Introduction: Vacuum Infused Fruit Cocktails

These fruit cocktails aren't the ones that come in the metal cans that you ate for lunch as a kid. These babies are gastronomical creations involving highly aerated fruits, combinations of alcoholic beverages and a vacuum chamber. Think of pouring a bottle of booze into a watermelon, multiply it by a 100, and add a big dose of class along the way. Using some gourmet gastronomy techniques, some DIY ingenuity, The New York Times as a guide*, and the old fashioned approach of getting boozed up before embarking upon any epic journey, here's how I made alcoholic fruit cocktails.

**This project was completely inspired by the Edible Cocktails article and video in The New York Times. It's basically a DIY version of the exact same process they showcase in the article.**


Step 1: Materials

  • Various fruits with a high content of air within their cell structures. I tried apples, grapes, cucumbers, watermelon and oranges...see results section in step 8 to see what worked best.
  • Your favorite cocktail ingredients - the more experimental the better
  • Vessels large enough to hold your fruit
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Vacuum chamber w/ pressure gauge and pressure release
  • Vacuum pump

Step 2: Prep the Fruit

You need to prepare the fruit so that any and all non-porous membranes are removed. This means peal off all skins, yes even on the grapes, and cut the pieces of fruit so that you create nice little bit sized nibbles.

I de-seeded the cucumber and cut them into little rectangular shaped spears.
The watermelon gets the rind cut off, as many of the seeds taken out and then cubed.
The orange has all skin, pith and seeds removed. I also did my best to try and remove the thinn white membranes that separate each orange section from the one next to it.
The apples get peeled and then cut into bite size slices.

Step 3: Prep Your Cocktails

Make whatever cocktails you like. Try to build infused cocktails by substituting a real piece of fruit for a fruit juice in a typical cocktail recipe.

I tested the following cocktails on the different types of fruit and found them to be quite tasty:

  • Gin martini
  • Vodka martini
  • Straight rum (good with watermelon)
  • Straight vodka (tested on the orange only to create a screwdriver type of drink)

Other ideas I've had:

  • Greyound (vodka and grapefruit juice) infused into a real grapefruit
  • Moscow mule (vodka ginger beer and lime) infused into chunks of ginger

Step 4: Weight Fruit As Necessary

The fruit infuses with alcohol better under vacuum when it's weighted, and therefore underneath the surface of the alcohol bath.

The cucumbers can be weighted with paper clips, as shown below, and suggested in The New York Times article, however I found that simply placing a piece of glass or another bowl on top of the fruit to hold it down inside it's alcohol infusion bath is far easier and more effective.

Step 5: Place in Vacuum Chamber

Pour your cocktail mixture into an appropriate vessel and place your fruit into the cocktail. For the purposes of this Instructable, I propped the containers up on wood blocks so that I would be near the top of my vacuum chamber and therefore easier to photograph. Propping them up on blocks is not necessary.

I gained access to a vacuum chamber because a co-worker who shares our office space had been using one to pull bubbles out of silicone molds he was making. It consists of only a few pieces and is easy to build. Besides the vacuum pump, most of the supplies can be acquired at an industrial plumbing supply store or warehouse.

  • two pieces of 1/4" polycarbonate
  • two rubber flange gaskets
  • 1 12" PVC tube or coupler
  • 1 3CFM 1/4 HP vacuum pump
  • 2-3' of 1/4" PVC braided tubing
  • pressure gauge
  • pressure release valve

Step 6: Turn on the Vacuum

Turn on the vacuum pump for 2-3 minutes and pull a vacuum. Our pump pulled around 23-25" of Hg after running for 15 seconds or so.

As the vacuum forms, you should easily see bubbles escaping from the fruit. The vacuum pulls the air out from the pieces of fruit, and thus allows alcohol to take up that space and infuse the fruit with the cocktail.

*Note: some of the fruit in the photos below is not completely under the top level of the alcohol. Better results were achieved when another bowl, or piece of glass was used to hold the fruit down and keep it below the surface of the cocktail bath.





Step 7: Release Pressure

Once the pump has been running for a 2 or 3 minutes you can shut it off. At this point 90% of the air that's going to come out of the fruit has come out.

