Explorations in Mixology Cocktails Drinking

Boba Pops Liqueur Caviar

When we first saw the Robert Hess video featuring cocktail luminary Jamie Boudreau making violette liqueur caviar for a deconstructed Aviation cocktail, we wanted to try it. Creme de Violette was finally getting easier to find and the Aviation was getting rediscovered all over the world. That was more than eleven years ago! While it still seems like a fun idea, molecular gastronomy techniques like this involving gelatin or sodium alginate can be a lot of work for the home bartender where, unless you are hosting a big party, the payoff for a single drink may not be worth the effort. We set the idea aside for a rainy day.

In the intervening years we have also seen a rise in popularity of boba or bubble tea—a cold tea beverage that is often flavored and always punctuated by chewy little hydrated tapioca pearls. We can’t help but think of Boudreau’s liqueur caviar every time we see boba tea, wondering if we would ever get the nerve to try making the alcohol version of liquid caviar at home.

These ideas started coming together recently when one of our favorite local cocktail experts, Jamal Hassan, opened a new cocktail bar called Icarus in downtown Portland, OR. We have been following Jamal for over a decade, all the way back to his years at the Whey Bar and Ox restaurant in NE Portland, then through his time at the Mediterranean Exploration Company and all of the ventures connected to his Sesame Collective. We attended the release of Oregon Arak and often credit Hassan with one of our all-time favorite cocktail recipes. So, when we learned his new bar featured boba cocktails, it was like he was connecting all the dots (or, bubbles, pearls, caviar—take your pick)!

Just as we were planning a visit to Icarus to hopefully inspire us to finally make our own flavorful morsels, we were coincidentally contacted by Unifying Spirits, makers of Boba Pops Cocktail Caviar. The timing couldn’t have been better, so we agreed to review their product which saved us the effort. They sent us a sampling of flavors and we decided to start with a deconstructed Strawberry Margarita. To pull this off, we simply mixed our go-to margarita recipe on the rocks, counting on the boba to add the strawberry flavor. A scoop of pink caviar on the table allows you to spoon bursts of liqueur to complement each sip as desired. It’s a novelty to be sure, but that was the whole point. After more than a decade, we were finally enjoying the result without any of the work.

In similar fashion, we turned our attention to another classic, the Daiquiri. Here again, we thought the strawberry would prevail, but we also setup blueberry and raspberry Boba Pops. To our surprise, we really love the blueberry pairing with a classic Daiquiri. Again, we opted for spoon sampling, but now we are curious about the effect in something taller and straw-fed. Given the size of the straw needed, something a little lighter might work better with the inevitable big sips that will be required. We will be trying this in the French 75 and the Tom Collins, or even a vodka lemonade soon. We tend to think a citrus backdrop will help balance the sweeter liqueur inside, but honestly, these would make a lovely garnish (and add a burst of finishing flavor) to almost any cocktail.

As far as flavor goes, Boba Pops Strawberry was our initial go-to, and it’s good, but the Raspberry is also intense and delicious—like little Chambord bombs in your mouth. The surprise was the Blueberry. We did not know what to expect since blueberry flavor is often subtle, or lost in drinks. This, however, is literally bursting with possibilities. We’d love to see an orange triple sec liqueur version to sub in other classics, or maybe passion fruit, pineapple or coconut for some fun Tiki twists. A coffee flavor could be super interesting, or even the creme de violette that got us started on this concept. There are plenty of possibilities to try making this ourselves one day, but given the option to buy them instead, we have no problem recommending Boba Pops if you want to give cocktail caviar a try.

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