Molecular Mixology

Spherification

Molecular Mixology is the term applied to the process of creating cocktails using the scientific equipment and techniques of molecular gastronomy. These methods enable the creation of greater intensities and varieties of flavor, flavor combinations, and different ways of presenting drinks, for example using gels, powders, foams, atomized sprays, etc., as well as affecting the aesthetic qualities of the cocktail.

‘The Art of Drink’ website suggests that the earliest example of what we now call molecular mixology is the long-established bartending practice of layering ingredients in cocktails. This experimentation with the density and viscosity of fluids uses the principles of scientific investigation that are fundamental to molecular mixology. 

The equipment used in molecular mixology can range from comparatively simple items such as blowtorches (frequently used in restaurant cooking) to more specialized items such as a vacuum sealer, a device for combining and infusing ingredients in a vacuum and thus preserving their flavors and enhancing the finished product. These infusions allow unexpected combinations of flavors in cocktails, including flavorings from non-edible substances, such as tobacco and leather (found in the Smoked Old Fashioned cocktail) and perfume (as in the Champagne No.5). Another machine which is used by the best mixologists is the Rotavap, a vacuum rotary distillation setup, which allows the extraction of aromas, low temperature reduction of juices, and the production of flavored spirits.

The techniques used by a mixologist are mostly bound to the new equipment which is provided by the molecular gastronomy. They are, for the most part, adaptions of new techniques for food preparation, for example: ‘airs’ (culinary foams invented by Ferran Adrià at elBulli) were originally created for food applications, but now often garnish cocktails. Spherification is the culinary process of shaping a liquid into spheres, they can be small like a caviar or larger like an egg yolk.

One of the main proponents of molecular mixology is Tony Conigliaro, a bartender who has collaborated with pioneering molecular gastronomist Heston Blumenthal at the award-winning Fat Duck restaurant in Berkshire. Other names associated with molecular mixology are Eben Klemm, molecular biologist-turned-bartender, Michael Stringer, a London based mixologist who has been seen creating numerous molecular cocktails throughout the UK and Eben Freeman, a New York based mixologist. In Latin America, some prominent figures have created an interesting movement in the region, towards the investigation and the evolution of mixology, such as the argentinian Daniel Avellaneda and the peruvian Angel Chocano.

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