Aug17

5-Minute Falernum

Saigon Mule

Has this ever happened to you?

You’ve got friends coming over for cocktails. People like Rick, who will judge you harshly for any lapses in ingredient availability. Then suddenly it hits you: “Oh fiddlesticks!” you think. “I forgot to start falernum two days ago!” Your friends won’t be able to have any Jet Pilots, and you’ll have to deal with their withering stares of shame and disgust for the rest of the evening. You’ll know they’ll be talking about your hosting fail behind your back for weeks.

What a faux pas!

This doesn’t have to be you!

Recently Dave Arnold, over at Cooking Issues, discovered a new method for producing infused liquor: using nitrogen cavitation to produce simple and quick liquor infusions using an iSi whipped cream maker. A technique used in biomedical research, Nitrogen cavitation uses nitrogen bubbles to fracture cell membranes while preserving the precious (and delicious) organelles inside. In the case of infusing liquor, the cells are broken down by the nitrogen bubbles to release the flavor you want to impart to your base spirit.

While this may not sound exciting on its own, the real money shot of nitrogen cavitation is that you can infuse flavor into any liquor in around a minute and a half. A process that normally takes days or weeks—like falernum—can literally be accomplished in five minutes, from start to finish.

The Method

For approximately 8oz of infused spirit, the basic process goes like this:

  • Measure out whatever flavoring agents you want to infuse (this works with fresh herbs, spices, fruits, etc.).
    • 12 grams of any dried spice seems to be a good number.
    • 1/3c fruit appears to be a good number.
  • Finely slice, chop, or crush flavoring agents to maximize surface area.
  • Add flavoring agents to the chamber of an iSi
  • Add 8oz of liquor to infuse into the chamber (this can be anything, I’ve tried bourbon, various rums, & vodka).
  • Seal the iSi whipper, as you would if making whipped cream.
  • Charge the whipper with one N2O cartridge.
  • Gently swirl the contents of the iSi whipper for 1 minute.
  • Let the whipper stand for 30 seconds.
  • Gently vent the gas by depressing the dispensing lever on the iSi whipper
    • If you get some liquid spewed out at this point, you are applying too much pressure.
  • Open the iSi whipper and strain the contents through a cheese cloth or paper towel lining a mesh strainer.
  • Let the mixture stand for five minutes.
  • Consume.

That’s it. Seriously awesome infused liquor in 6.5 minutes!

This process is magical.

Note: With a 1 pint iSi whipper, you can make up to 16oz of infusion, but Dave Arnold recommends using two N2O chargers for any amount over 8oz, so I’ve written the recipe for this smaller amount.

Note: The five minutes of sitting is a rough estimate. When I made a bunch of infusions the other night, I noticed that the flavor took about five minutes to develop. For instance, a batch of date-infused bourbon tasted like Old Rip van Winkle 10 Year until we let it sit for five minutes; then date magic! I asked Dave Arnold about this and he hadn’t seen this problem, so I suspect it might be that because I (unlike every other iSi whipper owner) went for the cheap, half-pint whipper and that I can’t vent all the nitrogen before bourbon starts shooting out of my whipper’s nozzle (the infusion fizzes like beer when I filter it). So the “sit for five minutes” step might be optional if you are infusing 8oz of liquid in a one pint whipper.

An Application

As I suggested at the beginning of this post, you can use this (admittedly gear-driven) method to bail yourself out with last second infusions, especially for common tiki ingredients like falernum (I’m not sure if pimento dram would work using this method or not, given the long, slow nature of that infusion is part of p-dram’s magic). While Rick has previously posted another last-minute falernum substitute, using nitrogen cavitation is not only quicker but also doesn’t suffer the lack of high-proof rum (which is really an important component in the falernum experience, especially if you, like me, drink it straight). As such, I’ve adapted Rick’s falernum recipe to use this new technique.

Five Minute Falernum

As with slow falernum infusion, feel free to experiment with spice blends. This is more of a base-line, good falernum recipe.

Step 1: Nitrogen Bubbled Deliciousness

  • 8oz rum (Wray and Nephew Overproof or El Dorado 151 if you’ve got it, but any good white rum will work)
  • 50 cloves
  • 1T whole allspice
  • 1 nutmeg
  • 8 limes, zested (Make sure to get as little pith as possible, nitrogen cavitation seems to really go for the bitter flavor in pith)
  • 1/2c thinly sliced ginger coins (I used a mandolin to slice it paper thin)

Crush the nutmeg, allspice, and cloves with a mortar & pestle (or in a bag using a hammer (or whatever)). Heat these crushed spices in a skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes or until fragrant. Cool the spices. Add spices, rum, ginger, and zest to the chamber of an iSi cream whipper. Seal the whipper and charge with N2O. Swirl the contents of the whipper for 1 minute. Let rest for 30 seconds. Vent the nitrogen gas by depressing the lever on the iSi whipper. Strain the rum through a cheesecloth.

