Three cocktails with foam and garnish

Cocktail Air 101

If you’re looking for a way to raise the bar even further- to give the guest something that elevates their experience- to dial that frothy, light texture all the way up to 11, you should consider a cocktail air.

 

Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes

 

So you’ve mastered a good cocktail shake and love the aeration and brightness you achieve on a standard cocktail. If you’re looking for a way to raise the bar even further- to give the guest something that elevates their experience- to dial that frothy, light texture all the way up to 11, you should consider a cocktail air.

What is a Cocktail Air?

A cocktail air is a culinary technique, similar to a foam yet with larger bubbles and a lighter texture. This opens up a new way to play with texture and flavor with your cocktails. Because both an air and a foam rest on top of the larger cocktail they are often the first part of the cocktail experienced and tasted. Done correctly they will keep their bubbles for a long enough time to transmit both aroma and flavor to your serve.

A good air is more than simply visual, it should create unique experiences like contrasting textures or layered flavor pairings that allow the drink to evolve or be experienced in multiple ways in a single glass.

Getting Started

To properly make a good cocktail air you’re going to need a few extra tools in your bar kit.

  • Foaming Agent
  • Gram Scale
  • Immersion Blender
  • Fish Bubbler (optional)

First up you are going to need a foaming agent. There are many different options that all produce different results, you can dive deeper into these options here, but two of the easiest to get started with are Soy Lecithin and sucrose esterse Ester, or sucrose esterse esters. (These are inexpensive and easily purchasable online.)

While Soy Lecithin may be more commonly used, my preference is for sucrose ester. The bubbles you can get are lighter and the air frothier. As an added benefit sucrose ester will froth up in the presence of alcohol easier than Soy Lecithin. Meaning that if you wanted to add a liqueur to your air sucrose ester would still foam up easier.

We’ll get to how to use the other tools in the basic recipe.

Basic Air Recipe

You’ve got all your tools assembled and now it’s time to construct your air. To do so you’re going to need a basic template. A good air should incorporate an element of the base cocktail's topping. For this recipe a good place to start with is this Salted Citrus Air.

Salted Citrus Air:

  • 250 g Filtered Water
  • 125 g Lime Juice
  • 3 g sucrose ester
  • 3 g salt

Combine all ingredients in a round container.

Whisk together using the immersion blender.

This will start the foaming process. You can use the bubbles created from the blender immediately. Gently scoop them out and place them on your drink, a julep strainer works great for this.

Once fully mixed during service a Fish Bubbler can be used to continually generate bubbles for your cocktails. A nine-pan works nicely for service.

One of the great things about this basic recipe is its versatility. The slight saltiness helps to cut through the acid while this citrus component ties into the citrus component of many of the most popular cocktails in the world like margaritas and daiquiris.

It is also easily adaptable.

Making a Don Julio Blood Orange Margarita? Replace 100 g of the lime juice with Blood Orange Juice for a Salted Sunset.

Don Julio Blood Orange Margarita

  • 1 oz. Don Julio Reposado
  • .5 oz. Triple Sec
  • .75 oz. Blood Orange juice
  • .25 oz. lime juice
  • .25 oz. agave

Combine All ingredients in a cocktail shaker.

Shake with ice.

Double strain over a large cube in a rocks glass.

Top with Salted Blood Orange Citrus Air

Want to change the texture of your Ron Zacapa Daiquiri? Replace half the water with coconut water for an unexpected complimentary flavor.

Want to add an herbal component like rosemary or basil? Blend 10 g of the herb with the water, citrus, and salt before adding the sucrose ester. Fine strain to remove and particulate and then add the sucrose ester and blend as regular.

If you’re looking for a place to start beyond a basic Margarita or Daiquiri and put some of these principles into practice try our the Ron Zacapa Cloud Top Painkiller recipe below:

Ron Zacapa Cloud Topper

  • 1.5 oz. Ron Zacapa Centenario
  • .75 oz. Fresh Pineapple Juice
  • .74 oz. Coconut Cream
  • .25 oz. Orange Juice
  • .25 oz. Lime Juice

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker.

Shake with ice.

Double Strain over ice in a collins or hurricane glass.

Garnish with the Cloud Top Air*.

*Cloud Top Air

  • 125 g Filtered Water
  • 125 g Coconut Water
  • 75 g Pineapple Juice
  • 75 g Lime Juice
  • 3 g sucrose ester
  • 3 g Salt

Combine all ingredients in a round container.

Whisk with an immersion blender.

Scoop out the resulting bubbles and layer on top of the Ron Zacapa Cloud Topper.

Key Takeaways

  • Why use a Cocktail Air? It’s a great technique to add texture and flavor to elevate the experience of your cocktail
  • Getting Started: Basic equipment needs are a foaming agent, like sucrose ester, a gram scale, immersion blender, and a fish bubbler for service.
  • Get Creative: Start with a sure fire format like the Salted Citrus Air and add your own twists and creativity to it.
  • Flavor Pairings and Texture: Consider contrasting as well as complimentary flavors and textures for your air and cocktail. How will they interact individually and as a complete experience?
  • Have Fun! Cocktail air is sure to wow your guests and spark conversations, so be sure to keep it light! (See what we did there?)