"Lots of cocktails use dairy, but goat cheese is . . . a little different," said Josh "Sonic" Relkin of Sable on challenging his fellow Alinea vet Micah Melton with the ingredient. Melton, now chef de cuisine at the Aviary, set out to make it even more different, stripping a log of Primo Taglio chevre of its color and creaminess while retaining its tang. Mind-bending tricks like that, after all, are what the rotary evaporators at Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas's chem lab/cocktail lounge are there for.
Essentially, the gizmo (also called a rotovap) allows you to vaporize liquids, then capture the condensation and return it to a liquid form that retains the aroma of the original substance, in this case a blend of two parts goat cheese to one part water and one and a half parts fresh blueberries. Leaving the dregs behind, the process yielded a distillate that looks like water but tastes and smells like goat cheese and blueberries.
"It's the anti-blueberry smoothie," Melton joked.
But his inspiration for the cocktail was in fact the dirty martini, which is what the taste of goat cheese reminded him of. To play up the chevre's salinity, he used the caraway-infused Scandanavian spirit aquavit in place of gin; local North Shore Distillery's version is "pretty spicy," he said, with "some Mediterranean flavors" as well. Pinches of sugar and salt make up for the sweetness and saltiness lost in the distilling, and a garnish of pickled blueberries adds another savory element.
"It's a really simple drink," said Melton. As long as you have a rotovap handy.
View a slideshow of Micah Melton making a goat cheese cocktail.
Bleu Cheese Martini
1 oz aquavit
2 oz distilled goat cheese and blueberries
Bar spoon dry vermouth
Pinch kosher salt
Pickled blueberries, for garnish
Place a couple of pickled blueberries in the bottom of a coupe. Fill a mixing glass with ice cubes and add a pinch of sugar and salt, then the goat cheese distillate, aquavit, and vermouth. Stir gently and pour or strain into the prepared coupe.
Melton has challenged Dave Michalowski of Graham Elliot Bistro with Madras curry powder. "You know, the kind that everybody has," he added.