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And a dash of liquid nitrogen, bartender
Kelsey Munro. March 17, 2009

IT'S gin and tonic but not as we know it. A cube of G&T jelly sits on a thin slice of lime that's been fired to a caramelised crisp by a blowtorch. White powder on top fizzes on the tongue like sherbet. The bite-sized gulp is served on a spoon. It's delicious: an unexpectedly elegant fusion of flavour, texture and alcohol. The deconstructed gin and tonic is one of the more popular concoctions from the brave new world of molecular mixology, where bartenders use molecular gastronomy tricks pioneered by Herve This, Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adria in the pursuit of a surprising cocktail. Grant Collins at the Hilton's Zeta Bar is the leading proponent in Sydney. Using liquid nitrogen, dry ice, jellies, foams and a lot of experimentation, Collins and his team have developed a range of deconstructed drinks.

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"It's about balancing the flavours on the palette," Collins says, offering a Zeta Shandy - a foamy lemonade sorbet topping a glass of beer. He infuses bacon into bourbon to make his Bacon and Maple Syrup Manhattan, garnished with crispy bacon. For a drink he calls La Premiere, a twist on the Cuba Libre inspired by the movies staple of Coke and popcorn, he blends Appleton Rum with popcorn. If it sounds like a lot of fuss, it is. But Collins says it's all part of the effect. "It's very theatrical," he says. While some of the jelly and foam techniques date back to 19th-century bartending, they've only recently been adopted by avant-garde bartenders. Irish-born, globe-trotting bar consultant Philip Duff helped popularise the techniques when he organised the first molecular mixology seminar in Paris in 2005. "It is using technique, technology and psychology to help guests experience drinks in a completely new way," Duff says. "Or, to be simpler, it's nothing more than advanced bartending, using more extensive research and technology to make even better drinks." Duff says Zeta's Sensory Experience, where cocktails are served with audio and scent accompaniments (such as the sound of waves and the smell of coconut oil to accompany a pina colada) "is very cutting-edge". "[Blumenthal's] Fat Duck restaurant is the only other one I know that does this, giving you an iPod with sea sounds to listen to as you get a shellfish course," Duff says. Worldwide, Duff says Collins and Zeta are up there with the best proponents of molecular mixing. These include Eben Freeman at Tailor in New York, who has made a range of solid, edible cocktails including a Ramos Gin Fizz Marshmallow and a White Russian Breakfast Cereal, Tony Conigliaro at Roka in London and Dario Comini at Nottingham Forest in Milan. In Australia, Sydney's Foveaux Bar, Melbourne's Der Raum and Brisbane's Sling Lounge and Little Jumbo are also using these techniques. Simon McGoram, the editor of Australian Bartender magazine, says it's the equivalent of restaurant fine-dining, giving drinkers an unusual experience they couldn't replicate at home. "They'll take a classic cocktail and re-create that using various stabilisers or chemical compounds to completely change the texture, or by changing the serving vessel, to create a new, surprising effect for the drink," McGoram says. "It's really about impact, a bit of

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Print Article: And a dash of liquid nitrogen, bartender

a wow factor." It's elaborate and entertaining but is it any more than a novelty? Are there many customers coming back for more? "Molecular mixology is a novelty," Duff admits. "But the drinks must also be good, not just space-age. In the best bars there are indeed many repeat orders." I'll take another deconstructed G&T.
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