It’s certainly not the prettiest bar tool, nor does it allow for any showmanship on the part of the bartender behind it. But the rotary evaporator — a thousand-dollar laboratory contraption whose most striking element is a spinning glass flask — may prove to be a mixology mainstay. How it works, in a nutshell: A flask filled with liquid (in this case, a blend of alcohol, fruits, and vegetables) rotates within a small vat of warm water, causing the volatile components of the liquid in the flask to slowly evaporate up into a chamber that contains chilled coils (the temperature is aided by vacuum suction). The coils cool those volatile components back into a liquid, which then collects at the bottom of another flask. It’s essentially a small-scale, low-heat variation on what happens en masse at distilleries; what bartenders are left with is an alcoholic distillate on one side and a flavor-rich “honey” on the other. While the rotary evaporator is seeing increased use in kitchens, convoluted US laws regulating distillation have rendered it absent from bars stateside. No sweat for Ryan Chetiyawardana; fortunately for him, he’s based in Europe as the owner ofDandelyan, a bar at the Mondrian London. Curiosity about lesser-known innovations is what earned him his accolades — most notably, Tales of the Cocktail’s 2015 Bartender of the Year. “We really try to focus on the ingredients, and using them in a slightly unusual manner,” he says, while the spinning flask beside him grows foggy with condensation, humming softly. Mr. Lyan, as he calls himself, pays about as much mind to the setup as he does his star status; in his stylish button-up, he looks a little more like a doctoral candidate than a world-class bartender. But rather than mad science, for Chetiyawardana the purpose of the machine is the betterment of the drink; rotary evaporation provides a much cleaner reduction of taste than heat-driven methods. “You’re not cooking the flavors,” says Chetiyawardana. “It allows you to work with delicate vegetable notes like mint and celery, or you can get floral ingredients — if you try to do an infusion of rose and violets [using heat], it tastes really muddy and stewed, whereas if you do a mixture with this, it tastes like rose and violets.” It’s no embellishment to say the rotary evaporator helps to produce drinks that would otherwise be impossible to make. Right now the device is a bit of a curiosity. You could picture it at a booth in the 1939 World’s Fair, some delighted dame sipping the end result, not unlike the beginnings of the microwave oven. Revise some legislation, and it just may follow the same course. But of course, in the present day, if you’re not friends with any biochemists who can loan you their equipment, you’ll have to try and make due with what’s in your own kitchen. In this case, go with a cooked reduction for your gin sour, and opt for carbonated water for a traditional gin rickey.
THE WORLD’S BEST BARTENDER BRINGS TWO CLASSIC COCKTAILS INTO THE FUTURE
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