Musings by Evan Broder

Cooking the Aviary Cocktail Book: Cold Chocolate

· Read in about 3 min
Home bartending, Aviary

Note: I’m writing this post in 2021, but it’s back-dated to May 19, 2019, the date I originally made this cocktail. I want to capture the cocktails I’ve made from the Aviary book in the past for posterity, but they’re not “current” content and I don’t want to present them as such.

A photo of the Cold Chocolate

This is the first drink from the Aviary Cocktail Book that I tried to make myself. The core cocktail is made from bourbon, milk, smoked malt grain syrup, and chocolate sauce (which includes banana, ancho chile powder, smoked salt, and some other stuff). It’s served with frozen milk on the side of the glass and a pecan foam, made from milk and sugar infused with roasted pecans.

The book includes 4 drinks designed to be served in their custom “volcano glasses” (custom glassware being something of a running theme in the book). The volcano glasses taper inwards, which means you can lay them on their side and freeze a large chunk of frozen ice which, in addition to being visually stunning, melt over the course of the drink and change the flavor over time (another running theme for the Aviary). I was enamored with the visual and wanted to try it, but the other drinks all had inaccessible ingredients (more than usual) or techniques (like a rotovap), so this seemed like a good place to start.

Let’s talk first about what didn’t go especially well.

Those of us without access to an artisan glass blowing design firm have to make do with lesser alternatives. The book recommends stemless wine glasses, which definitely work but are definitely not as visually stunning. The wine glasses we had at the time were a bit too large, so the ice ends up dwarfing the cocktail and throwing off the wash line.

The frozen milk for this drink is the simplest ice of the volcano glass cocktails (or, really, any of the ice recipes in the book that are served with the cocktail instead of discarded after shaking/stirring). I found that it didn’t add much to the drink or change it over time. In hindsight, I suspect that the glasses were cold enough that they just melted too slowly.

I also had a hard time with the pecan foam. It’s supposed to be light, airy, and voluminous, but I just couldn’t get it there. I initially tried their recommended technique of using a whipping siphon, kept warm in a water bath until service. When that didn’t work, I tried using the steam wand on my espresso machine (although by that point, it was definitely to warm to texture more). I’m not entirely sure what went wrong, although I think it’s possible I used whole milk instead of skim, which would have affected the consistency of foam.

The cocktail base, though, was quite tasty. The banana, ancho, and smoked salt gave it a sort of light Mexican hot chocolate vibe. Even though I couldn’t get the texture of foam I wanted, it did add a really nice flavor highlight. I also appreciated that most of this could be prepped in advance, and so there was minimal work required when I actually made the drink.

As a 2021 update, I’m definitely tempted to have another go at this one, now that I’ve had a bit more practice.