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Top 10 techniques of the modern contemporary bar

I do have for the moment quite regular with Scott Young, who founded extremebartending.com and bartendingschool4free.com. He asked me, if I have posted something about Molecular Mixology. 
I did. But I picked out some techniques, which I think, make sense in good 'normal' bars.

Sigh... some will know, that I am not that keen on MM. But yeah, there are techniques, you can't really ignore anymore.

Molecular Mixology in a pure form is in my eyes a dead end. The drinks are over-complicated, take too much time, they are fuzzy and its all surface. Yes, there are some successful bars, which are doing MM. But except of Tony Conigliaro's bar "The bar with no name", 69 Colebrooke Row in Islington and maybe Aviary in Chicago, I don't remember one. Let's face it - most of these bars repeating the few better known MM recipes with few variations over and over again.

After I left, the folks over at Emirates Towers had a promotion of the flown in Antonio Lai a "guest-mixologist" from Hong Kong. While one liquor distributor paid for it, it included huge commitments from the hotel. When I saw the menu, I was rather shocked. I've recognized every single drink as a very close copy of the most famous drinks of Eben Freeman @ Taylor's and few other "famous" drinks from other "Molecular Cocktail creators" like Ferran Adria, who also had some de-constructed cocktails at his El Bulli {in fact, he was the first, who gave cocktails a MM face-lift}. Not one drink was original. Very sad!

The "new bar" is a completely different thing. Yes - it is a virtual concept. Not one real bar, will do exactly, what I write here up. But most bars cannot avert their eyes from these modern techniques.

And why not making here a top ten list- which makes things a bit more interesting?!


10. Smoking 
Yes - it might be already a couple of years old, but smoking drinks will definitely become more mainstream. From smoking ingredients, to smoking cocktails, it is an interesting technique to manipulate the characteristics of the respective beverage. I am not 100% convinced, if the way, it is done at this time is correct - however this is worth a whole post - stay tuned!
9. Artisan Ice 
Personally ice spheres, blogs and other amazing ice shapes lost a lot of their magic, when Dave Arnold found out, that ice has very little influence in the resulting drink quality. However it is still a great tool to amaze guests with unique looking drinks, without becoming fuzzy. The hype of bar ice will go over, but we will keep hopefully adequate full, solid large ice cubes and the uber-big ice cube or sphere for the premium sipping spirit. And this is a good thing! 
8. Espumas 
Espuma is the Spanish word for foam. And you could also directly add similar techniques as the production of "airs" into this topic. I think it was used a bit too much in MM - however it can really enhance a cocktail, if done right. Unfortunately most bartender still take the easy [and admittedly more healthy] route of using egg white, which will result into a "wet-dog smelling drink" for all more sensitive natures [like me].Yeah - more research has to be done, to make espumas, which are perfected for cocktails - however without knowing the technique, it will be very tough to stay cutting edge. 
7. Homemade Bitters and Essences 
Homemade bitters were pretty much the first advanced ingredient, which was crafted in bars. Yet it is a very complicated one, requires high proof alcohol [which is not available in several regions e.g. the Middle-East] and now there are so many great products in the market, which makes the pain, you get through making your own bitters questionable. Yet, professionals, who liked to be cutting edge, need to know, what is all about - and eventually there is still the much easier option of manipulating bitters [think clarification and/or infusion].

