Party spherification

After an enlightening Smoke & Mirrors cooking course with James Viles at Signorelli Gastronomia, Angry and I decided to attempt spherification of liqueurs. Shots without the need for a shot glass. It came off really well. We made spheres of Southern Comfort and Coke, and of straight Frangelico.

Here’s how we did it.

  1. Dissolve 30g of Calcium Chloride (CaCl2) in a 2L bath of cold water. We used tap water with about 2 cups of ice. The Calcium Chloride warms up the water as it dissolves, so the ice is mainly to keep it at room temperature. Be aware that Calcium Chloride is mildly toxic and may irritate or burn: don’t ingest it, and wash your hands after touching.
  2. Fill another shallow bowl to about 10cm deep with tap water. This is for rinsing the Calcium Chloride off later.
  3. Measure 500g of spirit into a jug or cup with a spout (note: 500g is not the same as 500ml). Slowly and carefully dissolve 2.5g of Sodium Alginate (NaC6H7O6) in the spirit, stirring constantly. It won’t dissolve fully right away, so warm the liquid in a microwave in 10 second bursts, stirring in between, until it’s warm to touch.
  4. Bring the liquid back down to room temperature in the freezer. Alternatively, do step 2 ahead of time to avoid this delay. By now we were drawing a crowd, but if you’re prepared earlier it will look less like chemistry (but correspondingly more like magic).
  5. Fill a tablespoon with spirit, pouring into the spoon. Rest the back of the spoon on the surface of the Calcium Chloride bath, then the slowly but smoothly twist the spoon over, pouring out the liquid. The surface of the spirit will gel immediately as the Alginate reacts with the Calcium Chloride and the blob will draw itself into an approximate sphere.
  6. Leave the sphere in the bath for about 5 minutes, then spoon it out, draining excess Calcium Chloride solution, and drop it in the rinsing bowl. Ready to serve!

You can pick up a sphere from the water bath with your fingers, carefully, and pop it in your mouth. Then squeeze until it bursts with a shock of flavour and alcohol. Unlike a traditional shot, this one will cover your tongue so you’ll really taste it.

The pouring technique can take a little practice in order to avoid odd shapes and “tails”. The quantities above are the result of some experimentation. Too much Alginate and the spirit won’t pull itself into a sphere before gelling, too little and it won’t hold together at all. Use a digital scale to measure, preferably with 1/10 gram precision. We also tried straight Tequila, without practicing beforehand, only to discover that it didn’t hold together at all. Possibly it’s too acidic.

You can buy the ingredients at The Essential Ingredient (Rozelle, and elsewhere) or Chef’s Armoury (Rosebery).

5 Thoughts on “Party spherification

  1. so with which spirit did you do ?

    since then did you tried with tequila ?

    Thank you,

  2. I haven’t got tequila to work yet, but I’ll update here if I do.

  3. Alex, have been trying to get tequila, gin and midori to work over the Australia Day long weekend. I am in Melbourne and have been using a different source of calcium, calcium lactate gluconate powder, that I got from The Melb Food Depot. It seems to work a lot better than the chloride or just the plain lactate.

    The best thing is that you don’t really need to wash it off like the chloride. The spheres are holding their shape but I will need more practice.

    If I mixed some sodium citrate in with the tequila it helped a lot but did have a slight effect on flavour.

    Thanks for sharing your starting point and ideas

  4. I created one similar with Southern Comfort and lemonade – for the extra sweet tooth! Your right it is a science and you need to measure everything exactly with a highly accurate pair of scales. Anything too acidic just will not set, that’s why your Tiquela failed to gel.

  5. Hey Alex,

    Chef’s Armoury in Australia are no longer selling molecular gastronomy kits in Australia. are the Australian and New Zealand distributors for the molecule-r products.

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