This Mixology Monday (number 36!) the theme is these tough economic times and what changes in our drinking habits they may necessitate. Host Matthew Rowley offers some excellent tips on drinking through your back bar without spending money on new bottles, which can afford months of pleasure to those who've had this cocktail nerd habit for a while. The great tips have begun to roll in with more to come, we know.
We're taking a broader economic view for this one and looking at costs beyond our own cash outlay.
Of the two of us, though She enjoys a glass of sparkling water from time to time, He is positively passionate about the stuff and used to slay a large bottle of San Pellegrino during dinner not infrequently. Then one day we found ourselves looking at the latest report on San Francisco tap water quality - excellent - and then at one of those big green heavy bottles on the table. We'd been having someone make a glass bottle somewhere, get that bottle to Lombardy in Italy, fill it with mineral water from a spring there, produce some packaging to protect it, then ship it 6000 miles so we could use a car to bring it to our house from the store because it's heavy. It's our era's version of rich Romans eating lark's tongue pie.
We gave up the sparkling water.
If we owned our home we could have a penny-wise and oh so convenient carbonation system installed in our kitchen but we're renters and so we let the memory of those sparkly days fade until this month when a friend's recommendation led us to a lovely compromise: a small carbonation device called a SodaStream.
It takes tap water and turns it delightfully fizzy without all that guilt about our environmental footprint.
Frankly, it's also a big improvement on cost. The basic setup cost us $120 for the small countertop "fountain jet" device (which is really just a plastic holder for the little carbonation tank & the spigot to which you connect the bottle of water to be fizzed), 4 of the especially tough 1 liter bottles it uses, and 3 carbonators (which each should provide enough oomph to fill 60 bottles). This set also came with samples of their flavor syrups. You can exchange the carbonators for fresh ones by mail (or, from what we've read, at Williams-Sonoma or some other stores). This replacement appears to cost about $25-30, making the cost per liter after the initial kit cost is absorbed about 21-25 cents. Not bad!
For those seeking a fancier look, they also offer an upscale version called the Penguin which uses glass bottles.
So, the SodaStream is a perfectly good tip for any non-cocktail geek; nice, but where does the mixie angle come in? Aha, lean in and think about this.
You've got a constant supply of sparkling water, the foundation of all sodas. All you need is soda syrup. Well, what is that? It's simple syrup that's had flavor added. Well, hells bells, we know how to make simple syrup, of course. (Right, Darcy?) So where might we go for flavoring ideas?
1862 Prof. Christian Schultz's A Manual for the Manufacture of Cordials, Liquors, Fancy Syrups, &c. &c. which sounds ever so familiar because it's in the back of Jerry Thomas' How To Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant's Companion. Take a look starting at pages 197 and 220 using Google Book Search.
Practical notes on syrups from the Jerry Thomas era are provided by David Wondrich on pages 283-283 of Imbibe!, his most excellent and highly recommended book.
More tips - and recipes for ginger, balsamic, lavender honey, and caramel syrups - are provided by the sweet geniuses of Absinthe Brasserie & Bar in their book The Art of the Bar on pages 118-119, which we also recommend enthusiastically.
Now if you'll excuse us, we've got to pursue some entrancing memories of an amazing Italian soda the Bourbon & Branch lads used to whip up using their tarragon syrup...