What’s the most memorable way you have ever been served a cocktail? How about from a Porthole? No, not in front of one or through one but created and presented in one. In Chicago, we are known for many amazing restaurants and chefs. Yet, there is one chef that is widely known for his innovative dishes and dining experiences. You may already be very familiar with Chef Grant Achatz of Alinea, Next and The Aviary fame. In these locations, the food becomes works of art not just in taste but in presentation as well.
With that in mind, Martin Kastner from Crucial Detail, designed an incredibly unique vessel that showcases the ingredients used to make the infused cocktail, tea or oil so that it becomes a part of the experience. Working with the bar chefs in preparation for the opening of The Aviary, discussions were going on about the way to make “fast infusions” – cocktails evolving during the course of the time it takes to serve them – when the concept of the submarine porthole in “The Fabulous World of Jules Verne” came up. And that was all it took. The Porthole design was set.
As the guests at The Aviary experienced the Porthole firsthand, their interest in having them for their own homes arose. This inspired the creation of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to increase production capabilities. The goal was a modest $28,500. In just a short period of time, that goal was eclipsed resulting in funding hitting $736,000! This occurred in 2012 and the excitement about the Porthole has only grown on a national and international scale.
The Porthole is very simple to work with and allows you to create the cocktail customized to your tastes. The design takes into consideration the addition of various foods, herbs, teas and liquids as they infuse in front of your eyes. I had the opportunity to attend a gathering of food bloggers along with the very talented Crucial Detail team and Chef Micah from The Aviary to learn firsthand about the history, design and use of this piece of art.
Choosing what you are going to make is probably the second hardest part of the process of working with the Porthole. (The first is the anticipation of trying your creation!). There are three categories you want to think about when you build your cocktail: tart, sweet and flavor. So, as I contemplated my “soon to be famous” recipe, I took into consideration the holiday season and desire for a spicy, fruity cocktail. With Chef Micah’s instructions in mind, I added lemons, limes, apples, dried cranberries, dried apricots, cinnamon stick, hibiscus tea, peach tea and dried mango slices and then added my choice of liquid. This can be an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage. I chose gin infused with grape essence. You can see in the picture below, the pre-liquid look and then when the gin was added. I was intrigued to see what would happen by adding hibiscus tea to the mix. Knowing it gives off a ruby red color when I use it for hot tea, I suspected it would do the same here and add another element of design to the window.
When you first make your drink, you want to wait about 10 minutes for the infusion to take place. With the hibiscus, I had to wait a bit longer for the color to appear. But, it was so worth it! The flavor combinations that I chose were absolutely delicious. Not too sweet or with an overpowering gin flavor. A subtle sweetness, spice and bite from the gin turned into a drink that I wish I could bottle especially for this time of year.
My fellow bloggers created their own recipes using different fruits, herbs, teas and alcohol options. Along the way, we were able to sample everyone’s cocktails, admiring how their combinations turned out and hoping we can recreate our recipes. Here are a few examples from our experiment:
If you are looking for a most creative gift to give someone who loves to cook and entertain, the Porthole is definitely something to consider. It will not only make a memorable cocktail (or tea, syrup, oil) but will add some fun to the evening just by its use and appearance.
You can find out more about this conversation piece at http://www.theportholeinfuser.com/. The Porthole sells for just $99 and can be purchased on the site. Just a note that if you are looking for other truly unique ideas, you must visit http://secure.ultracart.com/catalog/CRDET/ to see more of Crucial Detail’s innovations.
When you make your first creation, please share it with Inspiring Kitchen and Crucial Detail here or on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Thank you! Happy Holidays!