Charcoal cocktails are the new blackBy Lucy Shaw
As the trend for barbecue and smoked meat gathers pace, mixologists are taking things a step further by using charcoal as an ingredient in cocktails.
Bartenders are latching on to the supposed health benefits of bamboo charcoal, which was used as a healing aid for stomach pain in ancient Chinese medicine. Charcoal adds dramatic colour, bitter, smoky flavour and granular texture to food and drinks.
At new bar Black Dice within Momo on Heddon Street, the signature sip is the Inked Daiquri, made with Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, lime, noisette and demerara charcoal, which adds a hint of smoke on the finish.
Devised by Joe Stokoe and Liam Cotter of consultancy Heads, Hearts & Tails, the drink is served in a couple with a rose petal floating on top and looks like liquid liquorice.
Over at Bull in a China Shop, which opened on Shoreditch High Street this week, bar manager Cristian Cuevas has created a Charcoal Old Fashioned that twists on the classic Bourbon-based cocktail.
The ink-black drink blends Hakashu single malt distillers reserve, chamomile syrup, coconut charcoal powder and bitters.
“The inspiration came from my research into Japanese whisky culture, which is centred around the ideas of good health, nature and good whisky.
“I stumbled across bamboo charcoal powder, which helps your digestive system, and paired it with the chamomile for a floral taste, mixing it with one of our more peated Japanese whiskies making it a perfect after dinner drink,” Cuevas told db.
Bull in a China Shop’s charcoal chicken burger features Panko-coated chicken thighs in a black brioche bun made from dough laced with bamboo charcoal.
One of the first mixologists to champion charcoal in cocktails was Alex Kratena of the Artesian at The Langham, voted the world’s best bar for the last two years in a row.
His Dream Within A Dream cocktail blends Pisco, Suze, guava juice, citrus and vegetable ash seasoned with salt and sugar, which is sprinkled around the rim of a Champagne flute and mixed with edible glitter to make the glass sparkle in the light.
Chef Simon Rogan of L’Enclume in Cumbria and Fera at Claridge’s has long been a fan of charcoal, which he uses in his potatoes with onion ashes and ox in coal oil dishes at L’Enclume.
The charcoal trend has also gone mainstream – last year Burger King Japan launched a Kuro Pearl burger with a jet-black bamboo charcoal bun and a black slice of cheese, which delighted and disgusted diners in equal measure.