Step 2: Sugar Syrup FTW

  • 2c sugar
  • 1c water

Make a simple syrup by heating the sugar and water over medium-low until the sugar dissolves. Let the syrup cool. Add the cooled syrup to the infused rum. Falernum! (alternately, you could add around 1.5c pre-made 2:1 simple syrup to the infused rum).

That’s it!

I know, right? Nitrogen cavitation feels like cheating.

Other Applications

What else can you do with nitrogen cavitation, you ask?

I’ve discovered that adapting Rick’s falernum was no fluke. Most liqueur recipes can be immediately adapted to an iSi whipper, just by scaling down the recipe. So you can use it to experiment with different combinations of base spirit and different ratios for a specific fruit liqueur you are working on (I’m making different batches of creme de banane at the moment).

Additionally, you can make very small batches of different weird flavor combinations for infused spirits without having the time and cost overhead of infusing an entire bottle for several days. With that in mind, I’ve been experimenting with some interesting flavor combinations: long pepper infused tequila, date infused bourbon, and star anise infused rum, so far. The process is so quick, and the overhead is so low (you can even make half a recipe (4oz of spirit) with a single N20 cartridge, if you want), there’s no reason to not make that sichuan peppercorn, bonito infused gin you’ve always wanted!

The prospect of making to-order infused liquor is also an exciting one. The other night, my wife and I had friends over and all the cocktails were made from ingredients we infused a la minute. We made some long pepper bloody marys and palomas, date bourbon old-fashioneds, and some Saigon Mules (see below). The event was a lot of fun and the cocktails were absolutely amazing.

Finally, given that you can translate traditional methods to this new method, once you have a recipe you like that works with nitrogen cavitation, you can scale it up and make it the old fashioned way to have a whole bottle.

Now, I have to get back to work figuring out how to infuse roast pork bones into rye whiskey.

Here’s a recipe for star anise infused rum and a really great cocktail to make with it:

Star Anise Infused Rum

  • 12 g star anise, lightly crushed
  • 7oz white rum (I used Ron Matusalem Platino)
  • 1oz Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum

Add the star anise and the rums to the chamber of an iSi whipper. Seal the whipper and charge with N2O. Swirl the contents of the whipper for 1 minute. Let rest for 30 seconds. Vent the nitrogen gas by depressing the lever on the iSi whipper. Strain the rum through a cheesecloth.

Saigon Mule

  • 2oz Star Anise Infused Rum (see above)
  • Juice of ½ of a lime
  • Ginger beer to fill (Blenheim’s #5 Hot, if you’ve got it)

Build over ice in a tall glass; delicately stir.

KP Question

  • What flavor infusions are you thinking of, now that you’ve read this post?

About the Author

Andrew Pilsch is a rhetorician, cocktail enthusiast, and kitchen mad scientist.


30 Responses to “5-Minute Falernum”

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30 Comments to “ 5-Minute Falernum”
  1. JordanNo Gravatar says:

    As a chemist and cocktail nerd, this is hands down the most awesome combination of the two that I’ve ever read.

  2. TimNo Gravatar says:

    Another cool infusion would be some quick allspice dram, although it probably wouldn’t work as well…

  3. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Tim, a lot of the time needed for allspice dram is in the mellowing of the rum over time. Not that I wouldn’t want to try a raw, high-powered LH151 allspice dram :)

  4. AndrewNo Gravatar says:

    It seems like we just need to make dram in a whipper and see what happens.

  5. RobertNo Gravatar says:

    Aw, man–this might be just the thing for me. I’m am forever having to alter classic recipes because I don’t have the 48-hours-ahead foresight to do something like, say, whip up a batch of falernum on Wednesday because I just might want a Zombie on Friday night. At over a hundred bucks it definitely counts as “gear”, but this is one case where I think it might be well worth it.

    Great post!

  6. That is most excellent. Rick, you and Dave are doing God’s work. Keep it comin’.

  7. OuroborosNo Gravatar says:

    Awesome! I’m (still) waiting on the iSi whipper I’d ordered.

