I've always been a big fan of Dave Arnold, the French Culinary Institute instructor/cook/mad scientist/artist who's been a major player in the modern technology-driven food movement for at least a decade or so. His writings in his Cooking Issues blog on cocktails have been especially intriguing, tackling the science of ice, dilution, chilling, flavor concentration, and shaking like no other mixologist on the planet.
I recently caught up with him at Booker & Dax, his new high-tech bar project in the back of Momofuku Ssäm bar to chat about the concept and get a tour of the various tools they employ behind the stick. Rotary evaporators, a 4,000-G centrifuge, liquid nitrogen, and a custom-built 1,500°F red hot poker are just some of the tools the bartenders use to coax, manipulate, and alter the flavor and texture of the ingredients going into the glass.
It sounds kinda gimmicky, but it's really not. Talking to Dave, it's pretty clear that each and every piece of equipment is in the service of the drinks, not the other way around. There's no real showmanship just for the sake of it—indeed, unless you're sitting at one of the few bar seats, you probably won't even notice that there's anything unusual about how the drinks are made, other than that they taste really good.
That said, it's still pretty freaking cool to see a cocktail burst into flames that leap two feet out of the glass at the touch of a real-life lightsaber.