With granite and caviar essence: Mixology reinvents cocktail culture

Mixing a "Sex on the Beach" is no longer enough these days.

With granite and caviar essence: Mixology reinvents cocktail culture

Mixing a "Sex on the Beach" is no longer enough these days. Bartenders create innovative cocktails with flavors that offer unforgettable taste experiences - and ingredients that you would not expect to find in drinks. The whole thing is called mixology and is art and science at the same time.

Even the welcome drink at the hip, sophisticated BKK Social Club in Thailand's capital has it all - literally. Argentine vermouth, rosemary, chrysanthemum, citrus notes and carbonated water combine for an elegant aperitif. Cocktail culture in 2022 is so much more than mai tai, mojito or margarita. Creating and preparing drinks has become a science experimenting with innovative recipes and concepts.

"The sky is the limit - everything is possible," says Philip Bischoff, a master in the field of mixology. This is what bar art at the highest level means today. "But of course the classics are still part of it, and every bartender should be able to master them," says the native of Berlin, while mixing a so-called milonga, a gin and tonic variant he developed with Argentinian nuances. It shimmers bright red in the bulbous glass, the color of the tango.

Bischoff is already considered a legend among mixologists. He once reinvented the hotel bar Amano in Berlin-Mitte, later moving to the Manhattan Bar in Singapore, which has been one of the best in the world for years. There, the 41-year-old had more than 100 oak barrels at his disposal for his cocktails, the ingredients of which not only harmoniously combine during storage, but also get a smoky note from the wood. "Those were crazy years," remembers Bischoff.

Recently he has been stirring up Bangkok. The foodie metropolis on the Chao Phraya River is at the forefront of the global bar scene, along with other top Asian destinations, notably Singapore and Hong Kong. "16 of the 'World's 50 Best Bars' are now in Asia and have now also infected Bangkok with the mixology virus," says Munich-based Christoph Kiening, who designs concepts for hotels and bars worldwide and spends several months every year in the iconic Bangkok's bar scene. But if you ask experts about the global trendsetter in terms of mixology, they say with one voice: London. Connaught Bar, in fashionable Mayfair, made it to the top of the 2020 and 2021 list of the best bars in the world.

Meanwhile, the mixological wheel is turning at breathtaking speed around the world. "Bartenders play with expensive equipment these days," says Bischoff. Rotovaps, Sonicprep, Molecular Mixology - these are some of the avant-garde names of the machines and processes used to conjure up the perfect drink in the glass. It is extracted, re-distilled, centrifuged, carbonated and clarified. "The mixologist is increasingly becoming a chef," Christoph Kiening is convinced. It hasn't been enough for a long time, just spirits, syrups

This goes so far that in the famous Bamboo Bar in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, for example, the essence is extracted from stones. "Summit" is the name of the unusual drink. Gin, pastille, sage and granite are the ingredients. The cocktail is served with a frozen stone as an ice cube. The gin mixed with the stone extract tastes fresh, straightforward and less spicy than the mineral-free version. "None of this existed 20 years ago, also because the machines we have today didn't even exist," says head bartender Chanakan Thaoanon, who played a key role in developing the cocktails.

Essences of caviar, the wood of apple trees or jasmine rice are also processed and combined with aromas such as kaffir lime, coriander or coconut tea. Because the only limit is your imagination, many bartenders give their menus a theme. "Sending the guest on a journey" is what Philip Bischoff calls it - with mergers that surprise him. Thai ingredients and essences are the main components of the Bamboo Bar's seasonal cocktail menu entitled "Elements". The drinks are thematically divided into the five typical landscapes of Thailand, from the rainforest (wild honey, earthy mushroom coffee or tropical passion fruit are incorporated here) to islands (with Blue Curacao as the color of the sea, white almond sand or green seaweed).

Meanwhile, Bar Vesper in the chic Silom district - which is also on the list of the 50 best bars in Asia - has taken "Contrasts" as its theme. "Dirty - Clean" is the name of one of bar manager Federico Balzarini's creations, in which he mixes clear gin, fino sherry, lemon and passion fruit with black "charcoal", i.e. activated carbon. And where will the mixology wheel turn next? "There is still a lot of room for improvement, there are no limits for us bartenders," says Philip Bischoff. However, the trend is towards "designing lighter cocktails, such as vermouth-based drinks," says the German. Kirill Samoilenko, the new manager of the Bamboo Bar, sees it in a similar way. "Low ABV" is the buzzword, i.e. creations that do not contain alcohol entirely, but have significantly less alcohol. Because more and more guests wanted to live healthy, but still wanted a high-quality cocktail.

This will make the rounds in the vast mixology community. Because in the scene, everyone knows each other and exchanges ideas - and also likes to try the cocktails of the competition on the free evening. In any case, the international hunt for new ways of acquiring tastes and aromas is on.