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For a better N/A Daiquiri, Piña Colada and more use rum extract

For a better N/A Daiquiri, Piña Colada and more use rum extract
For a better N/A Daiquiri, Piña Colada and more use rum extract

At Thunderbolt in Los Angeles Piña Colada Lemonades And fruity juleps are child’s play – until you take a look behind the scenes. The former is made with pectinase and lactose solution as well as a centrifuge and a special extra-cold refrigerator; the latter uses flavor extraction techniques from Dave Arnold’s Fluid intelligence. Everywhere on the menu you’ll find no-frills classics that hide hours of research and development.

So when I recently spotted a non-alcoholic Lychee Daiquiri with “rum extract” on the bar’s menu, I was sure the main ingredient was something very technical and complicated. But as it turns out, it doesn’t require any kind of centrifugal motion, and you don’t have to go to a specialty N/A drinks shop to get it. I I’d never heard of rum extract, but it’s been a staple in baked goods for years, from Bananas Foster to cheesecake. And unlike the many new non-alcoholic spirits on the market, it’s relatively affordable and dispensed by the shot.


Around the Lychee Daiquirithe Thunderbolt team mixes canned lychees with a tiny amount of rum extract and glycerin; the latter ingredient is used to fine-tune the texture, but if you make it at home, you can skip that step, according to owner Mike Capoferri. The bar shakes the base with lime juice and saline before serving it in a coupe.

The Lychee Daiquiri is genius not only for its use of the culinary ingredient, which brings out a bold rum flavor without the alcohol, but also for its low-waste use of canned lychee. “We experimented with lychee in so many ways, and the revelation was just mixing the whole can into a cocktail base,” says Capoferri. Using both the fruit and its syrup gives the drink body—an advantage in the N/A canon, where watery cocktails sometimes fall flat—and avoids sticky residue.

With such a simple application, rum flavors are ripe for experimentation. But Capoferri advises keeping the different options in mind: Rum extract contains a small amount of alcohol, but since it is used in cocktails, the total alcohol content is lower than in certain Soda and bitter combinations and even N/A beers (which by definition can contain up to 0.5 percent alcohol). Capoferri’s preferred version, from olivenationis water soluble and is made from a mixture of rums. But for those who avoid alcohol altogether, Rum emulsionsold by the same brand, can be a good alternative; it’s water-based and completely non-alcoholic. Try it either instead of rum in a mojito, drizzled directly into the glass, or in a piña colada, mixed with a frozen base.

Of course, the Lychee Daiquiri is an excellent place to start. “This is one of the cocktails that requires the least preparation,” says Capoferri. “It’s so simple that anyone can make it, but it’s a very tasty cocktail.”

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