Sous Vide Immersion Cooking
I’m not exactly the first one to apply this amazing cooking technique to the cocktail craft but better late than never. And, it’s still relatively uncommon in the general public. I first heard of its use with cocktails at the venerable London bars 69 Colebrooke Row and Bar Termini. Since then, however, it seems many cocktail bars utilize immersion cooking to facilitate so many aspects of drink-making. For example, one of my all-time favourite cocktails, The Terroir from Bar Termini, uses sous vide cooking to infuse lichen, flint and clay in vodka in a manner that’s not possible with more traditional methods.
I own an Anova unit that I control via an app on my phone. The idea behind the technology is simple, everything is cooked in either mason jars (for liquids) or vacuum-sealed food bags. The cooker both circulates the water bath (you can use any vessel with straight sides) and heats to a controlled and lower temperature than does a stove. I learned the hard way that you can’t sous vide liquids in a sealed bag using a stove. Things get hot too quickly no matter what the setting and everything in the bag explodes within a millisecond of the bag inflating. I also learned one can’t use a food vacuum with liquids, no matter how clever you might think you are. The vacuum sucks all liquids into the machine every time. Total disaster. So, use mason jars in bottom of your water bath. They sink when you add contents. Set your immersion cooker to ~130 F and infuse for as long as you think necessary. I cooked my version of the Terroir for about 90 minutes. Incredible.
Lastly, though this is a cocktail blog, you will never ever cook meats using dry heat once you’ve tried sous vide cooking. Food is cooked from the inside out, slowly, at lower temperatures and in wet heat. It’s almost impossible to overcook anything. All meats I’ve cooked using this method and finished with searing on the stove or barbecue have been beyond description. Truly remarkable.