Spend enough time in a professional kitchen and you pick up plenty of MacGyver-like skills and tricks that can come in handy in all sorts of situations — techniques you only learn when you're on an undermanned, overworked line and every second counts. With that in mind, welcome to Chef Hacks, wherein each entry will be devoted to one such useful, unexpected technique that you can put to use immediately. Today: Booker & Dax's Dave Arnold shows us how to instantly infuse alcohol with a whipped-cream siphon — then clarify it with nothing more than milk.
Anyone who's made limoncello or, say, bacon bourbon will tell you that infusing alcohol can take a while. But by combining the booze and aromatics in a whipped-cream siphon, you can speed up the process so much that an infusion takes a couple of minutes, as opposed to a couple of hours, days, or weeks.
In the example below, Arnold infuses rum with espresso, but the technique works with any combination of ingredients — lemon and vodka, rhubarb and gin, Thai basil and tequila if that's your thing, etc. (You'll have to play with amounts to get the flavor you're looking for.)
But the other novel technique at work here, though, is something Grub Street had never seen before: Because the coffee-infused rum is cloudy (and completely potable), Arnold combines it with milk, which curdles when it's mixed with the coffee-infused rum and, after sitting overnight, clarifies the mixture.
Step 1: Use a funnel to place solids into the iSi siphon. (Arnold uses five ounces of freshly ground Heartbreaker espresso from Café Grumpy.)
Step 2: Add the alcohol. (Here Arnold uses a full 750-milliliter bottle of Ron Zacapa Solera 23 rum.)
Step 3: Make sure the siphon's gasket is clean and secured tightly.
Step 4: Charge with two cream (nitrous oxide) charges. Shake lightly after the first charge.
Step 5: Shake fifteen seconds after the second charge, then let the mixture sit for one minute.
Step 6: Quickly and completely vent the nitrous from the siphon. Use an upside-down glass and jar to catch any liquid that comes out during venting.
Step 7: After the siphon is vented, add the rest of the liquid to the jar.
Step 8: Strain the coffee-infused rum through a coffee filter into a second jar. ("The finer the strainer, the more of a pain in the butt this will be," Arnold says.)
Step 9: Reserve the grounds.
Step 10: Add four ounces of water back to the grounds and stir. This will help pull the remaining liquor out of the coffee. "You'd think this would make it really nonalcoholic, but quite the opposite is true," Arnold says.
Step 11: Strain the re-wet grounds one last time; the flavor of the infusion will strenghten over the following ten minutes.
Bonus Hack: If you're using coffee for the infusion (or another ingredient that will make the booze cloudy), Arnold suggests "milk washing" the mixture to clarify the rum. He uses a centrifuge at the bar, but he offers this technique for home bartenders.
Step 1: Add the infused rum to seven ounces of whole milk — the milk will curdle. Be careful not to break up the curds.
Let it settle in the fridge overnight; the curds will settle. Then gently pour the clarified liquid through a paper towel back into the bottle.
What to do with coffee-infused rum? Arnold combines two ounces of the rum with a half-ounce of simple syrup, shakes it hard with ice, and strains it into a chilled coupe glass.