Shaking, stirring, rolling, and throwing: once you’ve mastered the basics of cocktail-making, try your hand at some of these advanced bartending techniques.
Are you ready to move up a level in your bartending experiments? If you’ve perfected the art of the stirred-down serve, have crafted your own infusions and distillates, and know your way around the classics, then it’s time to move on to these advanced bartending techniques. From molecular mixology flourishes to tools borrowed from chemistry labs, here are five creative, high-tech approaches that will change the way you mix your drinks.
Ever since Don Lee first created the bacon-infused Benton’s Old Fashioned at PDT over a decade ago, fat-washing has become a popular bartending trick. The process is a relatively simple one: heat up the bacon fat (or coconut oil, or butter, or other fat-led flavouring agent of choice) until it’s liquefied, add to your spirit, infuse for several hours before freezing, and finally strain the mixture through a cheese cloth. Your spirit will pour clear, but will be beguilingly perfumed with whatever you’ve infused it with.
Previously a favourite technique of avant-garde chefs, spherification lets you create “caviar” garnishes from spirits and juices.
Molecular gastronomy-inclined chefs have long experimented with spherification. The process sounds futuristic, but it is actually quite simple, and works with drinks as well as food. The basic premise: mix your liquid of choice with sodium alginate—which is derived from seaweed—and add it to a water bath infused with calcium chloride (don’t be put off by the scientific jargon; both are easily purchased online, and simple to work with). Let it sit for a minute or two, and gently remove—and voila: you’ll have your own boozy or fruity “caviar” with which to garnish your serves.
Making delicious ginfusions is as simple as adding berries, spices, tea, or other ingredients to your bottle of Sipsmith London Dry Gin and waiting for a few days. But for the moments when time is of the essence, an iSi Cream Whipper can have you mixing with custom-made infusions in mere minutes. The canister uses cartridges of N20 to, as its name suggests, make instant whipped cream, but it’s also perfect for making flavoured spirits. From fresh basil leaves and citrus zest to spicy chillies or vanilla beans, flash-infusing means you’ll never have to put your creativity on hold.
Rotary Evaporator Distilling
From the chem lab to the cocktail bar: rotary evaporators are becoming a fast favourite of experimental bartenders.
This technique may be out of reach for all but professional bartenders with sizeable budgets (or truly devoted at-home mixologists), but a rotary evaporator is fast becoming essential bar kit, thanks to pioneering types like Tony Conigliaro. Also affectionately known as “rotovaps,” rotary evaporators are commonly found in chemistry laboratories, and are used for the removal of solvents from solutions. But for bartenders, they also provide a way to craft homemade distillations on a small scale, concentrate flavours, and infuse delicate ingredients at low temperatures.
Sous Vide Barrel Ageing
Don’t have the wherewithal—or space—to adopt a barrel of your own? Never fear. One of our favourite advanced bartending techniques is also a mightily clever hack. To make “barrel-aged” cocktails at home (Negronis are an excellent candidate), all you need is a sous vide machine, tight-sealing glass jars, your pre-mixed cocktail of choice, and smoking wood chips. Combine your cocktail ingredients and wood chips in the jars, submerge in the sous vide’s circulating water bath, and heat gently for several hours. You’ll end up with cocktails of remarkable nuance and complexity—in almost no time at all.