Grand Pagoda

original1

Confession time: I fell in love with foamy cocktails at Potato Head Beach Club in Bali a few years ago and, despite them being oh-so-last-decade now, I still love them. A good one is like dessert in a glass, a textural wonderland of creamy, cloud-like topping leading to a sometimes sweet, sometimes tart, always refreshing cocktail below. A good foam-topped cocktail is a cheat’s way of getting two cocktails for the price of one, since you get two different experiences (and sometimes flavours) as you drink your way through the layers. A good one is heaven.

A bad one is hell.

A lot of foams are made from egg white, so, at their worst, a bad foam-topped cocktail is basically a mess of raw meringue topping that stinks of egg and goes droopy and gloopy before you’ve even got to the cocktail hiding in shame below. At their worst at home, a bad foam-topped cocktail is all of that AND it’s hard to clean the foam that’s gone all over the kitchen as you’ve accidentally pressed the lever on the foaminator too hard and it’s sprayed further than a pack of alley cats on heat. Which is what happened the first time I used my foaminator (aka whipped-cream charger) to make cocktail foam (thank you, 52 Cocktails CTO for the thoughtful gift. Sorry about the mess. Honestly, I think egg-white stalactites are the latest trend in home interiors…). Seriously, they look easy to use, as per Jamie Boudreau’s how-to video (although he could make apologising for meringue-inating the house look easy), but if you’ve never used one before I suggest you practise outside until you’ve got the hang of it. Preferably in someone else’s garden.

Alternatively, you could just cheat, and make a cocktail that uses pineapple juice, since shaking pineapple juice produces a pretty decent foam. This is due to something involving molecules and science, the upshot being that pineapple juice foam is admittedly not as strong as a foam made in a foaminator but is still strong enough to be called a foam, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

The Grand Pagoda is a good example of a cheat’s foam-topped cocktail, and the science-lovers among you (come on, with that hugely helpful scientific explanation in that last paragraph I just know you’re still reading) might like to conduct the same experiment I did, to see just how foamy the juice can get depending on what it’s shaken with (yep, Saturday nights are a real blast at my place).

First up, I made a Grand Pagoda, which looked like this:

2nd

It was made using the original recipe, which is below. The foam was pretty good and the drink beneath was a nice muted ruby colour. Overall, the taste was good, too – quite sharp, dry-ish and minerally despite the drink looking sweet.

Next up, I made what I’ve since dubbed a Grand Pagoda Party. I wanted to make enough drinks for four people but of course that much liquid would not fit in a shaker. So I shook all the ingredients except pineapple juice together and poured them into glasses, then shook the pineapple juice and poured it over the top. The result (pictured at the very top of this long, nonsensical ramble) was actually better. The foam was stronger, the colours were brighter and you could just differentiate between the flavour of the foam and the flavour of what lay beneath. I still wasn’t 100% sold on the drink, though. I think it was the taste of the sake coming through that I didn’t really like; it stood out too much, demanding attention instead of blending nicely with the other ingredients.

And so, onto experiment no.3:

va1

What would happen, I wondered, if I used vanilla vodka instead of sake? The result was a sweet, dessert-like drink in which all the flavours played well together. It instantly reminded me of lollies (perhaps it was just the colour, but I thought of Redskins – Australia has terribly racist food) and thus I named it the Candy Pagoda. I think it’s the best one of the bunch – you could say the others just foam it in.

INGREDIENTS

45ml sake

15ml creme de cassis

7ml lime juice

75ml pineapple juice

The above ingredients will make a Grand Pagoda.

If you’re making a Grand Pagoda Party, multiply the above ingredients by however many guests you have.

If you’d prefer to try a Candy Pagoda, use 45ml vanilla vodka instead of the sake.

GLASS

Tumbler, cocktail or coupe – whatever takes your fancy!

METHOD

For a Grand Pagoda or a Candy Pagoda, combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker that’s half full of ice. Shake hard and strain into your preferred glass.

For a Grand Pagoda Party, multiply the ingredients by however many guests you have*. Combine all the ingredients except the pineapple juice in a cocktail shaker that’s half full of ice. Shake hard and strain into your preferred glass(es). Rinse the shaker and refill it with ice. Add the pineapple juice and shake hard. Strain over the top of the ruby-red liquid that’s already in each glass. You should end up with a vibrant red cocktail topped with a good head of foam.

*Within reason, of course. I multiplied by 4; that much fluid fits neatly into a cocktail shaker. If your party is 300-people strong, you might want to consider making a bathtub of punch instead.

Note: the original recipe calls for a garnish of dried coconut shavings and a maraschino cherry. Whichever method/recipe you use, the pineapple juice should create a thick foam so that you can sprinkle the coconut on top. I decided not to bother, but I bet it would look pretty!

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

Way easier than using a foaminator.

RECIPE BY

The original recipe appears in Asian Cocktails – Creative Drinks Inspired by the East by Holly Jennings and Christine LeBlond (Tuttle, 2009).

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