From Multipurpose Components that are Handy to Have Anyway
As promised, I will kick off the new round of posts with some low-cost mimicry of high tech (or just plain expensive) items. There are myriad expensive gadgets to covet in the “modernist” kitchen, but many of us do not have the expendable bankroll to acquire many of them. In the end, flavor enhancement is a result of the technique, not the gadget, so I have gone on a personal mission to deconstruct several modernist cooking gadgets and get similar results from cheaper, more available parts and a dram of elbow grease. I first posted about a vacuum packer for <$100 fit for sous vide bag prep, vacuum infusion, or compression techniques. Admittedly, I relied on a few lucky finds to build it so cheaply. Next up is something a little more simple from more readily available materials.
As an absinthe enthusiast who may “know a guy” who has a house recipe, I have coveted Belle Epoque style absinthe fountains for a few years now. The fountain adds both a nice aesthetic, ritual appeal as well as enhancing the flavor of the absinthe by allowing smaller oil droplets to precipitate, which gives a creamier mouthfeel (for you thermodynamics nerds, the precipitation is a result of spinodal decomposition!). A slow drip rate is vital to getting good, creamy mouthfeel since the properties of the microemulsion formed are determined by kinetics and alcohol concentration, as confirmed by our boys Hervé This and Erik van der Linden. The really sexy fountains have a sticker price of $300+, however, so I could never justify pulling the trigger on such a single-purpose item.
On the left is my favorite fountain. Classic, classy, clean. Calamitously costly at ~$400. To the right, a popular but kitschy model that does similar amount of damage to your pocketbook.
Here is a video from Alandia, a prominent absinthe shop, demonstrating the use of the fountain.
I originally posted in the Wormwood Society forums about a homebrewed fountain idea that I pulled off for ~$40 using items that I can use for other purposes as well. The aesthetic is more Bell Jar than Belle Epoque, but so it goes. Perhaps that is more fitting for my guests anyway. The gory details are provided at the following link. I’ll post separately about making the ring stands out of oak.