Toasted hay in cocktails.
How weird this must sound, the use of hay in a cocktail? As a garnish yes sure… maybe even in a smoking gun? Yes, it was done before, however to use it as an ingredient, not yet I think at least I wasn’t able to find any record of it during my research…
It’s a different story if you think about the use of Hay in kitchens however. I was doing some research for a recent World Class challenge ‘Time is relevant’, and a not to easy way to use barrel or bottle aging with cocktails, I was looking for something different. Hay came to me during a conversation about meat aging processes with my brother Patryk. He told me that hay is used in the kitchens an ingredient, for example in Noma restaurant.
This interested me greatly, so I had to know more? Going straight to google it was to my surprise a lot of kitchens in the USA are using hay. What kept my attention was actually Alinea restaurant, in Chicago, they have a dessert ‘Hay brulle’ with ‘toasted hay sauce’. I always find that Cocktail bartenders and pastry chefs in particular are often implementing similar ingredients and techniques, it captured my imagination and at once I realized this is the direction I wanted to go in.
I was doing research about hay, unfortunately with limited results, so I did my own experiments with advice from my little brother. I roasted hay in the oven for 1h at 200’C, and I was amazed with the nose, it was intense and rich flavours, you can easily catch roasted coffee, vanilla, cinnamon, toffee, caramel, dark chocolate, café latte, toffee.
The next step how to use it? Well, I know only one person who works with different technique, Tony C. and his book ‘Drinks’. Quick look inside the book, and I knew what to do. Sous vide it is. Sous vide with toasted hay, under vacuum seal, thereby utilizing one of the most common tools in the kitchen these days.
To decide which cocktail would work with toasted hay, it was a bit challenge, I was looking for a spirits focused cocktail, Manhattan or Negroni, but then, Hanky Panky came to my mind. It’s the cocktail that is a bit challenging by itself, and I would be a good one for toasted hay tasting notes.
Using sous vide makes combining flavors and ingredients faster whilst not damaging the integrity of the hay and eliminating unwanted characteristics long term infusion may bring, also it doesn’t break down the alcohol molecules as alcohol molecules break down at 60’C [as per Tony C] I decided to work it at 58’C. To make a water bath and measure how much toasted hay I should use, I asked for advice head Chef Lee from RW1 restaurant.
In the beginning I let the Hay Hanky Panky steep in the water bath for 1hour, what I achieved by that, was extraordinary flavors in the cocktail. The cocktail is amazingly balanced, smooth, rich and deep. Toasted hay gave the drink a full range of new flavors and a maturity associated with aging including smokiness and spiciness. But I have not finished here yet
I did another 2 water baths with same ingredients, I cooked for 12h and 24h. Each cocktail was richer, smoother and deeper in flavor as the time was increased but in my opinion the best time was 24h. Smoothest, deepest and full of mature flavors. It’s so balanced that I could drink it without dilution, chilling the cocktail was good enough.
And that’s how you can use toasted hay in a cocktail. I hope you will find it helpful with other weird ingredients not necessarily common to use in cocktails. Below I described step by step how I did my Hay Hanky Panky. Enjoy!
Preparation of Hay, Hanky Panky:
120ml London dry gin
120ml Sweet vermouth
5ml Fernet Branca
2grams of Toasted Hay
1h in oven (roasting) at 200’C.
Sous vide for 1h at 58’C:
All combined in bag with 2grams of Toasted Hay, vacuum packed and sous vide for 1h, then rested for 24h.
Cocktail did not get any cloudiness, full of sweet flavors on the nose mixed with spices, on the taste you can feel cinnamon, spice anise, rosemary, cloves, very rich, deep and full body flavor of the cocktail.
Sous vide for 12h at 58’C:
All combined in bag with 2grams of Toasted Hay, vacuum packed and sous vide for 12h, then rested for 24h.
Cocktail did not get any cloudiness, full of sweet flavors on the nose mixed with spices, on the taste you can feel nutmeg, cinnamon, spice anise, rosemary, cloves, smokiness, deep and full body flavor of the cocktail.
Sous vide for 24h at 58’C:
All combined in bag with 2grams of Toasted Hay, vacuum packed and sous vide for 24h, then rested for 24h.
Cocktail did not get any cloudiness, full of sweet flavors on the nose mixed with spices, on the taste you can feel nutmeg, cinnamon, spice anise, dark chocolate, smokiness, charcoal wood, deep and full body flavor of the cocktail.
It’s good to filtrate it through coffee filter.
For a single serve, pour 90ml of Hay, Hanky Panky to mixing glass, stir, and strain to coupe glass. Garnish with hay around the glass and orange zest discarded.
Bar 44, Dubai.