Seattle has enjoyed a surge in the prominence of carbonated cocktails since Jim Romdall put them on the menu at Vessel in 2008.To accomplish this, he worked with Evan Wallace, designer of the Perlini system.
"In the Cups" appears every Friday on Seattle Weekly's food blog, Voracious (seattleweekly.com/voracious).
Why not just add soda or sparkling wine to give a cocktail some fizz? Because you dilute a drink like a French 75 a great deal when you do this instead of injecting bubbles into the ingredients. While amateur mixologists are welcome to try their hand at kitchen-counter carbonation, some experiments are best left to professionals; thankfully, bars like Canon, Liberty, Montana, and the soon-to-be-revived Vessel all have carbonated cocktails on the menu.
Romdall says the Perlini system allows for dilution and agitation, just like a regular cocktail shaker. Canon owner Jamie Boudreau agrees: "Perlini is the only one that operates like a cocktail shaker and allows us to truly make carbonated cocktails to order."
Romdall thinks lighter cocktails—"like a Corpse Reviver 2, or CO2, as we call it when it's carbonated"—tend to benefit the most from carbonation. "Spirit-forward drinks like a martini or Sazerac also work, but the result is very different than the original," he adds. "You don't maintain the soft complexity of some drinks when carbonation is added."
Liberty's Andrew Friedman concurs: "The Perlini can flatten the flavor of the drink and reduce the sweetness, so you need to add a little more sweetness to achieve the right balance." Meanwhile, Boudreau is a big fan of a carbonated Negroni, and thinks spirit-forward cocktails are the best candidates for carbonation, followed by citrus concoctions.
Boudreau cautions against trying to carbonate an egg, however, and suggests "The greatest trick about carbonated cocktails that I feel most bartenders overlook is the CO2's tendency to break apart, with one of the byproducts being carbonic acid. This means that carbonating a cocktail is a great way to balance sweetness without adding bitters or citrus."