One of the coolest collaborations we’ve done to date is with Jay Rivera, head bartender at Jamie’s Fifteen in London. In creating a ‘food-inspired’ cocktail menu, Jay wanted to take the inspiration to a different level. Instead of simply using food ingredients or edible garnishes – he wanted to make use of food direct from the restaurant. This, with one particular thing in mind; cinnamon buns. He wanted a spirit that evoked a warm brioche, light spice, melted together with the creamy cinnamon and cream cheese icing in a cocktail…
Have a look at the cocktail menu below, with starters such as Bruschetta Maria (umami, tomato consommé, lime & togarashi), mains like Dear Valerie (15 year old Glenfiddich, Campari, strawberry jam & Gonzalez Byass sherry), the mind-twisting idea of a bone-dry dessert cocktail was exciting. ’So, can we distill cinnamon buns?’, he mused. Only one way to find out!
A few weeks later, Ian brought back several dozen cinnamon buns for initial testing, vac-packed in his backpack, all the way from the kitchen at Fifteen to the distillery in Cognac… They all survived the journey, albeit a bit squashed!
I set to finding the best way to distil them under vacuum in the rotary evaporator** using different base alcohols, different ABVs, different maceration times and varying distillation methods. All this with the aim of extracting the pure flavour and complexity of a cinnamon bun in a spirit.
Over the next few days, a sweet aroma floated around the distillery – as if we were hiding brioche under all the furniture. After quite a few tests, there came a point where we couldn’t smell the difference between an actual cinnamon bun and the spirit we’d extracted. The same intensity and the same sweetness to the nose. The taste was dry, but rich in flavour with all the complexity we wanted.
We sent a sample to Jay and got two thumbs up. He delivered us a larger batch of buns that Marcelo Martins from the kitchen had made fresh that day, and I got to work. Scaling it up was a bit tricky, the distillation of 3 cinnamon buns in a rotavap is fundamentally different to the distillation of 30 in one of our larger stills! It took another big delivery of cinnamon buns to get the scaled up version 100% right.
I was looking after a friend’s dog, Milli, at the time of running the second batch. On the evening of the first distillations I had collected a large bag of spent alcoholic cinnamon bun mash. Being part labrador, Milli smelt something delicious and followed me from the distillery door, out into the court yard, sneakily licking up the drops of the potent mash from the floor. All went quiet over the next few minutes – and when I returned to the courtyard her head was buried deep in the garbage bag. To cut a long story short, I had the pleasure of taking a paralytic pup to the emergency vet at 10pm to spend the night on a drip! Apparently this wasn’t her first encounter with alcohol either… Thankfully Milli has completely recovered and all alcoholic beverages and alcohol infused food products are now kept well out of her reach!
The result of the distillation was brilliant, similar to the first sample – it took just one and a half days of distilling and one sorry trip to the vet to make 36 bottles.
Sinner Bun martini is served bone dry, made with 100% cinnamon bun spirit stirred down over ice. It is on the menu at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen for only a few months – so go give Jay a high five, and try this and other of his delicious cocktails.
** An article on reduce-pressure distillation is still on its way