Cocktail Elements is a new garnish atomiser by the science-led flavour extractors at Linden Leaf. We visit Max Venning at London’s award-winning Three Sheets cocktail bar to learn more about this brilliant new product and how it can reduce waste within the home and bar scenes.
It’s pretty rare to see Three Sheets empty (save for Max tinkering behind the bar). However at the start of service on a weekday during COVID times, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Happy to have the place to ourselves for an hour, we wander in and take a seat by the bar where Max greets us and immediately starts making us a Linden Leaf Singularity Vodka Martini. Set out in front of him are the three new Cocktail Elements atomisers, alongside the Linden Leaf range of vodka, gins and Molecular Single Note coffee and cacao distillates.
Cocktail Elements – What’s in the Bottle?
The current line-up of Cocktail Elements molecular essence atomisers available to the public are Lemon, Lime and Orange – perfect for garnishing classic drinks such as a Martini, Gin & Tonic, and Old Fashioned.
The liquids themselves have been made using organic produce distilled in grain alcohol (to avoid any bitter aftertaste). By using a proprietary, super-chilled distillation technology tuned at a molecular level, the hyper-concentrated extracts deliver the freshest, just-cut fragrance of the finest organic fruit and herbs. Niftily presented in 50ml glass bottles with period table style branding and spritzes of colour for speedy differentiation, they each contain enough spray to garnish around 80 drinks.
Science is an Art Form
Matthew Webster, Mukund Unavane and Paul Bennett – the co-founders of Linden Leaf – are all scientists by profession and big foodies at heart. As such, they tackle flavour extraction on a molecular level, approaching it through the lens of their training and with skill-sets and understanding surpassing most in the drinks industry. Matthew tells us,
“The idea for Cocktail Elements was, like everything we do, inspired by flavour. There is a real variation of flavour from one citrus fruit to the other and from day-to-day, week-to-week, and season-to-season depending on where they come from, and this varying consistency of fresh fruit produce will then inevitably impact the flavour of your cocktail. Then there’s the sustainability concerns of using fresh fruit, the wastage incurred, and sourcing things from out of season from the other side of the world. But the solution needed to be convenient and affordable for bars and consumers or it wouldn’t work. We’d seen atomisers attempted before but they always seem to be oil-based, which to our mind fail on flavour. While these oil-based aromas can be intense and work well in food, the bitterness caused by just a few drops in your martini leaves a bad taste. So we looked for a better way.”
They begin by buying top-end organic lemons, limes or oranges that they painstakingly source from the best growers at the peak of the season. They then pull out the specific molecules and flavours that they want, which tend to be the top notes, which are very light molecules. These are then put into an alcohol base in a chilled extraction where every aspect is minutely controlled – the size of the peel, the way it’s blended with the alcohol, the temperature of the alcohol, how long it’s left to macerate, the pressure etc. The result is a range of products that capture very specific essences of fruits and their peak ripeness.
Cocktail Elements Lemon
Max finishes his five-to-one-vodka-to-vermouth Martini with a spray of Cocktail Elements Lemon and presents it to us.
“The idea of using citrus all year round is absolutely bananas! The conversation has been there in bars but nothing’s really come from it. You’ve had Ryan [Chetiyawardana a.k.a. Mr Lyan] doing bars without citrus but that hasn’t really translated to the industry at large. You’re still expected to have citrus in a bar at all times of the year even if they’re imported from Brazil […] We can’t be like, ‘Everyone needs to stop using lemons even though we don’t have an alternative’ as the general public wants a twist on a Martini. So when I heard about this, I was interested but also surprised it hadn’t happened before. We use lemon zest on a lot of our drinks. [Cocktail Elements] allows us to negate waste. The stats are something like three lemons per bottle, which is incredible and they make them once a year when the lemons are in peak season so it’s a bit of a no-brainer for me.”
