Fat-washing. Clarification. Acid-adjustment. Though the terms appear to be pulled directly from the pages of a chemistry textbook, these science-minded techniques have become part and parcel of the modern bartender’s toolkit. To this growing arsenal of innovations, institutionalized in the recent years of the cocktail revival, I gamely add another: a simple technique that can turn just about any drink into a spritz without soda water, prosecco, fermentation or force-carbonation.
Pascal Baudar, a well-known fermentationist and wildbrewer, discovered this method of carbonation achieved by natural chemical reactions while researching medicinal sodas of the 19th century. Baudar applied the practice to create his own sparkling, nonfermented soda recipes using a combination of water, citrus juice, sugar, aromatic elements (i.e., herbs, spices and other botanicals), baking soda and citric acid. When I came across Baudar’s work, as a former bartender my immediate thought was: “Does this work with alcohol?”
I brought the idea to Matt Colvin, one of the owners of Lawrence Park, a bar in Hudson, New York, where I used to work. We started riffing on Baudar’s template, swapping out the components for ingredients we had behind the bar. Our original drink called on a base of green tea in place of water; elderflower and peach liqueur, along with mint and citrus zest, for aromatics and proof; lemon juice and honey syrup for acidity and sugar; and, finally, the secret weapon: an equal dose of citric acid powder and baking soda. The result is a spritz with well-integrated bubbles similar to a moderately fizzy pét-nat, rather than a cocktail whose separate elements, alcohol and a carbonated topper, are clearly discernible. Effectively, it’s that ubiquitous volcano science fair project translated into a less explosive—but no less impressive—refreshment.
We’ve since, together and separately, used the method to create à la minute spritzes that call on everything from Aperol, hibiscus tea and acid-adjusted grapefruit juice to tequila with tropical fruits and citrus. The method is simple: batch ahead, funnel into 500mL swing-cap bottles—serves two!—add baking soda and your citric acid, quickly cap and store in the refrigerator for up to three days ahead of serving. The technique yields a superior spritz for a fraction of the time and cost associated with existing carbonation methods.
And, let us not underestimate the power of nostalgia. These bubbles may not be erupting from a papier-mâché volcano as they did in middle school, but the satisfaction of a well-executed science project has hardly changed.