Molecular mixology was all the rage at Tales of the Cocktail this year. It was like nobody there had turned on the Food Network in the past 3 years, because this stuff is old news in the culinary world. I actually went to a seminar called “Mixologists and their Toys” where two of the three presenters, demoed how to make these sphericals, or “pearls.” It was rather redundant.
The process is simple: when sodium alginate (not as scary as it sounds. It comes from seaweed… well, maybe that does sounds scary!) is mixed into a liquid, it doesn’t do much. When that liquid touches a solution of calcium chloride (the main ingredient in Tums), it turns the liquid into jelly, so when you drip sodium alginate juice into a calcium chloride bath, the drips gel around the outside, while leaving the center liquid. Essentially, like fish eggs, they burst when you bit into them.
Sourcing the materials isn’t hard either. Bags of these ingredients are available at Le Sanctuaire online and are not expensive. Pearls make a fun addition to any fruity cocktail, or you can substitute them for the juice in your favorite mixed drink or just dump a spoonful into a glass of champagne and watch them bounce around.
1 cup carrot juice (or any kind of juice)
1 teaspoon sodium alginate
1 cup water
1 teaspoon calcium chloride
1. In a small saucepan, add sodium alginate to juice, gradually sprinkling while whisking vigorously over medium heat. If you have one, use an immersion blender instead.
2. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for one minute.
3. Remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
4. Combine water and calcium chloride in a bowl, stirring to dissolve.
5. Pour cooled juice into a plastic squeeze bottle or large syringe and drip it into the water until the bottom of the bowl is covered in a solid layer of spheres. Let sit one minute while you clean the goo out of your strainer.
6. Place strainer over a second bowl, then pour the contents of the first bowl through the strainer.
7. Rinse the pearls in the strainer and transfer to a kitchen towel to dry.
8. Repeat until you run out of juice.
Serve within an hour, because when I nipped one the morning after, it had gelled all the way through. Not bad, but not as exciting.