In order to get your fruit cocktails out of the vacuum chamber you've got to release the vacuum. Unscrew the pressure release valve.

Step 8: Remove Weight and Enjoy

Remove the fruit from the chamber, remove the weight if you happen to have used one, and enjoy your fruit cocktails!

Results:

Watermelon absorbs the most alcohol. Cucumber comes in second. Grapes and apples seem to work about as well as each other, and absorb about half of as much as the cucumber. The orange absorbed the least amount of alcohol/cocktail flavor.

Step 9: Recipe Ideas

This is a step that I'd like to update as I hear back ideas in the comments section.

I've already started brainstorming ideas in my step on mixing the cocktails, but I'm sure the community can come up with more interesting vacuum based cocktail ideas. We want to have a vacuum fruit cocktail party sometimes soon, so your ideas and input are greatly appreciated!

  • Greyound (vodka and grapefruit juice) infused into a real grapefruit
  • Moscow mule (vodka ginger beer and lime) infused into chunks of ginger
  • Your idea here!

Comments

author
dchall8 (author)2009-03-24

I agree with alexhalford who questioned the idea that a vacuum would 'infuse' more alcohol. It seems like the vacuum would pull more alcohol out of the fruit and into the chamber than even doing nothing. If you wanted to use a vacuum for something, dehydrate the fruit slightly without any alcohol present. Then rehydrate the fruit in the atmosphere with your booze of choice. It seems you've gone to an extraordinary amount of trouble for marginal improvements. ...and once again I do NOT understand the process by which some truly ordinary (if not questionable) Instructables become "Featured" and other really valuable ones are overlooked.

author
PKM (author)dchall82009-03-25

Which would hold more- a sheet of typing paper soaked in alcohol, or the equivalent weight in tissue paper soaked in alcohol? The vacuum opens up the structure of the fruit (as you can see by watching the video, the watermelon especially expands like microwaved marshmallows) effectively turning it into a sponge.

As for the vagaries of featuring, it seems to me that being well written and informative is as much of a criterion for featuring as "worthiness". There are a fair few ultimately silly and not very productive Instructables around, but if they tell you how to be silly and unproductive with entertaining clear instructions and good pictures then they get featured.

In my experience, what I assume you mean by "valuable" Instructables (building a community garden in Israel for example) are more likely to be featured than other equally well written Ibles, but a write up of how you save the whales without capital letters or punctuation isn't going to get featured.

author
dchall8 (author)PKM2009-03-25

Ahhhh, sponge. Sponge pores open up, trapped air is released, alcohol mix flows in. That makes sense now, and that would be a significant effect. When I saw the bubbles my first thought was that the lower vapor pressure of alcohol was allowing it to boil off like in a still. So with the 'sponge effect' in mind, the fruit or vegetable that releases the most air will absorb the most booze. Thanks for the helpful analogy. I wonder if anyone has measured the difference in alcohol absorption between soaking the fruit in booze overnight versus the vacuum technique? For the person who doesn't have a vacuum chamber, does the alcohol soak in just as well if you give it enough time? AidanG (below) suggests that dehydrating first does not work as well. Has anyone measured that? It would seem that this process would be in use in the food industry somewhere - maybe not with alcohol but with other liquids or syrups. Does anyone have a name for it or know where else it might be used?

author
im3733 (author)dchall82011-09-01

The process is called vacuum infusing or "impregnating" and is almost exclusively performed by gastronomists (chefs who are versed in, and practice, molecular gastronomy). I've seen this process done where watermelon was infused with a soy sauce mixture to give it the flavor and texture, and even appearance, of raw tuna for use in a "heart of palm" salad, this particular kind of vacuum infusing is called "form mimicking", as the food ends up "mimicking" another, completely different, type of food.

