Maybe it’s a rite of spring or the enthusiastic turn of another calendar page toward summer that brings out such creativity. Explanations fail us, but once again we believe we may have struck mixology gold. We are about to share another technique for home enthusiasts following a long line of fascinating ideas. On previous occasions, we took inspiration from all over. Once, it came quite literally from left field. A year later, we let the local farmer’s market guide us to unusual cocktail flavors (and all too familiar aromas). Last year, we solved the hangover with an incredible morning after cocktail. Today, we have another great idea that is so unusual, so versatile—so amazing—we’d be foolish not to share it.
Our title is a dead giveaway. Carbonated Air Cocktails are exactly what they sound like—cocktails made of air that are also carbonated. Well, not just air, but they are certainly not liquid cocktails. We know, it sounds crazy, but think of it: what if. . . just WHAT IF you could make a drink without wasting money on all of the traditional ingredients. No base spirit necessary. No hard-to-find liqueurs—none of any kind! No bitter Italian whatever-you-call them. No vermouth, no fruit juice, NO ICE! Just think of it. NO ICE! That’s just crazy, right? Wrong.
So, how does it work? Well, the concept is actually pretty simple, and that’s the beauty of it. And because there are so many possibilities, you can use just about anything you have in the pantry or spice drawer to pull this off. In other words, substitutions definitely apply. There is, however, one caveat. You need a tiny piece of dry ice. It’s an unorthodox requirement right after we said it was going to be easy, but if you really want carbonated air cocktails, there’s just no other way around this. Fortunately, if you are in the US or Canada you can search the dry ice directory for dry ice vendors that are close to you. If this is just too much trouble and you cannot be bothered, we understand. You can always refer back here when it’s more convenient. In the mean time you can still follow along and make Flat Air Cocktails by skipping any references to the dry ice. It’s just that carbonation has been all the rage the past couple of years. In fact, we even jumped on the bandwagon and made our own bottled (liquid) cocktails a while back. Think of what we are doing today as the complete opposite of that idea (except for the carbonation).
Some of you might be wondering at this point what dry ice has to do with carbonation in the first place. It turns out that dry ice is really just frozen carbon dioxide. It is extremely cold, so you need to be very careful when handling it. It can also break glass and even crack counter tops with the intense thermal shock. This stuff isn’t for kids. The reason it’s “dry” is because although it may look like regular ice, it doesn’t actually melt. It sublimates, or transforms directly from a solid into a gas as it heats up. This can have some interesting and quite entertaining side effects. For example, if you drop a piece of dry ice into warm water it starts bubbling and the gas it produces (carbon dioxide gas) looks like heavy white smoke. Drop some of this stuff into a cauldron of water and it will look like you are making a magic potion! Drop a huge quantity into a swimming pool and it will produce so much fog. . . OK, you get the idea. Don’t even think about bubble bath.
Our plan is to use this effect to carbonate the air. We will also fill that air with flavors and aromas from your kitchen. On our first attempt, we made a Carbonated Air Cocktail with cinnamon, clove and rosemary. We call it the Spiced RosemAIRy Vapor cocktail:
Spiced RosemAIRy Vapor
1 pinch of ground cinnamon
1 pinch of dried rosemary
1 small chunk of dry ice
1 splash of warm water
Add all but the water to a shaker. Give everything a shake to scent the air within the shaker. Carefully open the shaker and add a splash of warm water. Swirl the dry ice in the water allowing the bubbling action to carbonate the air within the shaker with white carbon dioxide. Strain the gas only (keep the water in the shaker) into a cocktail glass and garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.
As you shake these dry ingredients, they rub together and the friction produces aromas that scent the air inside. The dry ice will dance around like it’s alive, providing just a little carbonation. Then, when you add the splash of water, the effect really takes off! You can swirl or shake again at this point, but be mindful of the fact that as the dry ice sublimates, the gas it produces will increase the pressure in your shaker. Keep both hands on the shaker parts and allow them to pop apart if you do this in order to release the pressure. Every second or so, open the tin and let some pressure out. Keep going if you like, or just swirl the water around. It’s best not to do this outside in the wind.
The dry ice gas is cold and will allow you to pour the contents (pour just the air, not the water) into a glass of your choosing. Double-strain if you think some of the dry ingredients are going to fall out. Tall glasses work nicely and the gaseous contents stay put better than cocktail glasses. Garnish and serve immediately, and don’t try to move these too far since the slightest breeze can cause them to dump out of the glass. Fortunately, there’s no mess if this happens, and somewhat amazingly, you can shake your cocktail again! As long as you have dry ice in the shaker, you can keep making drink after drink without adding more ingredients. Shaking herbs and spices a second or third time will continue to release flavor into the air. It’s not a bottomless cocktail, but you can usually make several pours in a single attempt. Try doing that with a traditional recipe!
Keen observers up to this point may have noticed that these are non-alcoholic Air Cocktails. It’s rare that we post recipes on Summit Sips that don’t contain at least some alcohol in the ingredients. There’s just no need for booze when you are having this much fun! Besides, with so many possible herbs, spices and even citrus oils to play with (much of what we think we taste is actually our sense of smell after all) there’s practically no end to the possible combinations. Without alcohol in the mix, you are free to try glass after glass of aroma combinations without risk. However, do take deep breaths of fresh air between sips. Inhaling only flavored carbon dioxide gas is obviously problematic. Your body needs oxygen too, so sip once, then breathe.
It strikes us that this idea is perfect for lightweight travel or day hikes. Imagine tossing a tin shaker and a few dry spices and herbs into your pack. You don’t need the dry ice, but it’s easy enough to wrap a few cubes in some wool socks to insulate them. Remember, no actual ice is required, and water from the stream isn’t going to make it into your glass! Come to think of it, who needs a glass? Just use a straw. As you hike you could even collect a handful of Douglas Fir tips or some pine needles, toss them into the shaker and throw back a few Evergreen Air Cocktails reminiscent of car interior detailing shops everywhere. Or just shake ’em as you walk, enjoying re-shakes all day long. And just think of the looks you will get when you make camp with a group of strangers. Pull out your shaker and some straws and suddenly, you’re the most popular Air mixologist around!