Aviary Cocktail: Perfect Storm

Unless you have some pyrolized banana liquor sitting around next to the rum, this is a drink that takes a bit of time from start to finish. About 30 days or so to be exact. What is pyrolized banana exactly? Well, if you’ve ever tried black garlic or cooked with it, you have had pyrolized garlic. It is not a fermentation process as some mistakenly think. It is a very slow caramelization of the sugars in vegetables or fruit for weeks until they turn black with various flavors that you cannot get any other way ranging from sweet to savory.

The Aviary cocktail book utilizes this process to pyrolize not just bananas but even sweet liqueurs such as Chartreuse. They have bottles of the stuff going for 12 months! I don’t think I’ll be doing that anytime soon. For the bananas though (and most other vegetables, I made garlic and apples while I was doing this too) it takes 30 days or so. The first step is to vacuum seal the peeled fruit and drop it in a boiling water pot for about 10 minutes. This is to pasteurize it and ensure nothing grows while it is in the dehydrator. Then I put it in a dehydrator at 70C and left it alone for 30 days until the fruit turned black.

To make a liquor from this, I blended the fruit with Cognac (the book uses banana liqueur but I was not going to use the one bottle I had for this) and lacking a centrifuge I let the mixture settle naturally and drained as much as I can from the top. I dumped the rest in a coffee filter and let it drain…very slowly. I ended up with a pretty clear dark liquid that is banana flavored but not like any I have ever tasted. It is rich, not terribly sweet with hints of vanilla and brown sugar.

Another component that I changed up a bit is the Tonka bean syrup. Tonka beans are not widely available at the local market and I did not want to buy them online without being sure of the quality. Since Tonka bean flavor is often described as a mix of vanilla and coffee among other things I made a vanilla bean syrup with ginger juice (fresh ginger run through the juicer) sugar, vanilla bean and a couple of coffee beans. I blended those and strained the liquid. This is delicious and I have used it for other Tiki style drinks with great results. It is basically a simple syrup format with the ginger juice subbing in for the water.

A cool feature of many Aviary cocktails is the flavored ice. I posted about one a while back with ice cubes made from milk. The ice chills of course, but also adds flavor to the party. In this case the cocktail features a roasted banana ice spear. The bananas in their peels are roasted till the peels turn black then they are sliced and vacuum sealed with water, sugar, cracked peppercorns, Makrut lime leaves and a little banana liqueur. The bag sits in the immersion circulator at 80C for 2 hours. It is then chilled, the liquid strained and frozen. At the Aviary they use special “spear” shaped molds. I do not have those. So, I froze the stuff in a square block and then cut it to shape. It worked reasonably well. Since I only needed enough for a few cocktails, I managed to salvage more than I needed in decent shape.

To assemble and serve, I put lime juice, syrup and water in an iSi whipper. I let that chill very well. The colder the liquid the more carbonation it can take. Before serving I charged that with 2 CO2 charges and shook the mixture to dissolve the CO2. I then released the gas out (hold it straight up and pull the handle slowly and gently until all the gas is out, these cream whippers only release their liquid if you hold them upside down by design). I carefully opened the top and poured the contents over an ice spear. Then I topped that with the pyrolized banana liquor. It is a refreshing, complex beverage. Savor it a bit slowly allowing the ice to melt and flavor the drink.

Darkest Hour (Joe Wright – 2017) A-

In 1940, over the course of less than a month, the leadership of the newly assigned PM Winston Churchill is severely tested. Should Britain negotiate with the seemingly unstoppable Hitler and his superior military as one European country falls after the other? or should the British stand up to him and prevent the fall of Europe? Churchill was not trusted by either party that much. He was seen as a mumbling alcoholic who made a lot of bad decisions. He was not the first choice of anyone as PM. Yet, he was sharp, he was stubborn and above all a great orator. It’s fascinating to think that a man who basically was protrayed as an enemy of peace by his cabinet quiet possibly changed the course of history for the better. The film I’m sure takes some liberties with the details of how Churchill did that but it is very effective watching this excellent performance by Gary Oldman and the man who stood up to his government and even king in his belief that a “peace negotiation” with a monster like Hitler will be good for no one, except Hitler. This is an excellent companion piece to Nolan’s Dunkirk, a film I want to re-visit again.

The Many Saints of Newark (Alan Taylor – 2021) B-

This seemed like a bit of a wasted opportunity and a waste of an excellent cast. It plays a lot like a long pilot for a series or maybe series of movies. If that is the case, I’d love to see more. It focuses on Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) with the young impressionable Anthony Soprano idolizing him. Dickie is a character we heard about in the brilliant and ground-breaking series The Sopranos so here we get his story. The problem is it’s not interesting enough and the more solid characters I wanted to know more about, like Anthony’s mother played by Vera Farmiga, do not get enough script time to get fleshed out. It’s not a bad film and I really would like to see more of Michael Gandolfini as the young Tony. So, I do hope we get more “..A Sopranos Stories”.

Pig (Michael Sarnoski – 2021) A-

Just reading the description of this film it is as if someone wrote it just for me. An ex-chef, living in the Oregon wilderness with his truffle hunting pig. The pig gets kidnapped and he is on her trail looking for her in the Portland underbelly. He is played by Nick Cage! I’m already in. What I did not expect is how deliberate and thought-provoking this movie ended up being. It is not some violent John Wick type revenge film. Actually the chef, Robin, commits almost no violence. Whenever I expected him to, I would instead get more sharp interesting dialogue. It’s about art, things that matter in life, loss and what happens to our dreams. Loved this one.

Beckett (Ferdinando Cito Filomarino – 2021) C+

It’s alright. A couple vacationing in Greece get into a car accident. The guy, played by John David Washington, next finds himself the target of corrupt cops and assassins. It’s a film with an odd tone and the overall plot was not interesting enough to keep me engaged.

After Hours (Martin Scorsese – 1985) B+

It’s a strange, crazy, fun and funny film set in New York city, at night. The entire movie timeline is over one miserable night that Paul Hacket (Griffin Dunn) has to live through. It all starts off as he heads out to meet a cute girl (Rosanna Arquette) he met at the diner. Her roommate supposedly makes cool sculptures that he wants to buy or at least this is the subtext. As stuff gets more and more messy, he loses his cab fare, he runs into various zany characters, he becomes wanted for murder (or theft? maybe both?) and all he wants to do is get back home…but see the subway fare just went up to $1.05 after midnight and all he has is $0.95. The exchange with the subway attendant alone is work the price of admission.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Destin Daniel Cretton – 2021) B

Very good. Tony Leung is such an awesome screen presence and it’s so good to see him here after watching several Wong Kar-Wai films over the last few weeks. The martial arts fight scenes are fantastic and the actors are all likeable and have good chemistry. Of course it ends in a classic Marvel CGI battle but the journey is a fun one.

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