I was sitting at the bar at The Lalit recently, eagerly awaiting the sight and taste of what promised to be an exciting cocktail. It arrived soon enough: a tall flute containing a body of white foam, a centimeter of clear spirit, and a base of what looked like pink spawn.
“That’s cranberry juice foam and cranberry caviar at the bottom of the glass,” assistant F&B manager Manjeet Gole pointed out. I took a sip, and got the most interesting set of textures inside my mouth: creamy, cold liquid and jelly-like drops that slowly melted in the mouth. Manjeet had ‘tweaked’ the ingredients of the drink just a little…by using a blast of nitrogen oxide gas to convert juice to foam, and by using gelatin sheets to convert cranberry juice to pretty little jelly-like pearls.
That’s molecular mixology for you, the art of fusing science and oodles of imagination into one edible/drinkable whole. As the name suggests, molecular mixology is about getting down to the molecular level of a cocktail’s ingredients and tweaking them to change their colour, taste or texture entirely.
It’s not easy deconstructing a cocktail and putting it back together in a renewed form. In fact, nitrogen gas and gelatin sheets are child’s play when compared to what mixologists such as American Eben Freeman have created: for example, a jellied gin and tonic served atop a baked slice of lime. It requires a sound knowledge of chemistry and physics, for one. Mixologists abroad use ominous-sounding equipment like Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer and Mass Spectrometers and spend hours putting their brains on the bar, literally.
But does something of the sort provide a competitive advantage after all the money and time spent? Only if you go by the uber-cool, novelty factor. It’s no wonder the art is still in its infancy in India. Few bars have tried it out…in fact, just a couple in Delhi — Rick’s took the lead and The Lalit has recently put some molecular cocktails on its bar menu. Hopefully, more is yet to come. Bring on the science, I say!