  8. Tony HarionNo Gravatar says:

    Very nice post! I can see you wasted no time!

    I think this is going to be very interesting to experiment with herbs specially. I´m assuming that this extraction method could be gentler than maceration and muddling, avoiding bitter flavors.

  9. buttersNo Gravatar says:

    would this technique work with crushed cherry pits? it would be nice to get the flavor out of my pits in minutes rather than months. thanks!

  10. Hmm, I wonder if you could use this method to make a quick peach brandy, using roasted peaches (to remove the water from the fruit), the roasted peach pits & Lairds Bonded? I’m thinking that it’s Fish House Punch time!

  11. dbeachNo Gravatar says:

    All I can say is wow. You guys are incredible. I will be investing in a whipper, apparently. And just five minutes ago I didn’t even know I needed one.

  12. [...] including phlox and tomato leaves. Andrew put up a post at Kaiser Penguin describing how to make a quick ’n’ dirty falernum. (No more excuses not to make a Zombie or Royal Bermuda Yacht Club!) And Alex and Aki of Ideas in [...]

  13. TiareNo Gravatar says:

    Excellent post Rick. I wonder if a whipper like that can be found here?

  14. Question: Could you use a soda syphon for this method?

  15. Chip and AndyNo Gravatar says:

    Yummy Idea!

    I’m gonna try Mango with black Pepper and see what comes of it.

  16. George C.No Gravatar says:

    @Craig:

    A soda siphon will work, technically, but the cream whippers have a far larger mouth, which helps with loading/unloading of branchy, bulky fresh herbs. If you’re willing to fish around, or plan mainly to use dry spices, you should be golden.

    Just be sure to use the N20-based cream whipper chargers, rather than the C02 cartridges normally employed in soda siphons. They’re the same size and fit just fine.

  17. leisure masterNo Gravatar says:

    genius idea. just ordered one for the RRR.

    I have always thought whipped cream was the best thing outside of booze and now you’ve shown me a device that works with both!

  18. Tony HarionNo Gravatar says:

    @ Craig and @George C.

    I did a test yesterday and had the impression that the Whipper worked a bit betther than the soda siphon. The two were from different brands, but I think the difference in my case was that the whipper can release the gas more rapidly.

    This would result in a faster change of pressure and more cavitations thus better extraction in theory.

    I have to do this test again to be certain, just wanted to add my two cents in the subject.

    Craig, I still think you´ll be just fine with the soda siphon, extraction just might be a tinny bit less effective. You don’t necessarily have to buy a whipper just for this matter, is what i mean.

  19. Help Rick, help.

    I tried it with only a couple of ounces of bourbon [with mint] but it doesn’t really work at all! It is a very light hint of mint – not what I was suspected at all!
    I love the idea of this method – but do I need always to fill up the iSi siphon with 8 ounces?

    Please see latest post on my website as well… I am depressed…

    Cheers

    Dominik MJ

  20. Kara NewmanNo Gravatar says:

    The Atlantic linked over to this column in their piece on quick infusions. 5-minute falernum? Serious awesomeness.

    I’m convinced that if you use this technique on an infusion that is already a quick process, it will jump you back in time. :)

  21. AndrewNo Gravatar says:

    @Derrick – You don’t have to use 8 oz. That’s just the amount you need to use before you have to start charging with two nitrogen cartridges. You can totally use less liquid.

  22. AndrewNo Gravatar says:

    Sorry, that last comment was meant for Dominik.

  23. Well Andrew, unfortunately I tried this – but is doesn’t work…

    Any other ideas?

  24. [...] impress your friends by serving 5-minute falernum. Be the first to comment Posted in Techniques Cancel [...]

  25. jamesNo Gravatar says:

    This technique works amazingly with syrups, which saves a lot of time, with spirits i have had mixed results, probably best to be over generous with the amount of fruit or herbs you are using!!!

  26. AustinNo Gravatar says:

    I’m curious whether this technique would work with bacon and vodka? I mean, what doesn’t get better with bacon (other than my cholesterol numbers)? I have seen some bacon infusions, and the thought of a bacon infused bloody mary makes me want to enjoy drinking before noon, ASAP. Thoughts?

  27. Kent WangNo Gravatar says:

    How small do you chop fruits? I’m worried that chopping too fine would result in too much liquid from the fruit diluting the spirit too much. Dates are a bit dry when you chop them so I don’t see that as being a problem, but pineapple especially is a concern.

