Recently, I’ve been playing around with carbonated cocktails. Compared to guys like Jeffrey Morgenthaler, I feel a little late to the party but considering I only know of one place in NYC to get a carbonated cocktail, I can’t be all that far behind. Plus, better late than never, right?
Anywho, as I see it there are four ways to add carbonation to your cocktails:
- Using the now recalled iSi Twist ‘n’ Sparkle (recalled because the bottles were exploding)
- Using another carbonator, like the iSi Soda Siphon
- Using an ultrapremium solution, like the Perlini
- Just adding soda water or seltzer to lengthen a drink
#1 is no longer an option, despite how adventurous you might be. #4 doesn’t require any special equipment, but it also significantly dilutes the original cocktail. #3 is expensive — $200 for the consumer version. Which leaves #2, the process I used and the one that I’m going to take you through below.
What you’ll need:
Carbonator — as mentioned, I use the iSi Soda Siphon and will reference it in my walkthrough ($49)
CO2 cartridges — these are NOT included with the iSi and they say never use an off-brand; I’ve found that Leland cartridges work well however ($4 for a 10ct)
Bottles — You want something on the small side, like these 187ml champagne bottles ($24 for 24ct)
Bottle Caps — Here’s what I use, not too shabby for $0.99 (for 144, I think)
Bottle Capper — For large scale operations you’ll want something a bit more rugged, but as a starter the Red Baron Capper is great, and has an awesome name ($12)
These goodies will run you ~$90. Optional items also include a small funnel and a length of tubing so that you can more easily pour the carbonated liquid into the bottles without losing too much of the carbonation. Up to you if you want to use these.
Once you’ve got these goods, you’re going to be following a relatively simply process of batching your cocktail, pumping CO2 into it via the iSi Soda Siphon, releasing the gas and then bottling. Details below:
1. Batch your cocktail — If you got the same carbonator as me, you’re looking to batch your cocktail for ~28oz. The Siphon fits more than that, but I find it helpful to leave some room to release excess CO2 later. You want this batch to include water that you’d normally get from dilution, about 25-30% worth. This means you’ll have to do a little math.
For example, a Manhattan with 2oz of whiskey, 1oz of sweet vermouth and 2 dashes of angostura will have, after stirring, about 1oz of water in it, which makes for a total volume of 4oz. We’re aiming to fill the Siphon up to 28oz, which means we’re essentially making 7 Manhattans, so you’ll need 14oz of whiskey, 7oz of sweet vermouth, 14 dashes angostura and 7oz water.
As you might already see, setting a fill volume of less than our Siphon’s maximum capacity gives us some wiggle room here for when our cocktails have volumes that aren’t so easy to work with. There are also some people who advocate adding extra water and/or additional sweetness to account for the texture and effect of the carbonation. And makes sure you don’t forget to twist any citrus peels you might need — though you make sure you don’t leave them in the Siphon when you carbonate.
2. Chill, fill and carbonate — Cold liquids absorb more CO2 than those that are room temperature. Because of this, I like to chill both my batched cocktail AND my empty Siphon in the freezer. Once the drink is sufficiently chilled (if you’re not making these en masse, you could leave it for a few hours or even overnight), fill your Siphon and follow the instructions to pump two CO2 cartridges into it. You may want to take note that your instructions will almost certainly say to NOT do this, so proceed at your own risk.
To carbonate, simply shake the Siphon. The instructions advise doing this for five seconds, but I go for something closer to 15-30. Set it in the fridge and let the liquid settle for 20-30 minutes.
3. Release — This part is tricky and you’ll probably flub it on your first go. What you need to do is turn the Siphon upside down and very slowly/gently depress the top lever to release excess gas. You only want gas to come out, not liquid, and if you’ve filled up your Siphon as I suggested, you’ll eventually find that you can depress the lever all the way and have no gas or liquid come out.
4. Bottling Time— Turn the Siphon right-side up again and unscrew the head (warning, there will be some excess gas/liquid beyond the plastic seal, so have some paper towels handy). Then you want to pour the carbonated liquid into your bottles, using your funnel/tube if you’ve got one. This is like pouring soda (or beer) and you’re best off holding the bottle at an angle and going slow.
For your first run, don’t cap the bottles until you’ve completely emptied your Siphon so you can make sure you know how high to fill each bottle. Once you’ve got that down though, you want to cap asap to keep the carbonation in.
And that’s all you need to do…. but wait, there’s more!
Jeffrey Morgenthaler has a post with similar details (my process was very much inspired by his own), in case you wanted some video assistance. Jamie Boudreau also has a video on using the Perlini system to make a carbonated negroni, in case you wanted to drop some cash on that. Regardless of what system or method you use, here are a few things you might want to keep in mind as you play around:
- Carbonation doesn’t prevent spoilage — This should be obvious, but it bears repeating. If you put fresh juice or other perishable items, your bottle cocktails will only stay good for so long.
- A 187ml bottle is 6+ ounces — Keep this in mind for drinking and creating, as knocking back 6oz of a full proof Manhattan can be…. challenging. And dangerous.
- Go the distance — As Morgenthaler points out, long drinks work well here like the Americano, Aperol Spritz, and Bicyclette.
- Use a sharpie to label your creations — You’ll probably want to reuse your bottles (they ain’t cheap!), which will be a pain if you use a label. But many of these drinks look the same, so do yourself a favor and just make a mark to indicate what’s inside.
This is one of those areas that’s still very new to me and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to approach it; I’d love to hear about your experiences if you decide to give it a go, especially the types of cocktails that work well and what dilution ratios you use.