19 October 2011
Ferran Adria Interviewed by Tony Conigliaro in 2006.
This interview was published in Class magazine in April 2008 however the interview was actually conducted in July 2006 as no body wanted to publish it as it was to cocktail related and everybody wanted Ferran food articles until Tom Sandham editor of class saw it... So a big thanks to Tom for that!!
Tony: How did cocktails start at Elbulli? What was the timeline of how they evolved?
Ferran: At El bulli we used to watch the old technicolur Hawaiian based movies . Films with Elvis in them. Which had people drinking cocktails. Also they were in hotels of 4 stars and above who would give cocktails as a welcome in the evening. We felt that this part of the welcome was missing in high gastronomy. This was all happening 93/94 when we started experimenting with the snacks. The solid snacks were where it began. We then started along the lines of:
3. espumas (foams)
The third part was the liquid with the foam on top.
If it wasn’t for the foam we would not have started delving into the cocktails. As it opened the arena of cocktails for us.
The first cocktails where the passion whisky sour and the pina colada. These first cocktails took the cocktail making away from the bartender to the chef. Thus applying a different skill set to cocktails.
There were pros and cons of taking the job away from the barman 1: that chefs think outside of the cocktail box.
2.The cocktail/barman box is outside of the chef box.
So what you have in fact here is a chef cocktail.
Even though I am a big fan of what they do in the Barcelona cocktail bars. The style of cocktails at El bulli are not practical to do in a cocktelaria.
Tony: Where did the inspiration for the hot and cold drinks come from?
Ferran: It was a natural progression because cocktails where now in the kitchen. This lead to the separation from the classic cocktail in that they could be consumed with a spoon. Something which was unthinkable before. It also made them special in a different way.
Tony: Do you see a major difference in liquid as a flavour conduit than the solid of food?
Ferran: Look at it this way. What happens when you have a cocktail? It becomes an acupuncture of the senses..
We worked on the visual, temperature and the texture. We did not want to invent new cocktails as such. We played with these three premises, very few times have we deviated from the classics.
Tony: Was there no temptation to?
Ferran: No, because there are a lot of professionals doing that and we would bring nothing new to those combinations.We have invented no new combinations, we felt we could be more influentional in those areas I specified,by changing the design.
I was in a bar in London and they where doing this, but we don’t want to do what those people are doing. The things we look at are the limits The empty glass being the extreme!
Our job is to ask the why of things. A cocktail without alcohol is it a cocktail, or a mix of fruits or just a mix, If you ask yourself questions everyday, the answers change.I change my mind everyday. Haha!
Tony: Do you think that the chemistry of alcohol and the chemistry of food create emotions which can vary because of the alcohol?
Ferran: We are now talking about subjectivity. The difference of reaction in subjectivity. I can speak for myself but I cannot speak for others. Everybody has there own tastes there are 365 days in the year this is a opportunity to taste 365 different cocktails. There are no restrictions.
Tony: What kind of cocktails do you like?
Ferran: I don’t like strong strong cockatils not like the dry martini the ones that bomb you.
Things like the caiparinia, the sangria. Things that are lighter in tone.
After 7yrs of evolution we got quite close to the limits then we brought out the spray.Which is a dry martini in a spray, in a perfume bottle. We were asked to do this with comme de garcons which is made by puig in Barcelona..
(I am now shown a comme des garcons bottle which is filled with a martini mix)
Look this has been in the bottle for 1yr, 1yr and a half and it is still good.
There were two things with this invention that we wanted to say (everything we do has a reason we do nothing without a reason)
1. It applies flavour directly to your taste buds, it covers all of your mouth with those flavours, by changing the form you change the experience. It obliges you to chew like you would wine. Unlike the martini which is very cold. It goes back to taste. It appreciates the need to drink to quench thirst. It is a quick hit.
2. The second reason is that it opens possibilities it is more fashion, it is more London, not Cala Monteja. In London it has more applications to sell. It exposes possibilities opens barriers. We look it as chefs not as bartenders but we want to start the communication.
Tony: What has it been like to meet some of the people you have met through your fame?
Ferran: Fame its not about fame or famous people. I am interested in meeting the guy in the bar down the road. This is more important than meeting mick jagger.
But the benefits are that it opens up a world of ingredients and professionals. To meet good people.
Tony: The work you did in the bar in Barcelona can you talk about that?
Ferran: We used different points of referance drinking as drinking, selling cocktails as business things were much simpler.
Tony: There is a fun side to your work. A sense of humour to your food/ cocktails?
Ferran: Nothing is serious apart from love. Love and death. I am not interested in anything serious with no shade of fun. Like everything its quality things can be bad or good. Comics can be bad. You can have bad humour or you can have good humour.
But we do nothing without reflection. We just do not ‘do’ with no reflection. We do not move on without having reflected on what has happened. No superficiality.
Tony: What is your drink of choice at the end of a day?
Ferran: A gin and tonic.