Bubbles are amazing. They seem to make any drink (or bath) more fun, more refreshing. Ever wish you could carbonate your whiskey, or wine, or mixed drink without diluting it with watery, zero-percent-alcohol liquid? The Perlini System by Perlage was built to do just that. Oh hell yes.
It's Friday afternoon, you've made it through the long week, and it's time for Happy Hour, Gizmodo's weekly booze column. A cocktail shaker full of innovation, science, and alcohol. Bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble... on the rocks.
What Is It?
It's a CO2 powered-system designed to carbonate alcoholic drinks. Everyone loves Soda Stream, but the company explicitly says to only use it with water because the straw will clog. The Perlini has no such limitations.
It comes in a metal case that makes you feel sexy and dangerous. The system inside is simple. It has a large Lexan bottle that acts as your shaker/strainer/bubble-infuser, a little infusing wand, and a dozen CO2 cartridges that look like specialty bullets—you'll feel like a hitman gunning for people's livers.
It's pretty easy to use. You mix the cocktail in the clear shaker, add ice (or use pre-chilled liquids), and seal it. Then you push the wand into the valve, press the button, and hold it for about 10 seconds or until it stops filling. Then shake the hell out of it for about ten seconds (yes, even for drinks you normally wouldn't shake, I know, I know... ). Let it rest for about 30 seconds, then slowly open the lid, a little at a time to prevent foaming (see video), and then pour it into a glass through the built-in strainer. Done.
Your booze now has tiny bubbles in it, but that's not all. See, when you carbonate something using CO2 you are adding carbonic acid, which is a little bit sour. This changes the flavor of the drink, sometimes for better, sometimes for the anti-better.
The Negroni. One part Beefeater gin, one part Campari, and one part Carpano Antica sweet vermouth. One of my favorites, but wouldn't it be better with bubbles? Actually, yes! Negronis can be a little sweet sometimes, but the carbonic acid actually balanced it out really nicely. It was delightful.
The Manhattan. Two parts Bulleit Rye (no, this one wasn't infused with meat), 1 part Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, and a dash of Angostura Bitters. Another fave of mine, and one which should never be shaken, but in the name of bubbles we'll make an exception. This one was drinkable, if a little weird. You could probably go even further with the sweet vermouth to balance it out better. Cocktail purists will hate it. (Note: Normally I prefer a drier Manhattan and prefer just just a half part of sweet vermouth, but we tried that and it was waaay too sour. Pretty gross, actually.)
Warm, Flat Beer. Our own Harry Sawyers had this brilliant idea. "What if you could use it to make your flat beer drinkable again?" Yes! What if? Now, in fairness, the system wasn't designed to do this, but that wasn't about to stop us. Holy hell, it didn't work. At all. Not only was it barely carbonated, but it was watered down because we added ice to chill it down. Nasty.com
Chocolate Milk. Again, Perlage didn't intend this, exactly, but the system is meant for creamy drinks and egg-whites, so why not? Well, as you see in the video, it turned into a foam-bomb. Even more surprising, though? It actually tasted pretty good. The sourness of the carbonic acid made it taste sort of like a chocolate malt, and the bubbles were oddly pleasing. Thumbs up.
Whiskey. This has been my dream ever since I started carbonating stuff, and Joe Brown was on the same page. We carbonated about five ounces of Jim Beam's Devil's Cut bourbon. Devil's Cut is a bit on the sweet side, so we thought it might take the sourness better than most. Yeah, not really. It was straight up tart. Not my thing at all, though some others at Gawker HQ enjoyed it and thought it tasted like a mixed drink. To each his own.
It's a fun novelty. It doesn't add big, luscious bubbles (like in a soda), but rather tiny ones. That mostly due to the consistency of the liquid. If you make a lot of sweet or fruity drinks at home, you really might love this thing, because you need that sweetness to offset the carbonic acid. If you're more into classic cocktails, this isn't for you. It makes most cocktails worse (the Negroni being a notable exception) unless they're quite sweet to start out. Also, you have to press pretty hard while infusing, and you only get about 5 shakers worth of cocktails per CO2 cartridge. The kit you see here is $200, which is a lot to pay for a novelty item, but they have smaller kits for $100. If your household loves mai tais or margaritas on the rocks, you might just have some fun with this. [Perlage]