Cucumber Gin & Tonic


Cucumber Gin & Tonic

The cucumber gin & tonic is my recreation from the Aviary’s coffee table book. Cutting edge cocktail creativity is inspired by Grant Achatz at Alinea, his flagship Chicago Restaurant. It’s a slippery, but inescapable slope moving from his restaurant to the Aviary’s cocktail tasting experience.

The book is a weighty tome, filled with seven pounds of gorgeous recipes. The photography is stunning and the recipes challenging. Recreating them is about the experience and the taste is a bonus.

There’s an unmistakable likeness between Back To The Future’s “Doc” Brown in his chemist’s smock and Grant Achatz in his chef coat. But, while Doc is fictional the chemistry behind these cocktails is real.

The Aviary Cucumber Gin & Tonic

First entry in the book, this beauty has never appeared on their menu, because of the time and difficulty involved. Those constraints don’t apply to the home cocktail enthusiast and that means challenge accepted

It’s a four step process. Make simple syrup, cucumber spheres, carbonized gin & tonic and finally assemble the cocktail. To accomplish this we need some specialized equipment.

  • Carbonizer device
  • Carbonizer container – 1/2 liter
  • Silicone 5/8″ diameter spherical mold
  • Glass straws
  • Perforated spoon
  • Author: TJ



Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Cucumber Spheres

  • 1000 grams filtered water
  • 7.5 grams sodium alginate
  • 5 english cucumbers – AKA european, greenhouse, hothouse or seedless
  • 108 grams finely granulated sugar
  • 20 grams calcium lactate
  • 6 grams fine kosher salt

Gin & Tonic

  • 4 oz premium, juniper forward gin
  • 1 oz green chartreuse
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 2 grams powdered citric acid
  • 8 oz fever tree tonic water


Simple Syrup

  1. Stir until the sugar is fully diluted, transfer to a swing-top bottle and refrigerate until ready to use

Cucumber Spheres

  1. Combine the water and sodium alginate in a large bowl
  2. Blend with an immersion blender on high speed until the sodium alginate is completely dissolved, without clumps
  3. Strain through a chinois into a clean round pan or rondeau to allow a depth of 1-1/2″ to 2″ of alginate solution
  4. Rest overnight in the refrigerator to let the alginate fully hydrate and all the bubbles to dissipate
  5. Juice the cucumbers in a juicer, strain through a chinois, reserve 1000 grams for making spheres and save the rest in an airtight jar for storage of the spheres
  6. Combine the juice, sugar, calcium lactate and salt in a medium bowl and blend with an immersion blender until completely dissolved
  7. Support the mold on a baking sheet and fill the cavities with the cucumber mix using a squeeze bottle or a large syringe. Don’t overfill the cavities because extra mold “flashing” will lead to misshapen spheres
  8. Freeze overnight or until completely solid
  9. Freeze a small baking sheet
  10. Pop the spheres out of the mold onto the sheet and return to the freezer to make sure they are completely frozen before finishing the spheres
  11. Remove the alginate bath and carefully place on the stove without re-introducing bubbles. Warm the alginate slowly over the lowest heat. Gently stir, but do not introduce bubbles
  12. Working in small batches remove 10-20 spheres from the freezer and disperse evenly into the rondeau pan, taking care to avoid allowing them to touch or stick to the bottom
  13. As they thaw they will form a membrane that will encapsulate the liquid center. This takes 10 to 30 seconds and they change color and become translucent as they cure
  14.  When fully encapsulated, remove them with the perforated spoon and release into a fresh bowl of cold water
  15. Stir gently to rinse
  16. Repeat the rinse cycle in a second bowl of fresh, cold water and discard any misshapen spheres
  17. Strain them out and transfer to the jar of reserved cucumber juice for storage
  18. Use the spheres within 8 hours

Making the Gin and Tonic

  1. Prepare an ice bath
  2. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir thoroughly until the citric acid is dissolved
  3. Transfer to the 1/2 liter carbonizing container and chill thoroughly in the ice bath – about 15-30 minutes
  4. Carbonate according to the manufacturer’s instructions and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve

Assembling the Cocktail

  1. Chill a collins glass in the cooler
  2. Use a perforated spoon to strain, rinse with cold water and gently fill the glass with about 100 of the cucumber spheres
  3. Gently pour in the carbonized gin and tonic cocktail
  4. Serve immediately with a glass straw

Cucumber gin & tonic mainin


Learn more about this and other cocktails at The Aviary in Chicago or New York,