This is not what it looks like:
They say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Fair enough. And when Sydney throws up an extended summer that just never seems to die, it only makes sense to make gin-and-tonics. Spherified gin-and-tonics, to be precise. Because spheres are, by their very nature, cool. Hell, Sphere was quite literally Thelonius Monk’s middle name. And it just doesn’t come and cooler than that.
It’s been a little while since we’ve gotten the molecular kit out here at Stately Prick Manor, but these are a fun little project for when you’ve got a free afternoon to play around with white powders (like sodium alginate) and mind-altering substances (like Beefeater).
They are also a lot easier than you would imagine to organise. The chemicals are easy to find and not at all scary (if you’re in Sydney, pop into Chef’s Armoury in Mascot — they ship — or Chef and the Cook in Camperdown, which is where I swung by to pick up a jar of calcium lactate to make this happen).
The process is simple: Make a bit of G&T, you don’t need a lot. The original recipe for this project called for about a 2:3 booze:mixer ratio, but in the end I found that to be strong. Mix with calcium lactate, which when put into a chemical bath, creates the “skin” necessary to form the sphere. Drop carefully, using a round half-teaspoon, into a bath of two cups of water that has mixed with sodium alginate and allowed to rest for fifteen minutes:
Give the spheres about two minutes in the sodium alginate bath and remove with a slotted spoon into a dish of plain water. Et voila:
The original recipe also called for freezing the spheres first, but I got impatient, and ultimately I’m not sure it’s a necessary step. It takes a bit of practice but once you get the hang of it it’s a lot of fun to play (and show off) with. A good primer on technique can be found here. I’d add, don’t let the spheres sit too long: If the skin gets too thick, they become unpleasant, and your guests won’t get the pleasing “pop”.
And for added cool, put a bit of Sphere on the hi-fi when you serve ’em up.