Jack Daniel's Presents: Tennessee Sessions

Words by Lukas Raschilla

The Jack Daniel's Tennessee Sessions will be held around the country with dates in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Perth.

February 27 - Boilermaker House, Melbourne
March 20 - The Bowery, Brisbane
April 10 - Alabama Song, Perth

For info email thalita_alves@b-f.com

The first instalment of the Jack Daniel's Tennessee Sessions kicked off in Sydney on February 19 at PS40, presented co-owner and renowned bartender, Michael Chiem. The first session focused on the aspects of soda and how they interplay with alcohol and palates. Chiem shared his knowledge of how carbonation and carbonated drinks can be used in bars.

When PS40 opened, one of the aims of the venue was to evolve the concept of allowing customers enjoy a soft drink in the venue and see where it was made. Installing a soda bottling line inside the bar gave bar a "Grain to glass" or "Grape to glass" aesthetic that many breweries and wineries have in their taprooms and cellar doors, some of which sit adjacent to the brewery or vineyard.

Chiem admits he has learnt a lot since opening the venue over a year and a half ago. "I thought putting bubbles into liquid was really easy, that concept sounds easy. It took a very long time to get at the stage we're at currently. The idea was more or less just R&D until about November last year (2017). Everything I know, and everything I've done has been done through trial and error. And there has been a lot of errors to get a few successes."

Soda holds a firm place in our lives. Even as adults, a majority of the population worldwide enjoys soda, despite knowing the drinks are inherently sugary. Chiem shares the analogy that drinking soda is like eating chili. "Soda is quite harmful to you actually. There's nothing really positive about it, apart from that it tastes great. From a psychological aspect, a lot of people who like eating chili, like self-harm. We like that kind of rip or pop that soda gives us, it's addictive. For me, when I drink soft drinks, I think about my childhood and going to the corner store to get a fizzy drink."

Chiem said, "When you're carbonating something in you bar, think about all the aspects; what you're carbonating, temperature, method, and your device are all important. Also think about how the mouthfeel of carbonation and carbonated drinks is dependent on how much gas you add and at what levels. Pressure and temperature are the two most important things."

When Chiem first began carbonating drinks, he simply used a soda syphon, which is one of the most basic methods used to carbonate something. While the use of a soda syphon dates back to the 1800s, a more reliable method is to use a regulator attached to a gas tank which allows the user to choose how much is put into the liquid and gives much more control.

What you should know about making in-house sodas

Chiem's tip for bartenders - try to use carbonation with clarified drinks as they hold the carbonation much better. "If you use a puree or something viscous like syrup, it becomes more difficult to carbonate and usually pours out foamy."

Adding water to a glass allows slip streaming. Chiem advises not to pour soft drink into frozen glassware, as you get a lot of ice particles hanging inside the glass and which can cause it to bubble up and foam. A room temp glass with a little water creates much less foam.

Temperature is also key to carbonation, and Chiem says, "We don't add gas until the liquid is around 1-2 degrees. If you're carbonating something at 5-6 degrees, it's completely different. Something at 1 degree will retain much more gas and dissolve much more gas, it will taste more carbonated cold. Less gas will escape when a drink is colder."

A final lesson that was passed on during the session, and perhaps the most important to consider is particles and alcohol volume. "I would try to carbonate a low ABV drink, because alcohol dissolves carbon dioxide more readily than water does. Say for example, I tried to carbonate a Negroni or an Old Fashioned or something high in ABV, the drink retains more of that gas, so it's not going to escape on your palate. When I carbonate a drink, I try to make sure its clarified or it has as little particles as possible, so it can retain its fizz."

A traditional method of consuming Jack Daniel's whiskey is with soda and ice as a long drink. Using this as inspiration, the session featured a whiskey and soda pairing using expressions from the Jack Daniel's range and PS40's signature house made sodas. The classic Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 was paired with Wattle Cola for a modern take on the iconic Jack and cola. Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select was matched with Smoked Lemonade, and the Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Rye was matched with the Blackstrap Ginger soda, a perfectly rich version of classic dry ginger. Those attending were also treated to a nip of the Jack Daniel's Rye expression, which is set to launch in Australia later this year.