6. Prebatched and Carbonated Cocktails 
Avant-garde techniques as well as the contemporary quality bar demands some timely cocktail preparations. However modern {Western} service requires a swift service. Prebatching [bottling] cocktails is one way out of this dilemma. Carbonation gives the interesting touch, that makes these type of drinks competitive to the conventional prepared cocktails. Plus - the popularity of RTD products, makes it quite natural for the consumer. The equipment is not that usual, but can be obtained for little investment: a carbonation system [search my blog for sodas and Soda Plus], glass bottles and caps [can even be reused of empty bottles on hand] and a bottle capper. And eventually a bottle washing/sanitizing system. 
5. House-Crafted Liqueurs, Cordials, Vermouths 
Most house-crafted mixology ingredients founded in sheer desperation, as adequate quality ingredients were not available - or historic, preprohibition ingredients were... extinct. Nowadays as in the bitters business, there are many new companies and "start-ups" which are fitting the bill - though we are still faraway of a worldwide consistent distribution! And: most of these mixology ingredients are so simple to make and so much better as commercial products, which underlines the further housecrafting of these mixtures. 
4. House-Crafted Sodas 
The soda business is a big one. And it is very corporate. Yes, there are some smaller companies, which are offering their products, but they are usually use even more preservatives and other bad stuff as the multinational companies. And then there are the organic products, which fall behind with their taste, a lot!
Crafting yourself a soda will result [with a little bit knowledge] into a superior product. Why? Because you don't have to meet the usual commercial requirements of a minimum of 12 month expiry. Smaller batches result into a better and fresher soda. Who doesn't want a superior mixer in his drink?
As with the prebatched carbonated cocktails, there are only few specialty equipment needed - which is incidentally exactly the same as above. Carbonation system, bottles, bottle caps and bottle capper.  And eventually a bottle washing/sanitizing system if larger quantities are batched. 
3. Barrel aged cocktails 
Wood or oak aged doesn't necessarily means barrel aged - as an simpler technique can use toasted or charred wood chips to infuse a cocktail or spirit. However barrels are just giving most guests a romantic feeling, and even, they would take some space [and they have no use in the operation] I would still place them in view of the guests. Dramatic changes in the character of a cocktail can be recognized, if it comes in contact with wood for an extended period of time. As the trend for "super-oaked" and barrel conditioned spirits don't seem to slow down anytime soon, this technique is right in the taste of the time. And barrels get more widely available, which also definitely helps! 
2. Clarifications 
On this blog, I've dedicated quite some effort to promote agar-agar clarification. If done right [for this, you would need my clever agar-agar clarification widget], the result is mind boggling! It is not that much the taste, but the appearance and surprise, which clarification can do. While I was against superficiality of MM, but clarification makes actually sense for me: the texture changes - you can even clarify purees, which become a delicious clear concentrated juices, you can use juices as base for sodas... you can stir cocktails, which result clear delicious aperitif cocktails. And agar-agar clarification is not the only technique. Milk clarification is a heirloom technique [oppose the the AAC], which results in "matureable" clear drinks, reminiscent of a milk punch. 
1. Infusions 
You might ask, what is modern with infusions? Well- first I would like to remind you, that it is a technique which underwent a revival in the bar of the 21st century. However I don't mean here old boring infusion in bottles for weeks and months. I mean modern techniques, which include:
Nitrogen-oxide cavitation infusions - in a cream whipper or a device like the Soda plus. Due the the rapid change of the pressure, liquids are exchanged in the cells and cavitations of the infused ingredient. Which results that aroma compounds are rapidly merge with the surrounding liquid [alcohol / cocktail]. This process takes usually only minutes.
Sous-vide infusions - liquids are bagged [vacuum sealed] in "air-tight' bags with their aromatics and "poached" with the help of an immersion circulator on low temperatures. If they are vacuumed in the bag with a chamber vacuum sealer, they undergo one vacuum cavitation [first infusion], plus then the benefit of an infusion in a warm liquid [second infusion]. Why the immersion circulator and the sealing? This is pretty easy to answer - if you "cook" an infusion the aromatic is changing it character [think of a fresh strawberry vs. a cooked strawberry resembling jam] - and if you are heating up alcohol without being bagged, quite some alcohol will evaporate [over hours]. A lot of details are not even explored. E.g. gin [without additional aromatics] is amplifying its juniper notes, if sous-vided!
Infusions not only can lead to interesting "infused spirits" but also can be base of house-crafted ingredients like liqueurs. That is why this technique is on number uno!

And here you have it: the top ten new techniques of the contemporary bar!

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