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Molecular Mixology – the next step in bartending?
Butler: How long as this concept been around for? PD: As we know it, about five years. Before then, it was the preserve of literally four or five chefs worldwide, the mack-daddy of course being Ferran Adria, who was making solid caipirinhas and the like already eight or nine years ago. Then of course there’s Jerry Thomas, the world's first real celebrity bartender and author of the first ever cocktail book in 1862, who even then was making solid cocktails from jelly! Butler: Is it the future of bartending? PD: No. Bartending is about more than just the drink, however amazing it may be. Just as molecular gastronomy is not the future of hospitality (in the purest sense of the word, not the broader meaning of the service industry) molecular mixology is not the future of bartending. I think bartending may be the future of molecular mixology, though. Butler: Please could you explain two unique drinks that can be made using molecular mixology? PD: Two of my favourite creations are: The Anything Foam (my own creation) Make a cocktail and choose an ingredient to emphasise or match. For instance, caramel or nutty flavours would logically go well with a Sweet Manhattan. Make the drink as normal (two shots bourbon, one shot sweet vermouth, three dashes orange bitters, stir with ice, strain into an empty pre-chilled martini-cocktail glass), then make a foam. Take three shots of butterscotch liqueur, one of sugar, two egg whites and two shots of water. Pour them into a whipped-cream ISO foamer and charge the canister with one nitrogen dioxide capsule, or two if it's a one-liter canister. Shake it well. Carefully squirt the resulting caramel foam over the drink, and drink the cocktail through the foam! Gin & Tonic Jellies (Eben Freeman) Lay two sheets of gelatin in cold water for five minutes to soften. Gently heat two shots of gin and stir in the gelatine to dissolve it. Add three shots of fresh cold tonic water and stir well. Pour the mix into ice-cube trays and refrigerate for three hours. Serve on thin slices of peeled lime, and sprinkle the jellies with fizz powder, made by mixing equal parts of powdered sugar, citric acid and bicarbonate of soda.
utler Magazine recently caught up with Philip Duff, renowned bartender and mixology consultant. We asked to explain the concept of molecular mixology and maybe share some advice on how to make a drink or two. Butler: What is your interpretation of the term “molecular mixology”? PD: To me, it's using knowledge, technology, psychology and common sense to make better drinks. Really, it's just very advanced mixology!
Although not new, molecular mixology is the equivalent of molecular gastronomy. The science of making better drinks has been around for about a decade now, however, popular clubs and restaurants worldwide are starting to catch onto the concept, taking bartending to the next level – much to the delight of trendyconscious consumers.
Butler: What advice can you give bartenders looking to enter the trend of molecular mixology? PD: Read McGee on Food & Cooking (second edition) by Harold McGee, and try to eat out in restaurants that are pushing the envelope as much as you can. Butler: Finally, what are the most important factors to remember when making a drink in this new style? PD: It's not necessarily about using wacky techniques and way-out ingredients - the drink has to taste good, has to remove the guest from their comfort zone so they can experience flavours as if for the first time. Anything short of that is not worth the extra effort! Molecular mixology is more of an experience than a trend. Customers flock to establishments like El Bulli and the Fat Duck to experience (not simply eat) the cuisine on offer. By merging science, technology and creative thinking with standard cocktails and beverages, a bartender has the ability to take his/her customer to another level. Whether or not this concept will remain popular is up for debate. However, whatever your G&T looks like, it still better taste like the G&T you know and enjoy.
Butler: Besides the ‘wow’ factor, how does molecular mixology differ from standard bartending and the usual trade of serving drinks? PD: It requires a good deal more prep and, like food, it requires guests who are genuinely interested in trying new things and experiencing flavours. It's not for a packed disco or a workingmans pub, any more than foie gras is for a railway station snack bar. Butler: Do bartenders need special training in order to master the art of this concept? PD: The most important thing is to realise that it's still just a drink and bartending is much more than just making drinks.