H2O cocktails

Words by: Ian Cameron
Pictures by: Kathy Casey Liquid Kitchen™

23:29 GMT // 17 Aug 2011

Water is, of course, the main ingredient in beer, wine and spirits, but water is also present in its unadulterated form in most mixed drinks through dilution from ice. Little attention has, however, been paid to using water as a means to incorporating extra flavours in mixed drinks - it's just a diluter, an extender. In fact, sugar-free flavoured water infusions can create drier drinks with subtle layers of complexity. See the recipes below.

A few years ago, Claridge's hotel in London gained newspaper column inches for its water 'sommelier'. It counted some 30 or so bottled waters on its list, gathered from rainwater, undersea springs and dew from the ears of baby lambs. OK, we made that last one up, but you get the idea. The point is that such was the breadth of its water collection, it was able to pair a spirit with a water from the same area - so rather than pairing a rare single malt Scotch with good ol' Peckham Spring (for our non-UK readers that's tap water) it would be better complemented by a mineral water from the Highlands.

Since then, has anyone done anything exciting with water? Not really (email me if you think I'm wrong). So it was, with not a little curiosity, that I headed to a seminar at last month's Tales of the Cocktail entitled H2O Cocktails, hoping to hear something new, refreshing and hydrating. In practice, it was about how to create water infusions using fruits, herbs and spices.

Why should we care about creating water infusions? Partly it taps into more responsible, more healthy drinking trends, creating drinks that are drier, more sophisticated; mostly it further demonstrates your devotion to the craft by showing you care about even the most ubiquitous 'standard' liquid. If you've ever been served a pitcher of water with either lemon or cucumber in, you'll know it makes a hell of a difference - simple but effective.

The seminar's main presenter, Kathy Casey is an American chef cum mixologist who presents an online show. She has been experimenting with water infusions - berries, celery, clementine, cucumber, mint, pineapple and peach, compounds including apple and thyme, and watermelon and lime, and even certain delicate flowers. "They are best at the peak of their seasonal freshness but frozen fruit can work just as well," she says.

She uses two infusion methods. The first is "cold, long and slow", with a ratio of one to two cups of produce to four cups of water. She favours distilled water that's been put through a Brita filter - otherwise use bottled or filtered water. Fruit should be chopped small to increase the surface area but should not be squeezed, juiced or muddled. "A juicer or muddler would give completely different flavour profiles - this is about lighter essences."

Let the water/fruit mixture sit overnight in a pitcher or jar, then strain through a Chinois (fine) strainer. "You can also use cheesecloth - but that is not usually necessary as the fruit is not smashed up so it strains clear easily," says Kathy. The water takes on a delicate hue from whatever fruit you've used.

The second method is a rapid infusion. Fill a catering creamer/whipper to the fill line with the same ratio of fruit to water, then charge with two nitrous oxide mini canisters. Release the gas then strain immediately. "Be careful with herbs in this method as it gets very strong," says Kathy. Dried herbs or flowers, such as lavender, for example, should be rehydrated before infusing.

To serve infused waters, Kathy has collaborated with famed Las Vegas mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim for the following cocktails - all are simple spirit/water combinations at a ratio of 1oz spirit to 2oz water, though each is served elegantly in a Martini glass with an appropriate garnish. A variation is also to carbonate the water to serve as a mixer with vodka, gin, light rum and even silver tequila. "Infused water is delicate and I would not keep it (refrigerated) for more than three days."

Berry Purity H2O
Glass: Collins
Garnish: Summer berries on stick
Method: Shake or stir with ice then strain into glass.
Comment: Slim and sophisticated with a dry berry finish.
Origin: Kathy Casey Liquid Kitchen™
1oz Purity Vodka
3oz Berry Water (see below)

For the berry water
Makes about 4 cups or about 10 servings

1 cup Mixed berries (raspberries, strawberries, blackberries or blueberries)
1 long piece Lemon zest
4 cups High-quality water
Method: Combine the ingredients in a glass pitcher and let sit, refrigerated, for at least 4 hours before serving.


Mandarin Hibiscus Cocktail
Glass: Martini
Garnish: Mandarin piece and hibiscus stamen
Method: Shake or stir with ice then strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Origin: Tony Abou-Ganim
Makes 1 serving
1oz Purity Vodka
3oz Mandarin Hibiscus Water (see below)

Mandarin Hibiscus Water
Makes about 4 cups or about 10 servings

3 small mandarins, quartered (2 clementines)
¼ cup dried hibiscus flowers
1 star anise
3 cups high-quality water
Method: Combine ingredients and let sit at room temperature for four hours, then refrigerate overnight. Strain and keep chilled.


Pineapple Cilantro H2O
Glass: Martini
Garnish: Pineapple leaf and pineapple stirrer
Method: Shake or stir with ice then strain into chilled cocktail glass.
1oz Ciroc or Purity Vodka
3oz Pineapple Cilantro Water (recipe follows)
Comment: Fruit and herb notes grace this less-sweet drink.
Origin: Kathy Casey Liquid Kitchen™

Pineapple Cilantro Water
Makes about 4 cups or about 10 servings

2 cups 1/4" diced pineapple
6 sprigs Coriander
1 tsp Chopped ginger
4 cups High-quality water
Method: Combine the ingredients in a glass pitcher and let sit, refrigerated, for at least 4 hours — or preferably overnight, before serving. Or do a quick infusion in a creamer using two N20 chargers — let sit 10 minutes or up to overnight in whipper.


Cucumber/Bell Pepper Cocktail
Glass: Martini
Garnish:
Method: Shake or stir with ice then strain into chilled cocktail glass
1oz Karlsson's Gold or Purity Vodka
3oz Cucumber—Bell Pepper Water (see below)
Comment:
Origin: Tony Abou-Ganim

Cucumber/Bell Pepper Water
Makes about 4 cups or about 10 servings

2 cups diced Cucumber
1 cup sliced Red bell pepper
1 teaspoon Black peppercorns
1 small bunch Coriander
4 cups High-quality water
Method: Combine ingredients and refrigerate overnight. Strain and keep chilled.



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