Cocktails in the Champagne Style
January 09, 2013
For CLASS Magazine/DiffordsGuide.com, I interviewed Jeff Josenhans of San Diego's US Grant Hotel.
He's been quietly doing pretty cool stuff over there. He implemented one of the first cocktail herb gardens, has barrel aged cocktails that he is able to sell commercially, and now features the "Cocktails Sur Lie" program.
Cocktail ingredients (minus the base spirit) are fermented like wine, then put into champagne bottles and fermented a second time like champagne. Then they pop off the caps to get rid of the yeast and add base spirit in the 'dosage' step.
As he partnered with a winery production center, he now has the winery do the production work after he develops the recipes, which not only ensures consistency in the bottled beverages, but they can legally sell them at retail.
A truly clever part of this system is that the hotel does tons of events, and having these fancy bottled cocktails that pop open like champagne allows them to serve the same quality cocktails as you'd find in the bar at the events- just pop off the cork.
did you get to taste anything? i love the ambition and scale they are working on. i'm dying to work in a hotel program like that.
i explored carbonation via fermentation years back in 2008 and had mixed successes. i got a lot of yeast aromas that i weren't always elegant and sometimes sulfur. putting all their alcohol in the dosage is a brilliant idea.
they probably ferment to dryness the first time with a very low potential alcohol. then they bottle with something like 25 g/l of sugar to generate something like 12 g/l of dissolved gas and another 1%+ of alcohol. then after disgorging they add a very high alcohol dosage with enough sugar, probably in the form of a mistelle to contrast all their acid. they likely stay above 7 g/l of dissolved gas so it is abundantly carbonated. i bet they can be really consistent.
i've been doing something similar but force carbonating directly into champagne bottles (even magnums!) using a manifold i developed. you measure the dissolved gas with a kitchen scale to know how carbonated you are. there is nothing nicer than pouring a carbonated drink out of a gorgeous champagne bottle.
Posted by: Stephen | January 09, 2013 at 09:31 AM
Yes I did try both Cocktails Sur Lie. Both are really tasty. Your theories on how they do it sound pretty darn accurate from what I remember. I don't recall them adding high proof alcohol at the last step, but these drinks come out quite low-alcohol at the end, I think only about as much as wine.
Luckily the wine guy they work with is a pro and can calibrate each drink with the proper yeast and levels of sugar/alcohol/etc for each step. So Jeff can just develop the drink and then hand it off to a certain extent.
I think your manifold is very cool but your instructions are a bit difficult to parse - if you could do a step-by-step, detailed how-to guide not just on the manifold end but the other end too it might help folks get up the courage to try it. IMO.
Posted by: Camper English | January 12, 2013 at 02:13 PM
thanks for the feedback. i just re-read the instruction and found them a bit rough myself. hopefully my edits made them more articulate.
the product does take a little courage to use and i feel that you really need to understand the science to handle everything safely and effectively.
i'm hoping to make a youtube demonstration video soon.
i thought the early adopters would be the cocktail on tap crowd who have already learned the ways of gas regulators and hose fittings.
i guess it will only fall into the hands of those that really want it. every time i play with it i cannot believe how well it works.
Posted by: Stephen | January 13, 2013 at 09:14 AM
Yeah I am totally one of the scaredy-cat people when it comes to high-pressure gas tanks. But I don't work with them regularly.
Posted by: Camper English | January 13, 2013 at 09:24 AM