Mixing the Museum – The Black Russian

This is Perle Mesta. She just finished a Black Russian, which is also her cute little dog's name (at least in my world).

Welcome back to the Lab!  Today’s cocktail is the Black Russian.  (I’m still plodding away in the B section of my Museum of the American Cocktail Book; my handy-dandy pocket recipe guide).  When I turned the page to the Black Russian…my reaction:  Meh.

Two ingredients…vodka and coffee liqueur, neither of which I like all that well.  But apparently the one-time US ambassador to Luxembourg, Perle Mesta, was a big fan of the vodka/coffee combo.  The Black Russian made its first appearance in the late 1940’s when Gustave Tops, a bartender at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels created the concoction for Ambassador Mesta.

The Black Russian is traditionally made with Kahlua, a Mexican rum-based coffee liqueur.  Here’s where I started to struggle with my science schtick for this post.  Damn the Black Russian!  What was I going to talk about?  Vodka?  Seriously? Kahlua?…coffee…interesting….now we’re getting somewhere.  Gears are turning.  Yes, that’s it!  Biofermentation!  Thank the baby Jesus for that Food Science degree.  My family would be so proud of how I apply my skills.

Fun DrinkScience Fact

(I’ll do the research so you can impress your friends at your next cocktail party).

So what does biofermentation have to do with the Black Russian, you ask?  According to Kahlua, coffee is really used during the production of this beverage.  And lest we forget, we live in the coffee-soaked city of Seattle, so we all drink coffee, right?  As such, I assume that you all know a little about the coffee production process.  Beans are picked, they’re green, then they’re roasted, we grind them, and then we make coffee, yes?  Yes, but let’s fill in the gaps with a few more details.  In fact, just go and take a look at this slide deck by the Jackels of Seattle U. and U.W. Bothell which explains coffee bean fermentation:  http://faculty.washington.edu/jackels/research/UCAPresentation_files/frame.htm  (People really do study this phenomenon).

Basically, after the outer skin and pulp surrounding the coffee beans are removed, there still exists a mucilage layer (aka parchment/endocarp).  That’s right, I said mucilage.

Remember this stuff?

This is mucilage; it even says so.  My grandma always had this stuff at her house and I would love to glue anything just so I could use the strange rubbery glue applicator.  Strange kid, I know.

The coffee beans with their mucilage layer are put in a fermentation tank so nature can take its course.  The mucilage is a thick, gluey, pectin covering, and a natural fermentation process removes the goo.  When I say ‘natural’ I mean that no organisms are added to the tank.  This is all just the normal flora…nature.  Bacteria, yeast, and fungi that produce pectinases, enzymes that break down pectin, are naturally occurring and will eat the mucilage away from the beans.

This is pectin:

So is this:

These are pectinase producing microorganisms.  Bacteria:

 

Yeast, such as Pichia and Candida.

Let’s not forget the fungi…Aspergillus, Penicillium and Fusarium

Once the bioenzymatic process is complete, the goo is gone and the coffee beans are washed and ready for the next step:  Drying, roasting, and Kahlua!

Without further ado:

The Black Russian!

  • 60ml Vodka
  • 30ml Kahlua
  • Build over ice in rocks glass.  Serve to someone that will drink it.

Black Russian. Courtesy of Sugar Sand Photography!

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>Cocktails for a Cause! LUPEC Throws a Party!

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The inaugural Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails (LUPEC) group was founded in 2001 in Pittsburgh.   The group was established with the goal of “dismantling the patriarchy – one drink at a time.”  Their Mission Statement:

“In a post-millenium world of beer and prepackaged Chex Mix™, LUPEC works tirelessly to breed, raise, and release cocktails that are endangered or even believed to be extinct.  The collecting of anachronistic recipes by women, and the resulting creation of endangered cocktails in an all woman setting is intended to achieve the following goals:
    • To create a secular “coven-like” atmosphere in which Classy Broads of today can invoke and honor the spirits of their Forebroads
    • To continue the 150 year American tradition of dangerous women calling themselves Ladies and getting together in groups, clubs, and societies to work undercover while they chipped away at the patriarchy.
    • To protect the collective Joie de Vivre of LUPEC members by assuring them at least one good party a month
    • To encourage the accumulation and use of vintage serving and barware.”

Since the formation of the original Pittsburgh group, active LUPEC chapters now exist in a number of other cities such as New York, Boston, Denver, Portland, and Seattle

Saturday Night, the Seattle Ladies of LUPEC opened the door (of the Rob Roy Penthouse) to the masses.  What an opportunity was bestowed upon the Seattle cocktail community.  Lucky guests (yes, guys too) could join the Ladies for a night of tasty, original cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.  The cocktail menu included drinks by Anu Apte and Jenn Hegstrom and were made with the new Makers Mark 46 (loved the Hestia!), Voyager Gin, Sound Spirits Ebb and Flow Vodka, and Corrido Tequila.  Proceeds from the evening benefited the Jubilee Women’s Center. 

Ted Munat was there mixing cocktails and signing his book Left Coast Libations.  (Buy. This. Book.) Please read his wildly entertaining blog post about his coming-of-age exploits with a young pre-LUPEC group. 

The integrated LUPEC party was a great success.  Stay tuned for more LUPEC fun.  I’m sure there will be future opportunities for the boys to join again.

LUPEC Ladies with Token Boy