On Effervescence

Posted on

Effervescence is such a delightful word. Say it with me. It’s not just onomatoepeic, it’s something more, it captures the feeling of opening that can or bottle, slowly pouring it and the _tingle_ of those bubbles on your tongue.

Truly, fizzy pop is a joy.

There are some fizzy drinks, though, when mixed with hard liquor become more than the sum of their parts. Obviously the classic G&T, but also the Jack & Coke, Rye & Dry, Cuba Libre, Highball (so good they named the glass after it!) and, yes, because I am a basic bitch, the Southern Comfort & Lemonade.

Why do we love that hit of fizz and booze so much? Well, our trigeminal nerves (the ones around your cheeks, the side of your tongue and up the back of your throat into your nasal cavities) get so excited by the pop of the bubble; the sourness of CO2 in the nose that, amazingly, is your low oxygen reflex kicking in just enough to excite you and the tang of carbolic acid, made simply by pumping carbon dioxide into cold water, all combined into a delicious rush of flavour and sensation and joy.

Don’t believe it’s that big a deal? Let’s go on a little journey. Imagine, all this is over, you’re sat in a beer garden with your friends, laughing, flirting, smoking that one roll up you allow yourself on the first day of summer. There’s a pack of crisps torn open on the table, the person you fancy is laughing, and the sunlight hits their hair _just so_. Your friend returns from the bar with a drink for you; a cool, tall gin and tonic. The bubbles are lazily wending their way up the glass from the ice, the sweat of the drink is slowly inching over your fingers and you take that first sip. The bubbles hit your tongue, your eyes water for a heartbeat. The drink fizzes in your mouth, ice-cold, astringent, perfect.

A shot of tequila could never.

The Knack

The spirit/mixer you order in a bar (a decent bar, at least) tastes better than when you make it at home. That’s because we know the two great enemies of fizz: warm things and dry things.

  • Keep your mixers and spirits in the fridge; you want the least dilution possible for a spirit and mixer.
  • Plenty of ice. It’s counter intuitive, but the more ice you use, the less your drink will dilute.

Once you have that in your mind, the next thing is to nail the ratio. You’re not just topping up the glass, you need to aim for a 1:3 ratio of spirit to mixer. For a double, thats

50ml spirits : 150ml mixer

And the order matters. Ice that’s straight from the freezer is covered in nucleation sites, the tiny patches that force the carbon dioxide out of the mixer and lose you that essential fizz. and your glass is likely the same, no matter how well it’s cleaned and polished. So, we go;

  1. Fill the glass with ice
  2. Pour the spirit over the ice and swirl. We want all the ice and the inside of the glass to be wet.
  3. Gently pour the mixer down the side of the glass so it mixes well with the spirit at the bottom of the glass
  4. Squeeze your garnish in if that’s your thing
  5. Enjoy

The God Tier Mixers

Ginger ale works great with just about any aged (brown) spirit. Add a couple of dashes of angostura bitters, too, it can’t hurt.

Tonic works great with gin and vodka, obviously. It’s also delicious with blanco tequila and amazing with fortified (and even normal) wine. 

Club soda is a little different from sparkling water, and it’s what we want with our drinks. It’s extra mineral-y, and extra carbonated. Brilliant with scotch or bourbon.

If you want something a little special, I’m a huge fan of Square Root sodas and tonics, and they have some really great non alcoholic drinks. Sekforde produce a range of really smart spirit specific mixers that are also great on their own.

There’s some premium tonics you can get in most supermarkets and off licenses these days. I’m a Schweppes guy through and through (apart from that one time I almost poisoned myself with cinchona tincture), but the beauty of the spirit and mixer is that it really is your own drink to enjoy, so if your thing really is Archers & Sprite, live your best life ✊🏼.