In short, yes this is performed in food service, however, it is mostly done only at high end restaurants. (at least to my knowledge)

author
aloseman (author)dchall82011-04-18

I agree. What *is* the measured difference? I think a completely measured, recorded and eaten set of experiments should be done.

author
Broom (author)dchall82010-01-04

Wow, you're grumpy!

author
AidanG (author)dchall82009-03-24

Your science is off - the vacuum doesn't pull water (or alcohol) out of the fruit. It pulls air, which is replaced by the alcohol the fruit is sitting in. I'm not surprised you once again don't understand Featured, since you don't even understand the subject or science of the 'Ible, and clearly haven't tried it for yourself. This technique works significantly better than "dehydrat(ing) the fruit slightly...then rehydrat(ing it)".

author
Exocetid (author)2010-12-05

Hi kids,

This is part and parcel of what is called molecular gastronomy. The author noahw mentioned "gourmet gastronomy techniques" and that is what this is. Bravo! A new kitchen appliance (my wife will kill me).

I have to try the martini infused olives, which I prefer be stuffed with garlic.

Instructables needs a special section for how to do advant garde food prep, which this clearly is.

author
faithblinded (author)2010-01-26

Vodka and hot sauce infused tomato would be a nice Bloody Mary treat...

author
bertus52x11 (author)2010-01-17

 Nice! I happened to have a vacuum pump lying around which I used for vacuum bagging a surf board.

I will use your technique to "vacuum" infuse small pieces of fruit and add it to home made ice cream.
Should give an interesting taste. Let you know.

author
wupme (author)2009-03-25

Just one question, does that taste good with cucumber ? I mean, i love cucumber, but with alcohol ?

author
wupme (author)wupme2009-03-25

Ok another question, do you think this will work with one of those "Keep food fresh vacuum jars" ? I'm gonna buy one soon for something else, so i'm definately gonna try that.

author
noahw (author)wupme2009-03-25

You'll end up "pickling" the fruit in the vacuum jar I think. You can let it sit in there for a while, and I'm sure it will be infused by the alcohol to some extent, but I don't think it will be to as great an extent as you'd see with a vacuum chamber. The cucumber really was good. There are plenty of flavored martinis running around bar scenes. Apples, mango, pineapple etc...I think cucumber is just one more on that list.

author
Broom (author)noahw2010-01-04

Glad you said, "one more on that list", and not "a new one on that list"!

Presenting: Cucumber Gimlets

Makes 4

These refreshing cocktails are perfect for summer entertaining.

2 large cucumbers (1-½ lb total)
½ c gin
4 tsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbs sugar
1 c ice cubes
4 lime slices

Slice four ¼"-thick slices from 1 cucumber. Peel and coarsely chop remaining cucumbers; transfer to processor and purée until smooth. Pour through fine strainer set over large bowl, pressing on solids in strainer. Discard solids in strainer.

Mix 1 c cucumber juice, gin, lime juice, and sugar in pitcher; stir until sugar dissolves. Add ice; mix well. Immediately strain mixture into 4 small Martini glasses. Garnish with lime and cucumber slices and serve.

author
RedRussian (author)2009-12-03

Martini infused olives...... I think i'm going to work on a vacuum chamber.

author
Broom (author)RedRussian2010-01-04

You are SO my new hero, for thinking of this!

author
MaxwellMurder (author)2009-10-23

 Fireball infused into a pepper! Haha.

author
wushuair (author)2009-07-23

How many psi (pa) did you use and for how long? Great Instructable, by the way.

author
ReCreate (author)2009-06-04

wow

author
=SMART= (author)2009-05-10

Ooooo looks so tasty !

author
SoapyHollow (author)2009-04-20

Is there an instructable on making the chamber? My google fu is failing me if there is, I can't seem to find one. If there isn't one, could you be persuaded to create one?

author
davearnold (author)2009-03-29

Hello, I'm the guy in the NY Times video. The food saver does not do a good job of infusing. I have tried to get it to work because I am asked that question all the time. The use of a refigeration vacuum is good. I used to use it all the time before I got a chamber vacuum machine. The reason I used the paper clip was because I didn't want to obstruct the view of the cucumber for the video. In real life I use a small cooling rack on top. If you don't have a vacuum chamber you can use a round bain marie or pot (don't use square, they will crush) and a piece of 1/4 in polycarbonate for the top lid. Seal it with silicone gasketing. You can get the polycarb from mcmaster.com. Don't use acrylic, alcohol can damage it. Also, it is best not to suck the vacuum for a long time. Long vacuum times reduce the volatile aromas in your drink and contaminate the oil in your vacuum pump (look up vacuum distillation). I would intall a valve that allows you to isolate your chamber from the pump. Assuming your pump brings the alcohol to a violent boil, i'd suck an extra 30-45 seconds and then close the valve so your chamber maintains vacuum; then vent the pump to air; then shut off the pump (some pumps will spray oil into the system if turned off while still under vacuum). Allow the chamber to stay under vacuum till all bubbling ceases (now all the air is out of the fruit with a minimum of volatile loss). Let the air back into the chamber and eat. I add a touch of simple syrup when doing cucumber martinis because it balances the natural bitterness of the cucumber. Remember the salt.

