Pisco con Platanos


My drink for this year’s Great American Distiller’s Festival cocktail competition this year was a Pisco Sour with spiced plantain foam. Though the drink was tasty, it didn’t win. Lesson for next year: Serve a cocktail with multiple foams. The judges will never see that coming.

Seriously though, this was a fun cocktail to work on. The Encanto Pisco is a wonderful spirit. It’s good neat and I imagine one could make some very good spirit-driven cocktails pairing it with vermouth, liqueurs, and bitters. I went in an entirely different direction with this twist on a Pisco Sour:

1.75 oz Encanto Pisco
.75 lime juice
.5 oz Dimmi
.5 oz spiced plantain syrup
2 dashes Amargo Chuncho bitters
spiced plantain foam

Shake the liquid ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, top with the spiced plantain foam, and serve.

One of the nice thing about the Encanto Pisco is that it actually tastes like a spirit distilled from fruit, which is more than I can say for some lower-quality piscos on the market. I wanted to play up that aspect, pairing it with the partially grappa-based Dimmi liqueur and one of my favorite foods, ripe plantains. The syrup is easy to make:

8 oz simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water)
1 ripe plantain, peeled and sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise

Simmer to extract flavor, about 10 minutes. Let cool and strain.

I used this syrup in both the drink and the foam. The foam is made with juice from sweet limes, which are much less tart than the usual lime and has a mild flavor that complements the Pisco Sour. If these are unavailable two ounces of lime juice diluted with six ounces of water is an acceptable substitute, but the sweet limes are the way to go if one can find them.

8 oz sweet lime juice
6 oz spiced plantain syrup
4 egg whites
4 dashes Amargo Chuncho bitters

Combine in a whipped cream canister, charge with an NO2 charger, and shake. (Method loosely based on Morgenthaler’s proportions.) This should make enough for a solid 10 drinks and will keep for a few days if one can resist eating it with a spoon.

Foams have become a bit cliché and I was a reluctant to use one, but in this case it works. A Pisco Sour is supposed to have foam. Rather than shaking an egg white into it, this version has the egg white foam layered on separately. This gives it an incredibly smooth texture and allows one to incorporate more flavors into it. It’s a lot of work to prep but it tastes great and the plantain syrup has potential in lots of other cocktails, one of which I’ll post tomorrow.

Previously: My GADF cocktail from last year


Defusing the car bomb


Those of you who read my “guilty pleasures” Mixology Monday post know that I have a soft spot for the Irish car bomb. Sure, it’s got a politically incorrect name, it’s messy, it curdles if you don’t drink it fast enough, and it requires chugging a half-pint of Guinness, but it’s also tasty and fun. Even so, I’m not about to put it on my cocktail menu at a classy place like Carlyle. Well, not exactly…

The photo above shows a new dessert drink we’re calling a Defusion. The bottom layer is a mix of Jameson and Baileys, shaken over ice and strained. The top layer is a Guinness foam garnished with a little grated nutmeg. For obvious reasons we don’t use the words “car bomb” anywhere on the menu, but customers in the know will recognize the inspiration. If they don’t, they can still enjoy the drink on its own merits. (Considering that one of the first guys to order it was visiting from Ireland, I’m very happy with this decision!)


I came across beer foam while flipping through the Alinea cookbook, which describes an ale foam in one of its dishes. This immediately gave me the idea for the drink. Achatz’ foam technique wouldn’t work for me though. It’s fine for the coursed service at Alinea, but behind the bar I needed something I could prepare in advance and keep stable throughout the night.

Luckily I work with a talented chef who was able to help me out. I approached him with the idea and he suggested the following recipe for making Guinness foam:

1 can Guinness
4 oz half-and-half
2 leaves gelatin

Bloom the gelatin in cold water. Simmer the gelatin with a few ounces of Guinness to dissolve. Pour the mixture into a whipped cream dispenser along with the half-and-half and the rest of the Guinness. (Recommended: Reserve some Guinness for the chef.) Charge with one or two CO2 N2O cartridges, shake, and keep chilled.

The resulting foam is perfect for the bar. It keeps easily for several days and comes out with just the right firmness when chilled in an ice water bath. The taste is true to Guinness with just a little cream for sweetness.

To make the the drink you need:

1.5 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey
.75 oz Baileys Irish Cream
Guinness foam

Shake the first two ingredients over ice and strain into a tall shot glass. Top with the foam, grate on nutmeg, and serve immediately with a demitasse spoon.

The drink is stable but the foam will melt, so it’s important to serve this quickly. It doesn’t have to be consumed quickly though, so unlike its rowdy cousin you won’t risk spilling this drink down your shirt while you chug. Take it slow, pinkies out.