Weaponising the Sour
Bars built for a brand come in many shapes and sizes but they always share one key trait: They are the right bar for the time, place and occasion. What then, is the right kind of bar and the right way to go about making drinks to pair with our all-time favourite fried chicken? This was the challenge put to us by our friends at Chick’n’Sours when their idea of a next-level fried chicken shop started to become a reality.
The brief we were given to begin with didn’t go much farther than “Sours” and “Scoffable” and whilst being given free range to be creative is wonderful, it can also be quite daunting, especially when you’re designing a permanent fixture and not a one-off event. For every great, complicated idea there is a bartender somewhere who is going to have to execute it 100 times a weekend with consistently great results.
To understand the biggest challenge we were faced with here, you need to understand what a sour is in a classical sense. It has four primary ingredients; booze, sweet, sour and egg whites. All of these are easy to source, prep and store but to get them to come together into a delicious, fluffy sour takes a lot more work.
The traditional way to prepare a great sour is to shake the drink twice, once with ice to dilute and get the drink icy cold and once without ice to aerate and froth the egg whites into a creamy, foamy head. Now put yourself in the shoes of the bartender who has to make 150 of those on his own, at speed, on a busy Saturday night. Your first sour would be amazing but once you’ve made 100, your arms would fall off and the drinks would suffer. As we all know, consistency is key.
This problem left us at a crossroads, either egg whites came out or we found a way to make loads of sours, consistently and at high-speed with one bartender. I’m a huge fan of the sour as a category so losing the egg whites was a no-go. In the end, we opted for a mechanical solution – plenty of bars use blenders, why not blend a sour?
It turns out that your blender at home makes a very good sour but takes far too long to clean and re-set in-between rounds, as well as only catering for one flavour at a time. Bullet-style processors make an even better sour but are even fiddlier still and hardly appropriate for the sort of volumes that London’s busiest neighbourhood chicken shop is likely to go through. (If you’re lucky there might just be a blog post coming that will teach you how to make a great sour in your bullet blender, after all, it’s not just for health drinks).
The penny finally dropped in a diner, one rainy cheat-day afternoon as I ordered a banana milkshake (the correct flavour of milkshake) and watched the bartender spoon ice-cream and other treats into a Boston tin and blitz the lot using a milkshake-spindle-blender. Turns out, those machines make more than milkshakes.
The spindle blender is the perfect piece of kit for putting out loads of different sours quickly and consistently. Sours can be built into tins, thrown together with some ice and egg whites, zipped in seconds and dropped into the distinctive dimple-jugs to be skulled with the best fried chicken available anywhere.
A great new way of making drinks now needed a great new drink to go with it. Our next blog will dive into the Chick’n’club, exploring the Clover Club – one of our all-time favourite drinks and the Chick’n’club’s grandaddy as well as Womersley food’s incredible vinegar that we use to give the drink that extra kick.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have a restaurant with an unloved cocktail list, or a party for which you need a bar or a masterclass later this year.
We look forward to hearing from you.