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Smoked martinis & chemical caprioskas


SHOWTIME: Mixologists have whipped up cocktail spheres that explode in the mouth and ravioli in liquid form

Molecular mixology is about to stir up a storm at the Indian bar.

There's the usual vodka, sherry and cognac. But then there's also chocolate wrapped litchi, dry ice, and fruits juices transformed into caviarlike spheres. Nitrogen pumps, smoke machines and soda siphons work to combine these unusual ingredients. And voila, you have drinks such as the Smoked Martini, which leave a lingering smoky aftertaste.

Recipes like this are a result of molecular mixology - the application of scientific methods to ingredients that is opening up the art of cocktail making to entirely new dimensions. Molecular mixology has its roots in molecular gastronomy, the study of chemical transformations that go into cooking food. The field was founded by Nicholas Kurti and Hervê This, who in the 1990s designed a slew of experiments to determine the chemicals behind flavors. These methods soon found their way into bars, as bartenders started to experiment with ingredients.

Restaurants and nightclubs across Delhi are re-inventing what they have to offer, as customers become more discerning and demand more out of their experiences. Arijit Bose, one of the first to introduce mixology to bars in India, became acquainted with the technique after travelling across various European countries, coming to the conclusion that, "India is far behind when it comes to the quality of cocktails. "

Mixology is used by some of the top restaurants in the world, and Bose's attempt to improve India's cocktail scene entailed working with bartenders to incorporate techniques from mixology in their drink making.

In the past few months, molecular mixology is beginning to spread across bars and nightclubs in India. Sherine John, head bartender of The Smoke House at Shroom, introduced a drinks menu centered around molecular techniques six months ago. Among the options are a watermelon caprioska that makes use of spherication to convert the liquid drink into globules that burst in the mouth, producing an explosion of flavor. Another deconstructs the taste of ravioli in liquid form.

360 Degrees at The Oberoi was the first introduce molecular mixology. They started using aging, a process in which pre-mixed cocktails are placed in barrels for a few weeks, allowing their flavor to mellow in the same process wines undergo. The new drinks are hugely popular with the consumers, according to Rohit Kapoor who works at 360 degrees.

Although molecular mixology was introduced at some bars in Delhi about five years ago, the concept fizzled out. Bose feels that molecular mixology was marketed as an elitist innovation, and often used as an excuse to price drinks higher - something that the Indian consumer did not appreciate. Further, there was a lack of proper training in these techniques for bartenders. According to Babula Hastak, director of Indian Professional Bartending Academy, no institute in India has introduced courses in molecular mixology yet. Such courses are offered abroad, however, and there are plans to introduce them in India.

Attempts are being made to bridge this gap in training. Mo�t Hennessey launched a promotional campaign for Belvedere, a brand of luxury vodka. Mitalee Gupta, brand manager of the company in India, said, "Belvedere is about creating something new for the consumer. Molecular mixology is a way of doing that. It's not about complicated chemicals, but a way of reconstructing what is already known into something new. "

The company trained bartenders across Delhi and Mumbai in the techniques of mixology, and will be running promotions at these venues with cocktails made via the science. Participating bars included Shroom, QBA, and Claridges from Delhi, and Tote from Mumbai, among others. The emphasis is not on completely re-writing the drinks portfolio, but on incorporating some techniques of molecular mixology.

As science works to completely alter the profile of the cocktail, it remains to be seen how it alters the drinking scene in our cities.

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