Tim Homewood’s Blog – Diary of a Molecular Bartender

My name is Tim and I’m going to be writing a blog on my novice experiments with everything molecular.

Just a brief background on me, I’ve been bartending for about 6 years – well since I left school anyway and have worked in a few decent places such as The Hospital, Dirty Martini as well as having done stints in Switzerland and Sydney and currently I’m Head Bartender at Babylon Restaurant @ The Kensington Roof Gardens.

Steady... steady....

I consider myself a half decent bartender – I know the difference between a Caipirinha and a Clover Club and have been told I make a pretty mean Daiquiri but one area that has always interested me since I first discovered it about 3 or 4 years ago while trawling the web is molecular mixology!

I remember reading about a bartender in the States I think it was who had made Mojito Caviar! Now to those initiated in MM (as I’m going to refer to it as I’m a lazy typist) this may not be a shock or even anything to bat an eyelid at, but as a young bartender this blew me away!

So I’ve always had an interest in this particular aspect of our profession but it always seemed so unattainable… the ingredients were hard to come by, the techniques seemed as well guarded a secret as what actually happened to Michael Jackson, plus, who would have time to actually use these techniques on a busy Friday night?! Surely these were just the toys for chefs in Michelin standard restaurants!

However, now thanks to Matt and the team at molecularmixology.co.uk everything you need is easily accessible. Techniques are explained and nothing seems so scary any more. So after a particularly heavy night at Wax Jambu after Bar Show, Matt and I decided that perhaps I (as one with NO MM experience) should write a blog on just how easy it all is… a few days later a kit arrived for me in the post and I’ve been playing ever since!

In this blog I’m going to try to give a simple step by step guide of what I did, what problems I encountered, what adaptations I made and anything else I think may be of use or interest… I hope you find it useful, or at least interesting/tragically humorous to read.

So… down to business!

Matt very kindly sent me the Cocktail Pro kit along with a cream whipper gun and as I opened my package with the enthusiasm of a child who’s just realised there’s a puppy in one of their Christmas presents I was hit with 2 thoughts. One of excitement of what cool things I could do with this stuff and the other of trepidation that I’d have to really try and do something awesome. I decided to start simple – much to the disappointment of all the reception girls who thought that I’d instantly turn into some nut case like Doc out of Back to the Future.


Hmmm. Xanthan.

For my first project I decided to try to make a Foam using my cream whipping gun, I delved into my magic box of toys and pulled out what I needed, which in this case was the ‘Celluzoon’ (or Methyl Cellulose – which is a type of cellulose extracted from plant fibres – it basically helps give structure and stability to foams and liquids), and ‘Xanthazoon’ (or Xanthan Gum – a bacteria induced fermentation product – used as a thinking and stabilizing agent in foams).

Following the sage advice of Molecular Cocktails by Gabriele Randel (the book which comes with the kit) I took 100mls of ice cold water and added 6 level measuring spoons of the Cellulose and began to whisk with the recommended egg whisk until dissolved.

I noticed that this was taking a while and my arm was getting tired and then noticed in the book that the cellulose dissolves better in hot water but then has to be cooled. Feeling impatient I decided to persevere with my cold water mix, but traded in my egg whisk for a hand held electric blender. I found this far more effective and after the tides had settled (about 5-10 mins) I had a perfectly clear, dissolved cellulose solution.

Randel then suggests adding 20mls of this solution to 180mls of your desired cocktail (I chose a Margarita – heavy on tequila, easy on cointreau), I followed these instructions diligently and then poured my mixture into my cream whipping gun (love calling it a gun rather than siphon).

I then proceeded to add 3 level measuring spoons on the Xanthan Gum, gave it a little stir for good measure, sealed my gun and charged it with one of the N02 pods. This was very exciting, and having memories of abusing some poor latex wearing girl at Wax Jambu on that fateful night, decided that the first victim of my scientific experiment would be the unwitting girl asleep on my sofa! Shaking her by the shoulder crying ‘WAKE UP, IT WORKED! IT ACTUALLY WORKED’ I proceeded to give her an outstanding Margarita foam layback! Then I had a go, and you know what??? It freaking tasted like an awesome Margarita!!!

Experiment #1 I declare a success! To celebrate, I washed out my cream whipping gun, and proceeded to do things with the nitrous that you’re not meant to (blowing up balloons I expect – Ed) – but my god had I’d earned it!!! Next time I think that I’ll definitely be using this technique on an actual drink – chilli foam on a Bloody Mary perhaps – we’ll see but I’ll let you know on the next entry.

I look forward to all your questions and feedback!