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The Alchemist

January 4, 2019

This is not a story about the Vermont brewery responsible for Focal Banger and its predecessor, the even more hyped Heady Topper. The latter is an India Pale Ale that really changed the beer game, and helped to bring in the current era of New England IPAs (AKA NEIPA). Although this currently popular style of IPA which is known for its cloudy appearance—in addition to flavors of citrus and tropical fruits—will end up weaving its way back into the post.

The original alchemists were trying to turn lead into gold. And I thought this was a good metaphor to explain the cocktail I created on New Year’s Eve. It’s one I have been working on for a few weeks, but I finally got it dialed in.

It’s a cocktail, yes. But effectively, I turned soda into beer.

A few weeks ago, I was wandering the aisles of Honest Weight Food Co-op and stumbled across something unusual: hop water. Specifically, Lagunitas now makes a hoppy sparkling water. It’s advertised as having “zero alcohol, zero carbs, zero cals”. And even though it costs pretty much the same as actual beer, I had to try it.

Hops, for those who may not know, are these delightful little flowers. Yes, they can be bitter, but they can also be remarkably fruity. Personally, I find their aroma to be enchanting.

Cracking open the first bottle of this sparkling water, I was quite pleased. It smelled beautiful. How Lagunitas was able to make this, is a mystery to me. The soda was refreshing, with a bitterness that was welcome at first, but then grew tedious about half way through. More than anything, this soda needed a bit of sweetness for balance.

That’s when it occurred to me, it could be fantastic in a cocktail.

Sweet. I was looking for something sweet. So my first instinct was to reach for the rum. After all, that’s based on sugarcane or molasses, depending on what you’re buying. But those flavors didn’t work well together.

Then I thought about the bitter soda. What goes well with bitter sodas?

Tonic water is effectively a bitter soda, so my next instinct was to reach for the gin. Those who have read the FLB for years know that we keep the classic Tanqueray London Dry in the house. And those piney juniper notes from the gin, when combined with the hops from the water, made me realize the potential for turning this soda into beer.

All we needed was some tropical fruit juice and to find the right proportions. After some tinkering, I was happy with:

6 oz. Lagunitas sparkling hop water
2 oz. Tanqueray London Dry Gin
1 oz. Trader Joe’s pineapple juice
1 oz. Trader Joe’s mango juice
Dash of Regan’s orange bitters
Poured over ice in a pint glass
Stirred gently

In the end, not only does this have the flavor profile of those very popular NEIPAs, but it also has the appearance of one too. It’s bright orange and opaque. It doesn’t look much like what one might think of as beer, but such is the state of the beer world these days.

And all of those beer geeks who are looking for something “juicy” will definitely be happy, because it’s made with juice. Plus all those “hop heads” who keep chasing the enticing aroma of these flowers should be satisfied with the hop backbone of the soda.

Is it ridiculous? You bet.

It’s a cocktail that turns a soda into something that tastes like beer. And there’s even room for more tinkering with different juice blends, the botanicals in other brands of gin, and a wide world of cocktail bitters.

I’m still not sure if I’m proud of this accomplishment, or horrified. Maybe a little of both.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. RogerK permalink
    January 4, 2019 1:46 pm

    Maybe come Spring you can add a scoop of Hop from the Dutch Udder for a Float!

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  1. What’s Up in the Neighborhood, January 5 2019 – Chuck The Writer

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