Iain McPherson: The big freezes

24 August, 2023

Other uses for freeze drying are making delicious rims for cocktail glasses or lovely aesthetic powder on the side of the glass.


We first released switching back in 2019. We use our ultra-low freezer to achieve the freezing point of the spirit. The spirits are put in these freezers within insulated cool boxes with the lids off, to encourage directional freezing. Once the spirit is partially frozen, we take out a large quantity of the frozen water and switch it with another flavour and, in some cases, textured liquid (like coconut milk).

Our Cosmos cocktail (Haku vodka, cranberry, dry curaçao, lime, bitters) is our take on the Cosmopolitan. We use our switching technique on the Haku vodka and switch in a freeze concentrated cranberry juice in place of some of the water. By doing so we under-dilute the cocktail, thus giving us more time to chill down the drink to a colder temperature without over diluting it, resulting in a more flavourful and colder cocktail. We have also used switching to imitate barrel finishing or to emphasise one of the existing flavour profiles within a spirit – for example, switching whisky water for sherry water.


Cryo-concentration is also known as freeze concentration or, in some cases, freeze distillation. This is where you freeze water from any liquid to increase the ratio of the other elements, such as flavour, acids and sugars. It was the first historic freezing technique we researched in great detail. We are still finding more uses for it to this day. One thing we love to do at Panda & Sons is use it for what we call “freeze ripening”. This helps us overcome the times of the year when the quality of produce isn’t the best or when locally the produce is out of season. By cryo-concentrating it, we can reduce the water content and increase the flavour, acids and sugar levels, basically mimicking the process of ripening.

For Girvana (Hendrick’s gin, peach, jasmine, absinthe, champagne), we first blend the peach and jasmine together and, in an insulated cool box (with the lid left off), we add to our freezer, but at a high freezer temperature of 10°C. We repeat this process twice, much like the traditional method of jacking for Applejack back in the day. After a couple of cycles of cryo-concentration the peach is super juicy. We have also used the cryo-concentration technique to create amaros from vermouths.

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