An electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker and yogurt maker all in one, the Instant Pot has become a juggernaut in recent years, topping Amazon best-seller lists and launching a raft of themed cookbooks. It can do just about everything, yet few have tapped into its power to make cocktails.
We asked Luis Hernandez, former head bartender at New York’s Seamstress, to take a crack at figuring it out. He crafted some Instant Pot-friendly drinks, as well as some guidelines for those looking to utilize the latest kitchen craze behind the bar.
Safety (Valve) First:
Hernandez, who has worked in restaurant kitchens as well as behind the stick, points all Instant Pot novices to the safety valve/vent on top. Whether you’re using high or low pressure, he can’t stress how important it is to be sure to grab a rag for protection before opening the valve to let the steam out. “Wait for all of the steam to come out,” he advises, “and then open it.” He sagely adds that anybody who has ever had a steam burn will understand why this is so important.
A Little Alcohol Goes A Long Way:
For his Spiced Sangria, Hernandez uses the Instant Pot to quickly extract flavor from spices and fruit—four minutes on low pressure yields a sangria-ready red wine mix. “It forces the flavor out of the spices,” he explains. It also helps you avoid bitterness from the cinnamon bark that longer steeping times can create.
However, he’s quick to note that pressure cooking depletes some of the alcohol from the wine, which is easily remedied by fortifying the Sangria with brandy. The Instant Pot isn’t the right tool for infusing high-proof spirits, though: “You’ll have multiple gasses expanding in there,” Hernandez warns. The pressure can build quickly, so unless you know exactly what you’re doing, it’s better to just skip it.
Fresh Ingredients Shine:
Think of the Instant Pot as a way to transform fruits, vegetables and other non-alcoholic ingredients into mixable form. “They will break down faster than cooking in a pot on a stovetop, so you get a fresher result,” Hernandez explains. Vegetables that typically take time to soften—like squash or pumpkin—can cook quickly into blend-able form. Hernandez put this function to work with fresh apples, which quickly softened enough to infuse thoroughly with wine and spices, but didn’t lose any of the fresh-fruit characteristic. (Note: although the infused apples weren’t part of the final cocktail, they made for a tasty snack, he added.)
Use It For Non-Traditional Ingredients Like Rice:
Because it’s just about impossible to overcook rice in an Instant Pot, the rice-cooker function should appeal even to cooking-challenged types, Hernandez notes. “There’s zero you can do to mess it up. As long as the [water-to-rice] ratio is in there, it doesn’t matter how far it cooks.” Hernandez puts this function to work creating a horchata-like rice base for the Jasmine Colada. On its own it’s subtly sweet; blended into the cocktail, it lends a pleasingly weighty texture that stands up to ice. “You don’t get this with Coco Lopez,” he observes.
Avoid Ingredients with Strong Bitterness or Acidity:
Since the Instant Pot can extract flavors quickly, ingredients like bitters or brewed coffee should be handled with care. Bitterness can completely take over the drink. Hernandez advises keeping these ingredients out of the Instant Pot and adding them to a cocktail at the last minute instead.