author
val_r_ie (author)2009-03-26

This may be a dumb question, but do you think this would work with a vacuum sealer, storage jar, and carbonated beverage instead of alcohol? Would it stay fizzy? We saw something about carbonated fruit on tv a while ago and wondered how they did it. I think it would be an awesome treat at my kid's birthday party. Has anyone tried it?

author
noahw (author)val_r_ie2009-03-26

You just so happen to be talking to the author of the Carbonated Fruit Instructable!

author
val_r_ie (author)noahw2009-03-28

Thanks! My boys will like this even better!

author
stosorio (author)2009-03-24

Why does the vacuum chamber have to be so large? Can it be reduced or would the pump work overtime or something to suck out the air?

author
noahw (author)stosorio2009-03-25

You can make your chamber any size you want. This one just happens to be made with 12" PVC. The pump easily pulls a vacuum on this rig, so i don't think that its size is detrimental to the vacuum in any way.

author
stosorio (author)noahw2009-03-26

Ok, thanks.

author
BeanGolem (author)2009-03-24

You could probably use a French Press to contain the mixture while it's being pumped. Then you don't need paper clips or another bowl to weigh the fruit down, you just lower the plunger far enough to submerge everything.

author
noahw (author)BeanGolem2009-03-25

That's an excellent idea! I'll definitely do that next time. Thanks!

author
BeanGolem (author)noahw2009-03-25

Yay collaborative thinking!

author
nrlucre (author)2009-03-23

Probably also more sanitary, depending on where you keep your paperclips.

author
bumpus (author)2009-03-23

Great instructable! And I must say, that is the smallest watermelon, I have ever seen. :D

author
noahw (author)bumpus2009-03-23

Thanks! It's not watermelon season yet, so I think that one must have been trucked in from Mexico.

author
lemonie (author)2009-03-23

Great fun! Did you just do the one pump/repressurise cycle, and was there any noticeable cooling (from evaporation)? L

author
noahw (author)lemonie2009-03-23

Yup, just one cycle - multiple cycles would undoubtedly result in a stronger fruit cocktail though - good idea. No noticeable change in temperature.

author
lemonie (author)noahw2009-03-23

I don't think the pressure will be low enough for long enough for much evaporation, but did wonder. Thanks for the detail L

author
MissChiff (author)2009-03-23

Great instructable!

author
Ward_Nox (author)2009-03-23

i saw kat corra do this with watermelon and vodka on an episode of iron chief

author
Weissensteinburg (author)2009-03-23

But which one tasted the best?

author
noahw (author)Weissensteinburg2009-03-23

The cucumber martini was the most classy and refined. So, in that sense it was the best. I've got high hopes for the greyhound - but haven't gotten together the supplies to try it yet.

author
Weissensteinburg (author)noahw2009-03-23

I've wanted a vacuum chamber for a while now...here's just another reason I should make one.

author
alexhalford (author)2009-03-23

Hi, I love the idea but I have a question: Considering that under vacuum the boiling point of fluids drops, does pulling a vacuum not cause the ethanol in the vermouth to evaporate? Or is the vacuum not hard enough?

author
noahw (author)alexhalford2009-03-23

We didn't do any testing on the cocktails to find out their alcohol content after infusion specifically, but they sure tasted like typical cocktails, and I certainly caught a buzz from eating just a few pieces. I'll need someone with some more expertise about ethanol evaporation under vacuum to weigh in on this one for an official response.

author
=SMART= (author)2009-03-23

Awesome ! , Love that chopping board !

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