You spoon out pink froth from a goblet that reminds you of Cosmopolitan. A translucent pearl explodes in your mouth and you realise it’s Kahlua. You help yourself to a jelly like B 52 with a fork. Molecular mixologist Antonio Lai conjures up the wackiest of cocktails, transforming your drink into bubble, foam, powder, gel or mist.
The Hong Kong based mixologist who was in the city recently to promote a bartending event at Keya restaurant, is an expert in creating sensory wonders that will keep you guessing. For instance, his Smoke-a-Cola cocktail tastes like Cola but after a few sips, you discover a pleasant smoky flavour in your mouth and wonder if the drink has been barbecued. “Molecular mixology is not only about creating unrecognisable cocktails. The real magic happens when the flavour changes tremendously,” says Lai.
His favourite ingredients too, are not the ones that you often find in your glass. His unusual concoctions include ingredients such as cucumber, chargrilled fruit chunks, bacon infused whiskies and elderflowers and are a delight as they offer the unexpected.
Catching up slowly
Closer home, Hemant Kumar Pathak, mixologist at the Blue Bar, Taj Palace, has been shaking up ‘solid’ cocktails. Pathak swears by his Absinthe Gummy bear — gin and tonic jelly with caramelised lime. Devender Sehgal, senior bartender, Rick’s Bar, Taj Mahal hotel is also busy creating a molecular drink menu for the bar.
“Molecular mixology will revolutionise the cocktail making art. It would be a mistake to look at it as a passing fad,” says Sehgal. Smoke House Grill is another place where you can quaff some molecular drinks. Some of the sensory treats on offer are B-52 ravioli — Baileys and Kahlua ravioli suspended in Cointreau, and Frozen Watermelon Martini and Mint Air, which is a drink frozen with liquid nitrogen, served with mint reduction.
Even though molecular mixology is becoming popular, it is at its nascent stage in India. This is because of the heavy costs involved in importing equipments due to which few Indian bartenders are experimenting with molecular drinks. “There’s tremendous potential in this concept that has not been explored. Bars offering molecular mixology can position themselves as destination bars where a consumer will walk in looking for a special experience,” says Rohan Jelkie, molecular mixology trainer.
He also suggests that bars can incorporate a few molecular concepts in existing recipes before going completely molecular. “A Margarita pepped up with Cointreau pearls or a Mojito topped with lemon foam won’t disappoint anyone,” he says, adding that drinks that look, feel and taste great should be created.
What’s it all about?
Molecular mixology, an offshoot of molecular gastronomy, is used by bartenders to alter the texture, look and flavour of a cocktail. The technique demands use of specialised equipments, a thorough knowledge of the molecular science and a zeal to create something that’s not been experienced before.
Ingredients and equipments used
Ingredients such as lecithin, an emulsifier extracted from soybean for creating air, Gluco, a mix of calcium salt for making spheres, alginic acid derived from seaweed, sodium citrates and other food grade chemicals are used. The equipment includes smoking gun, blow torches, and vacuum sealers.