The “Sour” is a menu staple at any great cocktail bar. Making this drink unique while still honoring it has become the hallmark of this classic.
The Powell Street Sour was a signature drink at Bambudda. It was massively popular. We sold 10000 of them, with the final one being sold on Bambudda’s final night of service. BC Living called it one of the most interesting wine cocktails in Vancouver. It’s heavily photographed, most followers of justcocktails have seen it on the feed. The drink was born out of a few central ideas.
First: Drinks are ‘consumptive art’ and should look good enough for guests to want to instantly pull out their camera and share the drink, giving a bar free publicity. But also showing the love and gratification that goes into crafting something picture worthy.
Second: Cocktails are best when they’re modelled on the principal of having three core stages: An aromatic top-note that flares off very quickly, a ‘Mid’ which is the structure and body of the drink and a ‘dry-down’, or the lingering notes of flavor on the finish.
Third: Drinks are fun.
Zane Lamprey, best known as the host of the drink themed shows “Three Sheets” and “Drinking Made Easy“, was asked in an interview why he felt that drinking related shows had struggled to have broader appeal when there are dozens of successful cooking themed shows. He related that when people see raw ingredients come together from basics to form a gorgeous plate of pasta people are captivated but that often drinks just look like what they are, which is, liquid in a glass. He argued that this was one reason (of many) that drinking shows fail to captivate huge audiences.
After reading the interview, I set out to create a handful of drinks that would honor the eclectic cocktail tradition established at Bambudda and pay heed to Lampreys cautionary take. Make drinks that transport the guest. Make drinks that the guests don’t instantly recognize and dismiss as easy to make at home. The Powell Street Sour was born.
To be clear, it takes all kinds. If bitter, brown and stirred is your jam – we’re thrilled to make those drinks. But there is an emerging class of cocktail drinkers arriving at bars that want to explore, show off to friends and be entertained. They want to be able to post something sexy to instagram, and we want them to have that experience.
The Powell Street Sour was also conceptualized to engage guests with some flavors that they would find normally challenging. Full bodied wine, smoky notes. BenRiach fits the bill here. It is less sooty and briney than its smoky Islay whisky counterparts. The Speyside peat in BenRiach is heather-based rather than seaweed and has less ocean air influence than the coastal region of Islay. It plays nice with the wine.
Powell Street Sour, by Tarquin Melnyk
1 oz strained lemon juice
1/2 oz Rich Simple Syrup (2:1 Sugar to water)
1 dash Ms. Better’s Foamer
Combine in shaker tin. Dry shake and hard shake with ice. Fine strain into chilled rocks glass over one 2″ square cube of ice.
Layer Cabernet Sauvignon by using a barspoon or the ice-cube to disperse. (Fun fact: Wine will not float if the drink is unsweetened)
Vermouth Air is scooped from bowl with julep strainers and placed over top of the drink.
In a large container combine the following. All Measures need Digital Gram Scale
800 grams Aromatized Wine.
At Bambudda, we used a mixture of Ceylon bark, nutmeg, pithless peels of lemon and orange, gentian, VSOP brandy and sugar. Best to explore a mix to your taste. We let this simmer on low temp and then rest in fridge for about two days.
300 grams Rich Cinnamon Syrup (2:1 Sugar to cinnamon infused water)
3/4 oz VSOP Brandy
15 grams VersaWhip 600k
5 grams Xanthan Gum
Mix thoroughly with a Electric Hand Mixer. Cover and let rest in a fridge for 48 hours. Remove and fine strain in a single pass through a large Chinois Strainer. Pour strained vermouth into a bowl. You’ll need an aquarium air pump with a tube running into the bowl to pump up the bubbles. The best bubble consistency should be uniform and slightly wet. Bubbles have a life-span of a few minutes during service. 1000 Grams of mixture is more than enough to get through a busy service.
Suspensions, foams and emulsification
I get a lot of questions about the physical science of what’s going on in this drink. So let’s quickly define some things:
Suspension: When gas is dispersed into a liquid. Think of pineapple juice shaken in a cocktail. It makes the drink more frothy. For that froth to form a stable foam you’ll need surfactants.
Surfactant: An ingredient that increases the tensile strength of your air or foam. These ingredients, such as xanthan gum or soy lecithin, reduces the surface tension of a liquid which in turn increases the amount of pressure that can be applied to a bubble before it pops. Notice the consistency of the bubble size of the Powell Street Sour. That comes from the very precise measures used.
Emulsification: Combination of two liquids that don’t normally combine easily. Think oil and water. Or in nature, think milk, which is fat suspended in water. The versawhip in the Powell Street Sour is added because it increases aerating ability of your liquid, has high acid tolerance and stabilizes the foam.
Espresso Crema: Belongs in a category of its own, Crema is technically a form of cream. The oils in coffee beans are similar to the fats found in dairy. The pressure of producing espresso extracts these oils from the coffee beans. This combines with the beans’ plant carbohydrates which stabilize the bubbles.
Creaminess: Not specifically from dairy. The technical definition of creaminess is based on the size of particles in a foam. Humans can only detect particles above 30 microns in size. Anything smaller and our brains send a signal saying, “Creamy!“. Larger than 30 microns, and we will perceive the foam to be bubbly.
Viscosity: Based on the force it takes to move a solid through a liquid. Think of maple syrup vs. water. The thicker the liquid you use to make your foam from, the more viscous the foam will be, such as using coconut milk as the base for a foam. An example of a coconut foam is found in our article on the Post Opium cocktail