Jun 14, 2012|
You’ve probably tried molecular gastronomy, with its flavored foams and bead-shaped jellies, but how about infusing your cocktails with a little quaffable chemistry? The trend, although a few years old worldwide, is just starting to pick up real steam in Bangkok—and mixologists are already doubting its future.
W XYZ Bar is one of a new breed of places that apply scientific smoke and mirrors, not to your food but your drinks, all in the name of molecular mixology. Perhaps Bangkok’s first dedicated molecular cocktail bar, it’s manned by the youthful Passapong Phetpradit who designs the drinks himself. His signature drink, Heaven on Earth, is served in a Champagne flute, smoking like a wizard’s potion. It’s served with a strawberry coated in candy that pops in your mouth. Bite into the strawberry, sip and let your senses go into overload.
“Science brings something new to cocktails,” says Passapong. “For me, a cocktail is like a painting and molecular mixology just gives another dimension to the art. Molecular techniques interact with all five of our senses.”
These high-wire acts come with more issues than just fixing a decent martini, though. Even pros like Karn Liangsrisuk, who took second place in the 2012 Bacardi Bartending Contest representing the Shangri La Hotel and reached the top 10 contestants in the Diageo Reserve World Class Thailand 2011, would rather avoid them altogether.
“I like my cocktails to be simple. Molecular cocktails are too strong and too scientific for me,” he says. “The idea of bringing in the science just seems to eliminate the classic elements and charm of every ingredient. Change is good but molecular mixology requires such precise measures and is very technical—it’s just not for me.”
Ronnaporn Kanivichaporn, the man behind the cocktails at Roof by Muse Thonglor, thinks molecular cocktails are fun, but mostly just a question of appearances.
“Molecular mixology provides a wealth of options when it comes to drink presentation. But it’s probably just another fad. How long it stays around depends on how well mixologists can keep pushing the boundaries without losing the original character of a particular cocktail,” Ronnaporn says. “It’s not just about adopting new techniques. You have to make things more delicious.”
Even Passapong, of W XYZ, agrees it will be challenging to keep people hooked. “Molecular mixology is just like any other trend. It won’t stay fashionable without constant reinvention. So you have to keep striving for more,” he says.
Ronnaporn sees the future in using unique ingredients that haven’t been seen in cocktails before, like Indian gooseberry cough medicine. Karn, too, is focusing on flavor. His recipes for restaurants like Whale’s Belly, Bouchot and The Local use ingredients like safflower and the pungent sator bean. He’s also been keeping an eye on the worldwide mixology trends replacing molecular techniques.
“Right now,” he says, “it’s all about barrel aged-cocktails and I’ve been running around Bangkok in search of woods that will give different notes and flavors.”
Whatever comes next, barmen are clearly going to stay in the spotlight, as their research and hard work is the one thing that will never get tired. “Sometimes even having the finest ingredients doesn’t mean something will work. You’ve got to keep learning. Study others but don’t copy, as trends always come and go,”
Manager on Duty at W XYZ Bar
“I’ll admit that I don’t really like drinking cocktails that often, but if I find myself at an awful bar then gin and tonic, vodka with Kahlua, or rum and coke are all at the top of my list.”
Escapade Burgers & Shakes co-owner
“Beer is the safest option, but if you want to look cool then maybe ask the bartender to drop some cranberry juice in vodka.”
Business Development Director and Mixologist at Maven Company
“I’d say a Mai Tai is the safest but if that’s not your thing, take a look at the liquor shelf. Maybe go for something like Malibu with pineapple juice. You’ll probably end up crying about the tiny amount of alcohol in your drink, anyway.”
W XYZ Bar Aloft Hotel, 35 Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-207-7000. Open Sun-Wed 12pm-midnight; Thu-Sat 12pm-2am
Escapade Burgers & Shakes, 112 Phra Artit Rd., 081-406-3773. Open daily 11am-midnight
Roof by Muse, 159/8 Thonglor Soi 10, 089-988-5995. Open Tue-Sun 6pm-2am