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The Exciting World Of Molecular Mixology


Molecular mixology is a scientific approach to preparing cocktails that uses alcohol in unique ways.

These mixologists use chemistry to create cocktails with different tastes, textures and phases of matter. Arielle Johnson, a Ph.D candidate at UC Davis and a Flavor Chemist at Nordic Food Lab along with author Kevin Liu explained the science behind molecular mixology. And for those not as fluent in chemistry as Johnson and Liu, Scott Tipton of the Kill Devil Club in Kansas City created some drinks in studio to explain to the common bar goer. 

The exciting thing about molecular mixology is that a lot of the recipes can be made at home, and Kevin Liu shared two cocktail recipes from his cookbook Craft Cocktails at Home.

Both of the drinks Liu shares below make use of thickeners to improve what he calls the "mouthfeel" of the drinks. In the first, he calls for simple strawberry preserves because the naturally-occurring pectins in the strawberries acts as the thickener. In the second cocktail, he experiments with some more "modernist" or "molecular" ingredients.

RECIPE: "Craft" Strawberry Daiquiri

1.5 oz. White Rum

1 oz. Lime Juice

0.5 oz. 1:1 Simple Syrup

1 tbsp Strawberry Preserves

1-2 drops Orange Flower Water

  1. Shake all ingredients with ice.
  2. Strain with a fine-mesh strainer into a chilled coupe glass.

RECIPE: Lemon Drop Cocktail with Lemon-Lavender Foam

For the drink:

1.5 oz. Vodka

0.5 oz. 1:1 Simple Syrup

1 oz. Lemon Juice

For the foam:

1.25 g Methylcellulose

0.45 g Xanthan Gum

50 g Lemon Juice

50 g 1:1 Simple Syrup

10 g Crème de Violette (or lavender syrup)

  1. Shake and strain the first three ingredients into a large chilled cocktail glass.
  2. To make the foam, combine remaining ingredients and whip on high with an electric or stand mixer, or immersion blender, for about 3 minutes. Spoon the foam on top of the drink. Garnish the top of the foam with lemon zest and granulated sugar.
  3. Garnish with demerara sugar or another sugar with large flakes. Kosher salt makes an interesting contrast as well.

“Methylcellulose” is a generic name used to describe a wide variety of plantderivedhydrocolloids.

"Xanthan Gum" is a common powerful thickener used in gluten-free cooking. You can buy it at most health-food stores.

If you don't want to go to the trouble of procuring either of these ingredients, you can also make a foam with egg whites, but use 25 g of sugar instead of 50 g of simple syrup.

Credit Claire McInerny
Scott Tipton of the Kill Devil Club in Kansas City prepares cocktails in studio using molecular mixology.

As a host and contributor at KCUR, I seek to create a more informed citizenry and richer community. I want to enlighten and inspire our audience by delivering the information they need with accuracy and urgency, clarifying what’s complicated and teasing out the complexities of what seems simple. I work to craft conversations that reveal realities in our midst and model civil discourse in a divided world. Follow me on Twitter @ptsbrian or email me at brian@kcur.org.
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.