  28. Mr. FizzNo Gravatar says:

    I came up with a concept I call pressure infusion marination mid-June 2010. I told Dave Arnold (of the French Culinary Institute) about it. It’s interesting, the process you have described here in this thread and the surrounding discussions.

    When I first posted the chicken strips pressure infusion marination video to YouTube in June, I told Dave about the technique. I’m a retired civil engineer and am quite familiar with pressurized infusion processes since the early 70?ies when I was involved with Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) in which wood is placed in a vacuum for a period of time then CCA is introduced into the environment under hydrostatic pressure and the poison is infused into the wood. The process actually results in the wood members losing about 25% of their stress capacity (modulus of elasticity and extreme fibre stress in bending are both affected) as a result of cellular rupture & lignin structural failure during the process. Allowable design loads for pressure treated lumber are correspondingly less than those for non-treated lumber. I figured I could bypass the vacuum session for meat and other food products in a similar process. I was right, as it turned out, it seems, because only a small amount of penetration is required for many flavorings and many food items. The video links are here in my mid-June letter to David (below).

    For pressure vessels? Use PET bottles designed for and used to package carbonated when you can get them (duh – they’re free). Don’t go dumpster diving. Use your’s or your neighbor’s. For example, Coors & Miller Lite are both sold in little PET kegs now. They’re known as Beer In A Box. Drink the beer. Save the kegs. There’s already a 16-gram co2 cartridge dispenser attached. The size of the mouth of the keg is larger than that of 2-liter soda bottle, so you can get larger food item in it. You can even get Fizz Giz caps to fit these kegs. With them, you can introduce pressure using any gas you wanna buy, o2, air, n2o, co2, helium, nitrogen, acetylene, propane (just joking on a few of those). Check out my Fizz Giz website and google for pressure infusion marination.

    from David Arnold
    to Mike Spike`
    date Fri, Jun 18, 2010 at 1:59 PM
    subject Re: Dave – here’s a link for you
    mailed-by gmail.com
    signed-by gmail.com

    hide details Jun 18

    Howdy Mike,

    I think the process looks interesting. Questions:
    Have you tried it with N2O (another water soluble gas) and air (a non
    soluble gas)?
    Are there any scholarly articles on the subject?
    How do fat based infusions work?
    Is there any residual flavor impact (my guess is the CO2 is all driven
    off in cooking)?
    Is there any residual textural impact?
    Best,
    Dave

    On Fri, Jun 18, 2010 at 11:04 AM, Mike Spike` wrote:
    > french culinary institute
    > 462 Broadway
    > New York, NY 10013
    > (888) 324-2433
    >
    > I browsed the information at http://www.cookingissues.com/primers/rotovap/ and found it quite interesting. It seems you have an afinity for technology pertaining to culinary art. I’ve worked to develop an alternative carbonation strategy consumers can use to make their own soft drinks. This led to a developing a technique I call pressure forced infusion marination, a quick way to infuse some flavors into some food items. A demonstration of teriyaki sauce into chicken strips can be found here.
    >
    >
    > 1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMQRSJUFuwM
    > 2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItbgekPhu70
    >
    > I wish my video wasn’t quite so crude. But it is effective in demonstrating the process.
    >
    >
    > * Do you think the process is practical and useful?
    > * Do you think the process could be developed into a viable product for consumer or commercial use?
    > * Could I interest you in a co-development effort?
    >
    >
    > Sincerely,
    >
    > Mister Fizz
    > MrFizz@FizzGiz.com
    > (409)FIZZ-GIZ
    > Check out my Fizz Giz soft drink maker

  29. PadodNo Gravatar says:

    Used this method to make a Kofuku – Appleton Extra infused with black Cardamom, rose hips, star anise & cocoa beans (2oz of said rum), stirred with Tawny port (1/3oz), Bols dark creme de cacao (2/3oz), dash of Bitter Truth orange bitters & Xocolatle Mole bitters and an orange zest garnish.
    We now serve it here along with a Hoyo de Monterrey cuban cigar, needless to say, expensive but very tasty.

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About

Kaiser Penguin is a cocktail blog featuring original recipes, homemade ingredients, classic cocktails, and tiki drinks.

Why on Earth did you name your blog “Kaiser Penguin?”

It is a well-known fact that penguins are members of high society and enjoy fine cocktails. Our very own kaiser penguin would like me to mention that he also enjoys various treats from the sea.

Contact: rick@kaiserpenguin.com