Not feeling your best? See the Mood Therapist
The restorative effects of the ‘Happy Hour’ cocktail have been well known for centuries.
The Mood Therapist endeavours to extend the salubrious reverberations of this delightful tradition through the prescription of fine modernist cocktails and other anti-fogmatics at any time of day.
Starting as a keen home cook, the Mood Therapist developed an interest in Modernist Cuisine – contemporary techniques using equipment more commonly found in a laboratory than a kitchen – but not for the sake of it but because they delivered a demonstrably superior product in the deliciousness department.
Unable to satisfy the demand for invitations to his increasingly extravagant dinner parties, the Mood Therapist looked to making cocktails as a way to deliver pleasure to a larger numbers of guests while still focusing on modernist techniques. As his passion grew over time, so his equipment got more serious and the variety of techniques employed increased. The Mood Therapist has the only centrifuge in Vietnam being used for the production of cocktails. Even in New York or London there are still only comparatively few bars employing such techniques.
Numerous requests to cater parties and events lead to the Mood Therapist offering his services professionally and the Mood Therapist has catered for a number of functions including the VIP bar at the ASEAN Pride Festival 2015, ‘My Day with Dior’, the first of a series of events for Christian Dior Vietnam and a series of ‘Molecular Nights’ – a collaboration with Chef Raphael Szurek at the French Grill restaurant in the JW Marriott, Hanoi. This consisted of a paired 8 course menu demonstrating a broad range of modernist techniques including nitro-muddling with liquid nitrogen, spherified cocktails, solid cocktails (vacuum infusion), clarification, carbonation, pressure infusion, sous vide, the use of hydrocolloids and smoking.
Technologies employed by the Mood Therapist
- Centrifuge – used for the clarification of juices making them clear (but not colourless). The removal of all suspended floating matter changes the texture and fragrance in addition to intensifying sweetness and flavour. This means less juice is required per cocktail and over dilution is avoided. The centrifuge can also be used in a technique developed by Dave Arnold where straight spirits are blended with fruit/spices (along with some naturally occurring enzymes which help to break down the pectin) directly which are then spun out, leaving an intense, perfectly clear spirit. Essentially it is like infusion on steroids. This may be used as a customised sipping drink or as an element in a cocktail. Clarified liquids are essential when carbonating as any suspended debris acts as nucleation sites, leading to excessive foaming when the carbon dioxide is added.
- Carbonation rig – I have a carbonation set up capable of making any clear liquids fizzy in batches up to 2 litres at a time and to much higher pressure than carbonated mixers in cans or bottles. At the most basic level it can improve a simple G&T because all ingredients, even the gin is carbonated so your drink is super fizzy. It can also be used to make unusual carbonated cocktails that would not traditionally be possible. You can play with people’s expectations by serving them a drink that looks like champagne but is an entirely different experience.
- Liquid Nitrogen – Liquid nitrogen can be used for nitro-muddling delicate ingredients prone to oxidisation such as herbs. Once frozen they may be ground to a powder which is added to the spirt and often citrus juice. These two elements prevent oxidisation from occurring even once the herbs have thawed, lending an extremely fresh and vibrant flavour to the finished cocktail which may be completed in the traditional fashion. Liquid nitrogen can be used for rapid chilling of large batches of drinks, helpful prior to carbonation which works best when the liquids are cold. Finally, liquid nitrogen is the technically superior way to chill glasses to traditional methods, making them colder, faster and with an element of theatre – but also only chilling the bowl of the glass in stemware, meaning no discomfort for the guest or water rings on the table. The Mood Therapist currently has one liquid nitrogen dewar for storage/transport plus two 4 litre double walled glass bar top dewars for service.
- Water bath – commonly known as sous vide, although that term is technically incorrect. Extremely precise temperature control is a standard in fine dining kitchens but is also an invaluable tool for making flavourful syrups, infusions and oils or as a holding bath for hot foams etc.
- Pressure infusion – An extremely fast method whereby liquids can be infused with aromatics using nitrous oxide under extremely high pressure to force the liquid into the material that will add flavour. When the pressure is released, the falling pressure boils the nitrous back out of the aromatics, breaking apart cell walls and bringing the flavour with it. This method can be used with hard materials such as spice and cacao nibs (which lend a rich chocolatey flavour without sweetness or the bitterness associated with a long soak) but also delicate ingredients such as fresh herbs that would otherwise degrade during a traditional infusion, leading to unpleasant ‘swampy’ flavours. Pressure infusion can also be used to make very flavourful and complex bitters and tinctures in an extremely short time, rarely much longer than an hour.
- Hydrocolloids, enzymes and acids – This a broad category consisting of a large number of ‘powders and potions’ that can be used for making spherifications, fluid gels, suspending elements within a drink and various other uses such as adjusting acidic balance and emulsifying butter based syrups that don’t split when shaken with ice. While some people may be uncomfortable with what they view as chemicals, these ingredients are naturally derived and no more unusual than gelatine, baking soda or yeast. The Mood Therapist stocks a large collection of over than thirty different types for a variety of applications.
- Forced carbonation – Using the same equipment as for pressure infusion but using carbon dioxide instead of nitrous oxide, it is possible to carbonate any solid ingredients as long as they have enough water content. The most common usage for this is to make fruit garnishes which fizz in the mouth when consumed. Fun!
- Smoking gun – A convenient and theatrical way of adding smoke notes either directly to the drink or to just the glassware. The Mood Therapist currently stocks a selection of about a dozen different wood types to choose from but other aromatics including spices and resins like frankincense, dragon’s blood, white copal and benzoin can also be added to the mix with exciting results.
- Foams – The Mood Therapist can produce various types of foam/airs in either hot or cold forms
- Flavour library – Not a technology as such, but the Mood Therapist has amassed a significant library of ingredients that can be utilised in the design, development and execution of drinks and elements within them. These are all food grade and mostly organic where possible. Sourced from the US and elsewhere, these give another point of differentiation to the Mood Therapist’s cocktails. The include aromatics such as various flower petals, rare herbs and spices, essential oils, absolutes and bittering agents such as bark and roots used as the base notes in custom made bitters.