Specialists in molecular mixology, The Alchemist pros have revealed their secrets in a new book. Sam Wylie-Harris dons her goggles for a quick peek.
Aspire to making memorable drinks at home, using extraordinary techniques? The Alchemist Cocktail Book: Master The dark Arts Of Mixology is all about creating magic in a glass.
“I heard a definition of an alchemist the other day, someone who changes things for the better,” says Holly Tudor, co-author and cocktail development specialist for The Alchemist. “I suppose it’s turning things into gold, but for us it’s more about the theatre. We see ourselves as more than just bartenders, it’s like dinner with a show. We’re trying to create an experience rather than just a cocktail.”
It’s 11 years since The Alchemist’s first bar opened in Manchester and ‘theatre served’ was coined. Today, they have 19 venues nationwide, including Birmingham, London and Newcastle – and 2020 was meant to be their big 10-year anniversary.
“We were going to do a big menu change, launch the book and make a big song and dance about The Alchemist, but then the pandemic hit,” notes Tudor. “So it’s given us a bit more time to make sure the book’s perfect before releasing it.”
With 100 ‘spell-binding’ recipes, Tudor says there’s a bit of everything – some more complicated than others, “which are obviously the molecular gastronomy type cocktails, along with simple classics, so hopefully everyone will find a good amount of drinks they can make, no matter the skill level.”
Fancy implements and smoking guns aside, tech tips include how to make theatrical toppings, such as their lavender foam, with a hand-blender. “We’re basically trying to show people the molecular side isn’t as scary as it seems,” Tudor says. “The theme running through our book is theatre, not taking things too seriously, and why making cocktails at home is fun and about having a great time.”
Ready to up your drinking rituals? Here’s how to bring the alchemist home…
1. Garden Martini – gin, rose, happiness
Come, walk with us into our spring garden and relax into this special cocktail, blooming with elderflower and lavender. We find that floral Hendrick’s gin provides the best base over which to layer elderflower and rose liqueurs, followed by a splash of apple juice, and finished with lavender foam and a cucumber slice.
Ingredients: 30ml gin, 1½ teaspoons elderflower liqueur, 1½ teaspoons rose liqueur, 15ml (1 tablespoon) L&G (see below), 25ml apple juice, 100ml lavender foam (see below), cucumber slice, to garnish.
L&G recipe: ( makes 750ml) 20g finely grated lemon zest or peel, 500ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (around 15 large lemons), 200g caster sugar, 5ml (1 teaspoon) lemon bitters. Place the lemon zest or peel in a large jug. Pour the lemon juice over the zest and leave to infuse for at least 30 minutes. After infusing, add the caster sugar and lemon bitters and stir to dissolve. Once all of the sugar has dissolved, strain through a fine strainer to remove the zest, and pour the liquid into a sterilised bottle. It will keep for four days in the fridge.
Lavender Foam: (makes 400ml) 125 lavender syrup, 125ml filtered water, 25ml lemon juice, 125 pasteurised egg whites, 5ml (1 teaspoon) soy lecithin.
With a 500ml foamer. Place all ingredients in a large jug and stir well to combine, making sure there are no lumps. Pour into the foamer, secure the lid tightly and charge with a N2O charge. Shake well before using.
Without a foamer. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir well to combine, making sure there are no lumps. Use an electric whisk to whip the mixture until it forms stiff peaks. Carefully transfer this mixture into a piping bag with a nozzle and refrigerate until ready to use.
Method: Half fill a Boston shaker with ice. Add the gin, elderflower liqueur, rose liqueur, L&G and apple juice. Shake well. Strain through a fine strainer into a coupe. Finish with the lavender foam and slice of cucumber.
2. Paradise Lost – taste of paradise
A clean-tasting, coconut-spiked cooler. Our version of the classic chocolate bar, the Bounty, the drink calls on a gorgeous coconut rum and chocolate liqueur as the base, then weaves them into the simple flavours of coconut water, sugar syrup and lime. Top with a splash of soda water to finish.
Ingredients: 1 lime wedge, 2 teaspoons desiccated coconut, 85ml coconut water, 30ml coconut rum, 25ml crème de cacao blanc (white chocolate) liqueur, 15ml (1 tablespoon) sugar syrup, 10ml (2 teaspoons) fresh lime juice, 25ml soda water.
Method: Glide the lime wedge around the rim of a collins glass. Spread out the desiccated coconut on a saucer and dip the edge of the glass into the coconut to coat the rim. Half fill a Boston shaker with ice. Add the coconut water, coconut rum, crème de cacao blanc, sugar syrup, lime juice and shake. Place some ice cubes in the prepared collins glass and strain the mix over the ice. Top with soda water and serve.
3. Life’s a beach – whisky, blood, sand
For those times when you’re dreaming of a warm sunset and the soothing sounds of waves lapping on the shore… whisky, vermouth and cherry liqueur star, while biscuit crumbs feature on the rim to evoke a sandy beach. Summertime living at its best.
Ingredients: 1 oaty biscuit crushed, lime wedge, 30ml whisky, 5ml (1 teaspoon) maraschino cherry liqueur, 15ml (1 tablespoon) Martini Ambrato vermouth or other white vermouth, 15ml (1 tablespoon) L&G (see previous recipe), 10ml (2 teaspoons) sugar syrup, 40ml fresh orange juice, 5 drops Red Mix (see below).
Red Mix: (makes 700ml) 1 teaspoon red colouring powder, 700ml filtered water, ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend to combine until smooth with no lumps. Transfer to a clean bottle and refrigerate until ready to serve. This will keep for at least a month.
Method: Place the crushed biscuit crumbs on a saucer. Glide a freshly cut lime wedge over the rim of a coupe and dip it in the biscuit crumbs so they stick to the rim. Set aside. Hall fill a Boston shaker with ice. Add the whisky, maraschino cherry liqueur, vermouth, L&G, sugar syrup, orange juice and shake. Strain through a fine strainer into the biscuit-rimmed coupe. Drop five drops of Red Mix over the surface of the drink and serve.
Extracted from The Alchemist Cocktail Book, published by Ebury Press on May 6, priced £16.99. Photography by Haarala Hamilton.