an exercise where we smelled an aroma and created an image in our mind- a shape, a color, a piece of music, or a place. Everyoneended up chosing a pastel color. The shape was roundish but not defined – I chose a cream colored egg.
We classified odors by intensity and learned the difference between intensity and tenacity. Intensity has to do with the highness of the note (so lemon is way up there) whereas tenacity is the length of the scent (cardamom is a medium intensity but high tenacity odor). Citrus notes tend to have a high intensity but low tenacity; chocolate has a medium-low intensity but high tenacity, as does vanilla and licorice root (used for that purpose in gin), sandalwood and cedarwood have low intensity and high tenacity.
We learned about synthetic and natural fragrant molecules, and how each are important in perfumes - often they are mixed and it's less common to have synthetic-only perfume. Often the discovery of an important fragrant molecule leads to the creation of a great perfume- this happened with Chanel No 5 and Aldehyde C12 MNA, discovered in 1903.
After the class, the contestants sat down to a test.
The second round of the G'Vine Gin Connoisseur 2011 World Finals in Cognac was a challenge to blend a gin from distilled ingredients. But first the contestants learned how G'Vine is made.
First a grape neutral spirit is produced on a column still. Then four other distillates are made: one of grape vine flowers, one of juniper, and two more of multiple botanicals. In the final stage, all of these distillated are blended together and then redistilled in the pot still. (Images of the distillate makeup are at the end of the post.)
With that in mind, the finalists were given a set of distilled ingredients and asked to blend their own gin. The goal was to have it be a consumer-friendly, commercially-viable product.
I didn't get a chance to try any of the final gins, so we'll have to wait and see who won this round...
Click below to see pictures about the makeup of G'Vine gin.
Camper English is a cocktails and spirits writer for publications including Saveur (Contributing Drinks Editor), FSR Magazine (Spirits Editor), Whisky Advocate, Details.com, PopSci.com, Mixology, Drinks International, and many more. Learn about Camper and Alcademics, or read clips of his published work.