Balance is the key to any good cocktail. Too much of any one flavor, and the drink will lack the synergy that can be achieved when sweet, sour and bitter components work in harmony. Sugar and citrus are a trustworthy pair when balancing a drink, and it’s a duo you’ll find in countless classics, including the lime-laced Daiquiri and Gimlet. But traditional citrus fruits aren’t the only way to add tartness to cocktails.
At Stillife in Montreal, owner Andrew Whibley serves a menu of 32 cocktails, none of which use citrus. Instead, he utilizes various types of acids for balance, some of which are produced by fermentation. “Our main ways [to use acidity] are through cordials, for which we have a few different ways of finding balance,” he says.
His team lacto-ferments all of the pulp and waste that normally would be thrown away, including citrus waste from sister establishment Cloakroom Bar, and mixes it with their cordials to act like a starter culture. The effort makes Whibley part bartender, part scientist.
“We’re constantly checking the Brix and pH levels of our juices and cordials,” says Whibley. “We have a standard formula that we use in most of our cordials, and we then make sure that it stays within that range. Our standard formula is 20% sugar plus .5% acid mix (malic, citric and tartaric) for fruits with an already high pH [of the total weight], like strawberry and pineapple. For fruits that have a slightly lower pH, like pear, we do 20% sugar plus .75% acid.”
That’s a lot to remember. Fortunately, he provided a recipe for his Pineapple Cordial, which you can recreate at home by purchasing a few essentials online. Make a batch, and use it to doctor drinks that typically call for pineapple juice or anything that might benefit from a hint of sweet-and-tart pineapple flavor.
1 liter fresh pineapple
20% (by weight) sugar
15% (by weight) lacto-fermented pineapple pulp*
.5% (by weight) acid mix**
Blend the pineapple, sugar, pineapple pulp and acid mix in a blender for 1 minute.
Pour into a jar and seal. Mixture will keep, refrigerated, for 1 month.
*Lacto-fermented pineapple pulp: Add 1% salt (by weight) to the pulp, then sous-vide and keep at 25 degrees Celsius for 3 days.
**Acid mix: Combine 1 part citric acid powder, 1 part malic acid powder and 1 part tartaric acid powder.