As The Bar Stock Exchange introduces a molecular cocktail menu at their latest outpost this weekend, Krutika Behrawala goes behind the bar for a crash course about the world of cocktails, caviar spheres, candy floss and smoke guns
When we step into The Bar Stock Exchange’s newest outpost on Bandra’s bustling Linking Road, it feels as if we’ve ventured into a chemistry lab, minus lab coats and protective glares. Apart from measuring cups, shakers, wine openers and strainers, the apparatus also includes a candy floss machine that spins threads of the sweet confection, a smoke gun, a foam machine as well as a syringe.
All of these will help the scientists (read: bartenders) concoct molecular cocktails that will be served this weekend onwards, as part of the bar’s new drinks menu. “Molecular cocktails are about eating your drinks,” shares bartender Owais Shaikh, who has been roped in specially to teach these cocktails to the branch’s senior bartender, Vicky Rizwani. To know what the fuss about molecular cocktails is, we try to make three molecular cocktails — Mojito Spheres, Screw Driver Caviar, Smoke Cocktail and the innovative Raspberry Reggae ('350 each, exclusive of taxes).
Screw Driver Caviar
Remember those bulb-like organisms that you’d peer at through a microscope during school lab sessions? The Mojito Sphere comes close. It’s a mojito (white rum, lime juice sugar syrup, soda and sprite) that transforms into a sphere when poured into a semi-solid mixture of alginic acid and water. “Algin is a thickening agent and the mixture is known as a bath. When you are blending the mixture, ensure it is without any bubbles,” advises Shaikh. Using a ketchup squeezer, we pour the mojito into a spoon, add a mint leaf and delicately drop it into the bath. Within 30 seconds, it contracts into a semi-solid bubble. Wowed, we transfer this bubble into a bowl of water, scared that it might burst. It doesn’t. “Algin keeps it together. Since it is a chemical, we need to wash the sphere in water,” he adds. The sphere pops in our mouth and we’re greeted with a burst of flavours. We receive a thumbs-up from our bartender.
Scooping Mojito Sphere out of the bath
Next, we try the Screw Driver Caviar that involves using a scary-looking syringe. “The syringe includes 60 ml of vodka, a little water and orange juice,” informs Shaikh, who lightly presses it and drops tiny beads of caviar into the bath. We try to imitate but struggle, as our formations are more oblong drops than little bubbles. “You should put very little pressure on the syringe,” he cautions. We give it another go, and lo! They appear like perfect caviar that are poured into a shot glass, topped with orange juice and downed with a little jig in our head — we made caviar!
Senior bartender Vicky Rizwani shows the writer how to make Raspberry Reggae. Pics/Shadab khan
Grinning, we face our next challenge until we realise that we need to light up a smoke gun for the Smoke Cocktail. “People like to smoke a cigar with their single malts. The smokes give the same effect,” shares Shaikh. In a shaker, we add ice cubes, whiskey, lime juice and sugar syrup. Patiently, Shaikh tells us how to hold the shaker — horizontally, with both hands covering it. Gathering strength, we give the drink a vehement shake, wondering how bartenders make it look so easy. Once the drink is poured into a glass, Shaikh shows us how to smoke it up. He adds wooden chips in a hole of the gun-like machine with a long pipe going into the glass. We cover it with a tissue and light up the wood chips. Soon, we can see the smoke emanating and quickly remove the pipe. “It shouldn’t get too smoky, else you’ll lose the flavour,” says Shaikh, who tastes our drink and declares, “It’s perfect.”
Do the reggae
Now, Rizwani takes over and lays out several ingredients — vodka, cranberry juice, passion fruit syrup, lime juice, candy floss, ice cubes and even raspberry ice cream candy. We might as well be whipping up a dessert. In trance-like fashion, he makes the drink. Following his rhythm, we add ice cubes to the shaker, pour in the other juices and shake them well. In a glass, we add candy floss, ice cream candy and pour our drink on top of it. As the candy floss and the ice cream candy melts, a shocking pink hue descends into our drink and we actually hear a kid (one of the staff’s, since we are there during non-working hours) clap, awed by the magic of it all. And we realise, we are too.
Time: 6 pm to 1.30 am
At: The Bar Stock Exchange, Kenilworth Building, off Linking Road, Bandra (W).
Know the apparatus
>> Bath: A mixture of algin and water used as thickening agent for spherification in cocktails.
>> Smoking gun: A gun-like apparatus used to add smoke effect to molecular cocktails with help of wooden chips and lighter. You can also add cinnamon to create flavoured smoke.
>> Foam machine: Used to add alcohol foam.
>> Connect with guests. Make them comfortable at the bar.
>> Understand their preferences.
>> Use your hands deftly so that you don’t go overboard with the quantity of alcohol.
>> Even if the guest is drunk or has a problem with the drink, keep calm.
>> Stay hydrated, as you need to stand for long hours.
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