A few weeks ago an email popped up in my inbox that brought me something of a dilemma. A marketing team hired by a very well-known energy drink company was seeking creative bar types to assist in making the brand relevant in craft cocktail bars — was I interested? Hmmm, was I?
On the one hand, my business side nudged me: “Hey, you could do something out of your usual wheelhouse and make a decent chunk of change at the end of their six-day immersion.” On the other, my artistic Jiminy Cricket chirped, “Was it really possible to achieve the goal — take a brand known for keeping party animals out pumping through the wee hours into a more refined environment desirable to cocktail snobs?”
I convinced myself it was possible; after all, I’ve concocted cocktail ingredients out of radioactive sodas as well as common pantry staples, and made my own version of cola — surely this was not too outrageous a request?
As it happens, the gig fell through and someone they had already worked with was chosen to solve the problem. But it got my inquiring brain firing — can I make my own more healthful “craft” version of this nightclub staple and use it as a classy cocktail mixer? This particular brand has a somewhat intense and unmistakable quality that bullies other flavors off the playing field.
The only mix I’ve seen it work in is with an off-dry riesling, and while I’d love to fool the average energy beverage junkie into thinking mine was the real thing by re-creating that flava, it would make for a very reluctant team player; mixing with it would be a challenge. So, OK, I’m not about to pull wool over any eyes as it were.
But if my starting point is a tasty potion made from natural components with the ability to give a solid kick in one’s get-up-and-go–deficient pants, then this task should be an easy one.
Feeling somewhat like a witch from Macbeth, I set about mixing, spell optional.
For my base and to keep the blend as close in color to the original inspiration, I choose an infusion of jasmine green tea. It gets steeped for half an hour in hot water via my trusty sidekick the immersion circulator, and the consistent heat of the water makes sure I get a full-flavored result.
Next, since I’ll be carbonating the finished product, I need an acid that will give me a tartness as well as ensure the carbon dioxide sticks to the liquid — without acid there would be minimal to zero fizz, and an energy drink without bubbles would just be sad. Both apple cider vinegar (immune and gut support) and malic acid (it’s what gives apples their zing) go into my cauldron. Lastly, to make this elixir delicious as well as craveable to drink, I need a sweetener; honey syrup is the obvious go-to since it’s packed with antioxidants and enzymes that can only do a body good. I blend it with raw ginger root for extra punch.
Now that I have my tasty base, I select three powerful heroes as my energy-begetting pep team. Ashwagandha, popular in Ayurvedic medicine and well known for its restorative properties — the name means “smell of a horse” — certainly gives you the strength of a horse, too. Then a dram of Rhodiola, a flowering herb used in Chinese medicine to promote physical as well as mental vitality, literally turning that horse into Pegasus and giving you wings. To complete the trio, Vitamin B12 to combat fatigue and memory function. Use this one sparingly: Take too much and, like me, you’ll risk cleaning your oven like a maniac at 3 a.m., high on B12. Trust me, you don’t want to go there.
The whole shebang gets chilled down, which also aids carbonation. We need those frisky C02 molecules to get well attracted to the drink, and ice is the obliging matchmaker. The C02 is dispensed via a handy little gadget called the Perlini cocktail shaker, from Seattle-based company Perlage. Now comes the real test. My guinea pig is our college-age cameraman who filmed this segment. He crushes the whole glass and goes back for more. Methinks my brew is a smashing success!
(makes 2 servings)
3 jasmine green tea bags
1 ¼ cups boiling water
5 oz. honey ginger syrup
½-1 oz. apple cider vinegar (to your taste — apple cider vinegar can be intense)
1 oz. malic acid solution (½ teaspoon malic acid stirred into 1 oz. hot water)
14ml liquid Ashwaganda
14 ml liquid Rhodiola
10 ml liquid B12
Steep the tea bags in hot water for half an hour, using the sous-vide method for fuller flavor or conventionally in a teapot. Allow to cool before using or you will need a whole lot of ice to chill this down and have way too much dilution of flavor.
Add all other ingredients and pour into your Perlini contraption or alternatively an ISI cream whipper.
Add 3 to 4 ice cubes and screw on lid.
Charge with CO2 and shake.
Allow bubbles to subside and open carefully so you don’t lose half of your drink — it’s similar to a shaken bottle of soda, so go slowly.
Pour into an ice-filled glass and slurp.
For a boozy highball version, add 2 oz. of your spirit of choice into your glass, then pour over the NoBull. My recommendation would be something like Toki Japanese whiskey — the ginger and honey would pair beautifully with it.
Honey ginger syrup
1 cup runny honey
1 cup boiling water
¾ cup peeled ginger
Add all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blitz for about 30 seconds.
Strain before using and store in the fridge until ready to use.