We take a sip of our spray-garnished Martini and are struck by how rounded, smooth and creamy it is, without feeling dense. The Cocktail Elements Lemon doesn’t try to overpower the other ingredients or boast its presence, instead it simply sits high on the palate, delivering the vibrant top notes of a fragrant lemon zest. The Singularity Vodka itself has been crafted through a study of how alcohol and water bind at a molecular level, with the team blending carefully selected organic alcohol with a unique mineral water to produce an impossibly clean, soft and silky vodka.
10ml Dry Vermouth
5ml Nettle Cordial (preferably Thorncroft)
Stir for 30 second over ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a spray of Cocktail Elements Lemon
Price of Cocktail Elements Lemon
Cocktail Elements Lime
Next up, we’re given a simple G&T made using Linden Leaf “8” Organic Molecular Gin and garnished with the lime spray. The gin is called “8” due to the use of eight botanicals including kaffir lime, yuzu and grains of paradise, layered over a core of subtle, organic juniper. The nose is amazing with candied character, juicy citrus and prickles of pepper (likely from the grains of paradise) followed on the palate by notes of juniper and watermelon, on a base of warm orange. The lime spray here is very light and blends seamlessly into the drink.
As we sip, Max states,
“Linden Leaf for me bridges the gap between ethically sourced, intelligent eco-thinking products with the science of flavour extraction, which is something I haven’t really seen before”, he says. “They’re making sure they’re working with the best products they find. They’re really passionate about where they get their ingredients from and then they’re also making sure to work seasonally, only picking Amalfi lemons from one location then pulling out the flavour they want.”
100ml Tonic Water
Pour 50ml of the gin into a highball over ice and stir to chill, and extra ice to fill the glass and top with tonic. Garnish with Cocktail Elements Lime.
Price of Cocktail Elements Lime
Cocktail Elements Orange
The final spray is the one that has been getting the most nerdy giggles of excitement out of the bar community due to its authenticity as an orange peel replacement. Max presents it to us over an Old Fashioned and – unsurprisingly – we’re in total agreement with the experts.
The orange totally stands out as being the closest to the natural aroma of the fruit. There is a deepness to the scent and flavour profile that sits incredibly well with the cocktail without being overpowering. “Very few people would be able to tell in a side-by-side test which had orange peel or the atomiser”, Max ventures as it is an honest and complex depiction of an orange peel garnish at its best.
Old Fashioned Recipe
50ml American Whiskey
10ml Sugar syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water)
1 dash of Angostura Aromatic Bitters
Stir for one minute over ice and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with Cocktail Elements Orange.
Price of Cocktail Elements Orange
Final Thoughts on Cocktail Elements
At first we were somewhat shocked that this had not been done before in any kind of way that had taken off (in the trade world especially). Waste is definitely a problem within the drinks industry and one that some have been loudly tackling for close to a decade (with many more paying lip service to concepts of sustainability).
Linden Leaf has truly tapped into a key need in both the bar industry and the home of the amateur bartender. Its key values of “flavour-first, all natural, sustainability and organic” backed by the team’s impressive scientific understanding and foodie passion means Cocktail Elements are already causing a stir on the UK bar scene. However, with COVID social distancing, lockdown and curfew restrictions still very much in place and projected to continue for months to come, now seems the perfect time for home bartenders – who are sensibly trying to limited outings to the shops for unnecessary, small items such as a would-be garnish – to give Cocktail Elements a try.
As Matthew puts it,
We believe consumers care more about organic, sustainable produce than some give them credit for. But, even putting that aside, Cocktail Elements is simple and convenient. How many times have you fancied a G&T but not had a fresh lime at hand to garnish, or gone to make an Old Fashioned and are missing an orange peel or only have one that’s sat in the fridge and looks well past its best? People have really upped their home cocktail game, especially since lockdown, and are more open to preparing more drinks at home – both simple serves and cocktails. Cocktail Elements provides a really convenient, expert finish to a drink, and you will really be able to taste the difference.”