While force carbonation is nothing new in the mixology world, it has yet to catch on in a big way. The tools required to properly carbonate drinks can be costly and time consuming to use, which is a drawback for sure, but bartenders who play with the technique tout a variety of benefits, too. “It gives another dimension to your cocktail,” says Ross Simon, owner and proprietor of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour in Phoenix, Arizona. “Instead of just adding a mixer or club soda, which dilutes the carbonation when you add it, the entire cocktail is carbonated. It makes the drink feel more alive and a little brighter, and it adds more dimension on the palate.”
Bitter & Twisted uses the Perlini carbonation system, which allows it to carbonate drinks individually or in larger batches. The bar also was an early adopter of canned cocktails during the Covid-19 pandemic and used the carbonation machine for those drinks. Simon says forced carbonation can change the properties and flavors of some cocktail ingredients, resulting in drier or sweeter drinks depending on how much carbon dioxide is used. The bar generally lists three force carbonated cocktails on its menu, all of which are popular with guests. Recent offerings include the Lime Leaf CC ($15), an updated take on the Gimlet made with Fords gin infused in-house with lime leaf and then mixed with house-made lime cordial, lime juice, cane syrup, and filtered water; the L.I.T. Up ($15), a revamped Long Island Iced Tea comprising Sobieski vodka, Arette Blanco Tequila, Fords gin, Flor de Caña 4-year-old Extra Seco rum, Giffard Vanilla liqueur, Graham’s Port, Joseph Cartron Imperial Orange liqueur, Averna, Fee Brothers lemon bitters, lemon juice, and cane syrup; and the Fae Scotland ($14), a recreation of a Scottish soft drink that’s made with Montenegro amaro, Aperol aperitif, Fre Moscato, and Carpano Antica and Martini & Rossi vermouths.
“The bartenders have a lot of fun with the carbonated drinks,” Simon says, adding that it’s useful to have the flexibility of being able to carbonate anything the bar serves. “More people are catching on to the benefits. As long as the drink is tasty and balanced and approachable, the carbonation adds to the appeal. Not every bar does it, so it’s nice to offer it and do it well. Carbonation can’t be a gimmick for gimmick’s sake. It’s beneficial to the cocktails we create.”
In Austin, Texas, The Roosevelt Room uses an iSi Soda Siphon to carbonate drinks. Bar owner and cofounder Justin Lavenue says the process can be laborious in prep and production, but adds that the carbonated drinks are always well received. For him, the trick is balancing how much dissolved carbon dioxide to add to make the drink pleasurable but not overwhelming. “Too much carbonation makes a drink overly sharp and too much carbonic acid makes it astringent and bitter,” Lavenue explains.
The Roosevelt Room offers the Peace & Quiet cocktail ($15), made with Fords gin, Lustau Manzanilla Papirusa Sherry, rosemary syrup, tomatillo juice, and house-made earl green tea tincture, which has a Don Mateo Alto mezcal base. The drink is built in the Soda Siphon and carbonated before serving. “When you premix and carbonate the entire cocktail, the effervescence is carried throughout the whole drink and it will stay carbonated longer,” Lavenue says. “Simply topping a cocktail with soda water or some other soft drink means that only half to a quarter of the ingredients are carbonated, which more often than not translates to the end product being only mildly bubbly.”
Lavenue adds that while force carbonation might not be considered a widely used mixology technique, it has certainly grown in popularity recently, especially with the advent of draft cocktail systems in bars. “An argument can be made that force carbonation is already a popular mixology technique given how long it’s been around and how many bars have adopted draft cocktails, which often require carbonation to execute,” he notes. “The carbonated cocktail craze has been around for a decade or more at this point, so the majority of our guests understand the concept and are open to the experience it provides.”