Dave Arnold, the head of culinary technology at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, is by training not a chef but a sculptor. He worked with metals and machinery as an art student and once battled a fire-breathing dragon. (It was a modified air blower that spit flaming kerosene; he wore a welding jacket and carried a lance.)
These days Arnold’s fits of ingenuity, though tame in comparison, are no less creative. Consider a recent offering from his kitchen laboratory: The edible cocktail.
The premise is simple: Make a “pickle” with alcohol instead of salt and brine. The execution is more complicated. Arnold cuts peeled cucumbers into spears and puts them in a Mason jar filled with an 8-to-1 mixture of gin and vermouth. He also adds a touch of simple syrup to counteract the cucumbers’ inherent bitterness. The Mason jar is then placed into a vacuum machine, which removes the air, collapsing the cucumbers’ air pockets. This is a process similar to that used in sous-vide cooking, in which food is vacuum-sealed in a pouch and heated. Thanks to the Mason jar, the cucumbers keep their consistency. (If they were sealed in the usual plastic bag, they would lose their crunchiness.)
When the vacuum seal is broken, the martini mixture rushes in to fill the spaces in the cucumber where the air used to be. The resulting spears have the smooth, crisp texture of pickles. Arnold calls this kind of cucumber a “flash pickle,” as the changes in texture and flavor that can take days to produce with salt and brine take about two minutes in the vacuum machine. Each spear has roughly the same amount of alcohol as a standard martini. To serve, he sprinkles the spears with celery seed, grated lime zest and flaky Maldon sea salt.
article courtesy of: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/09/magazine/09ediblecocktail.html