Classic cocktails have been experiencing a renaissance in the United States during the last decade. Instead of serving sickly sweet drinks, mixologists are reviving pre-Prohibition classics, and old styles of spirits such as rye whiskey and gin are making a comeback.
Unfortunately, little has changed in the bartenders’ tool kit since pre-Prohibition days. Bar spoons, mixing tins, shakers and jiggers are the same technology that Professor Jerry Thomas was using in 1862 when he wrote the first cocktail book, The Bon Vivants Companion, or How to Mix Drinks.
But recently, a new tool as become available to top mixologists: the Perlini Cocktail Carbonator. The Perlini injects carbon dioxide — CO2 — into cocktails, allowing you to do interesting things with carbonation, from still wine to martinis. Now that a home version is available to consumers, cocktail aficionados have access to perhaps the first major innovation in cocktail technology in more than 100 years.
Much like sous vide cooking, a method by which chefs vacuum seal foods and then slow cook them in a water bath, carbonating cocktails is still in its infancy. Although some people may dismiss the technique as a parlor trick, when you use the Perlini Cocktail Carbonator correctly, you can show an entirely new, unexplored facet of a classic drink.
The Perlini Cocktail Carbonator home version comes with a specially designed shaker, a hand-held pressurizer and several CO2 cartridges. To use the Perlini, you place the liquid to be carbonated inside the shaker with ice (although I managed to carbonate wine without ice, the ice makes the process much easier). Next, you press the pressurizer against a valve in the top of the shaker, and the shaker fills with CO2. Then, just as you would treat any other drink in a cocktail shaker, you shake, shake, shake.
Shaking the Perlini hard for about 30 to 40 seconds seemed to give the best results. After shaking, unscrew the top and pour out the contents.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical about the Perlini Cocktail Carbonator before trying it; however, the results were surprising. A Beefeater martini made with three parts Beefeater gin and one part Dolin dry vermouth was too strong for one of my test subjects prior to carbonation. After carbonation, the botanicals in the gin had masked the alcohol’s burn, and my subject happily finished his first martini, albeit a carbonated one.
A daiquiri became even more refreshing with the addition of carbonation, but another cocktail containing chartreuse developed a salt water-like flavor. Wine was another interesting experiment. A French Sauvignon Blanc made for an excellent sparkling wine, so much so that one wine aficionado in the group was unable to tell it wasn’t a sparkling wine initially. Experiments with red wines were less successful. But the Perlini Cocktail Carbonator sparked interesting discussions about flavor and how flavor components work. Overall, our general impression of the Perlini Cocktail Carbonator was highly favorable, and even the beverages that carbonation failed to enhance made for interesting drinking.
At $199, the Perlini Cocktail Carbonator isn’t for everyone. If you are a cocktail enthusiast or if you enjoy experimenting with food and drink and their constituent flavor components, consider a Perlini. It is fun, easy to use and perfect for parties. Best of all, I learned a lot about flavor in ways I hadn’t expected. The Perlini Cocktail Carbonator is a great new product. Who knows, perhaps in another 10 years, every street-corner bar will have a Perlini. But until then, the Perlini Cocktail Carbonator home system is a great way to experiment with mixing cutting-edge cocktails yourself.