Three cocktails with orange garnish and foam

Foams vs Airs Part I:

The Science Behind It & How to Execute

Drinks like these wouldn’t look or taste the same without their fluffy aerated consistency, which is why bartenders have been experimenting with flavored foams and airs over the recent decades.

 

Estimated Reading Time: 15 minutes

 

INTRO

Could you imagine a cappuccino without its froth? Or a Guinness without its creamy head? Or how about a Ramos Gin Fizz made without any heavy cream or egg white? Drinks like these wouldn’t look or taste the same without their fluffy aerated consistency, which is why bartenders have been experimenting with flavored foams and airs over the recent decades. It has become an easy way to add unique aromas, textures, flavors, and visual wow factors to create multi-sensorial experiences. Foams and Airs can take cocktails to interesting new levels that separate themselves from the ordinary classics that you can find in most bars, providing guests with something new and exciting to experience.

Foams vs Airs

Foams and Airs are both aerated liquids that have been whipped with a fat or stabilizer to keep their fluffy texture holding for a long duration of time. A foam will have a creamier consistency similar to frothed milk, while an air will be more similar to the bubbles created like soap in a bathtub. The size of the bubble depends on the stabilizer that you are using, as well as the equipment used to incorporate air into it.

Tools Needed to Make a Foam:

  • Siphon (for whipping or cream)
  • N20 Cartridges
  • Stabilizer (see list below)

By far the most efficient way to make a foam is with a siphon and a couple of N20 (nitrous oxide) cream cartridges. Using N20 cartridges with a siphon forces the nitrous oxide gas into the liquid, whipping it at a rapid speed and transforming it into a foam. Filling a siphon to its full capacity will usually require two N20 cartridges.

Stabilizers to Choose for Foams: Pros and Cons

  • Egg White / Albumin

Pros: Egg white will give a mousse-like texture to the foam which perhaps works best with cocktails. It’s one of the most stable and fluffy foams that is easy to execute. A good alternative to use is albumin which is powdered egg. It will achieve the same result without adding dilution to the foam.

Cons: Using fresh egg whites will contribute to the dilution of the drink as well as the volume, which means that your recipe will have to be readjusted unless you use albumin. It’s also not vegan-friendly.

Use: Between 3 to 15% of the total volume of liquid when using egg white.

Between 1 to 3% of the total volume of liquid when using albumin.

  • Agar-agar

Pros: Agar-agar is a plant-based gelatin that comes from seaweed making it vegan-friendly. The foam can also be heated up by being kept in a warm water bath and topped up onto hot cocktails. It has a higher tolerance for acidic ingredients as well as alcohol.

Cons: The foam from agar-agar won’t have as much of a firm and stable texture as the others mentioned. It also needs to be heated with your chosen liquid at 85C/185F before being charged. In addition, heating your liquid will alter your final flavor.

Use: Between 0.1 to 0.5% of total volume of liquid. Activate liquid at 85C/185F.

  • Gelatin

Pros: Gelatin is usually animal-based and made from livestock collagen. Using them will create very stable and elastic foams that have a great texture to them with no additional flavor, even less so than the others mentioned. It can also hold up to solutions of up to 30% ABV.

Cons: Gelatin is not vegan-friendly and requires heating the liquid up to 60C/140F before being charged. It does not hold up well to highly acidic solutions.

Use: Between 1 to 5% of the total volume of liquid. Activate with liquid at 60C/140F.

  • Versawhip

Pros: Versawhip is a pure enzymatically treated soy protein making it vegan-friendly. It has a similar mousse-like texture and is the best alternative to egg white/albumin foams. It doesn’t require any prior heating to activate.

Cons: Contains soy allergy.

Use: Between 0.5-2% by weight of total liquid.

How to Make a Foam

First, pick your stabilizer. If you are using Egg White, Albumin, or Versawhip, combine it with your chosen liquid with a whisk or better yet a blender, making sure that they are completely combined. If you are using Gelatin or Agar-Agar you will first have to heat it together with your chosen liquid to the respective temperatures mentioned above. Make sure to blend them until fully combined. Once combined, pour everything into the siphon and close it. Charge the siphon with the first N20 cartridge and shake vigorously for 5 to 10 seconds, just to ensure that the gas is combining itself with the entire surface of the liquid. You can then charge the siphon with the second cartridge and shake it again for another 5 to 10 seconds. Place the siphon in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before using. This will help the liquid firm up and be cold until ready to use it.

Recipe Example:

Glassware: Rocks Glass

Ice Type: Kold Draft

1¾ oz. Johnnie Walker Black Label

¾ oz. Lemon Juice

½ oz. Ginger Syrup

Beetroot Foam*

Garnish: Dehydrated Lemon Wheel

 

*Beetroot Foam:

Juice beetroot and combine the total weight of the liquid with 1% of Albumin or Versawhip.

Blend or whisk together until fully combined and charge with 2 cartridges of N20 in a siphon.
Let sit for 20 minutes in the fridge and apply on the finished cocktail.

(Example: combine 16 oz. beetroot juice with 2.5-5g of Albumin or Versawhip.)

 

How to Make Cocktail:

Combine the first three ingredients together in a shaker. Add kold draft ice and shake and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Top off with beetroot foam and garnish.

Tools Needed to Create an Air

  • Soy Lecithin
  • Immersion blender
  • Aerator or Milk Frother

Using a Siphon makes it more difficult to achieve the light foamy texture of an air and will require a set of different sets of equipment. A go-to ingredient to make airs is Soy Lecithin, an emulsifying agent that helps fat and water stay together which is derived from soybeans. Add between 0.5 to 2% of Soy Lecithin to the total weight of your liquid. You will also need an immersion blender and aeration system typically used for fish tanks (picture of one). By blending your chosen liquid with the soy lecithin with the immersion blender, you are ensuring that the two ingredients are well-mixed together while also trapping air into the liquid. To get the maximum results, you will then use the aerator (preferred) or milk frother to give you more yield of air as well as make it last even longer.

Recipe Example:

Glassware: Highball or Collins Glass

Ice Type: Kold Draft

1.25 oz. Tanqueray No. TEN

1 Barspoon Dry Vermouth

1 Barspoon Sweet Vermouth

1 Barspoon Balsamic Vinegar

1 oz. Fresh Orange Juice

2 oz. Tonic Water

Tomato Air*

Garnish: Basil Leaf

 

*Tomato Air:

Blend fresh tomatoes and let sit in a chinois with a coffee filter. Collect the clarified liquid and combine its total weight with 1% of Soy Lecithin.

Blend everything with an immersion blender and once combined, use an aerator to produce stable bubbles. Collect the bubbles using a spoon or julep strainer and top onto the cocktail.

(Example: combine 16 oz. tomato water with 5g of Soy Lecithin.)

 

How to Make Cocktail:

Pour the first six ingredients into a highball glass with ice in it. Stir together to combine and add tomato air on top. Garnish with basil leaf.

Key Takeaways

  • Foams and Airs are great ways to add texture and additional flavors to a cocktail without changing what goes into the actual liquid.
  • It’s important to make sure that the air or foam on top of the drink complements the actual liquid inside of the glass. Its purpose is to make something that’s already good even better.
  • Use the stabilizer that will create the best result for what you’re trying to achieve.
  • Always keep in mind the allergies and dietary restrictions of your stabilizers.