01 February 2012

Dave Arnold opens Booker and Dax

The Red Hot Poker John Mahonney

Our friend Mr Dave Arnold has finally branched out and set up his own cocktail bar, Booker and Dax. Situated at the rear of David Changs Momofuku Ssam Bar, this could spell the beginning of a new generation of progressive cocktail bar, built from scratch, with the sole purpose of catering for "scientific'y" cocktails. More importantly, though, it's the idea that the cocktails are prepped hours or days in advance so the evenings service is just as quick and fluid as a normal bar's would be.

The bar is home to such gadgetry as liquid nitrogen, centrifuge a downstairs laboratory and a homemade red hot poker, that sits at a comfortable 1500F in it's holster behind the bar.

Most impressively, the bar has resisted the urge of technique and show for the sake of "ooh and ahh" factor. The methods are used with the sole intention of making the drink more delicious and more efficient. It is rare to, and only on occasion will you see head high flames or wisps of smoke and fog rising from behind the bar to offer entertainment to the waiting customer. Interestingly the drinks list is broken down by way of technique. For instance there is a section titles "Hot Poker" and "Carbonated".

Dave offered an insight into two of the techniques, to magazine Popsci, which are being used behind the bar. The first is a clarification and carbonation of a simple Gin and Juice. Grapefruit juice is freshly squeezed and then clarified using pectinase enzyme and a pair of clearing agents chitosan and kleselsol, often used in the wine industry. The mixture is then spun in a centrifuge resulting in a pasty texture separating
from the juice and leaving by a slightly tinted liquid that can be filtered through a super bag to seperate from any remaining pulp.

To this they add water, sugar and alcohol which is then bottled, carbonated and chilled. When served, the glass is cooled to below zero using a splash of liquid nitrogen that is swirled around the glass and left to evaporate.

The hot poker technique has been around for hundreds of years, although it was very crude and often left an undesirable after taste. Today we most often turn to hot water, which has the unwanted side effects of diluting and not adding any flavour to the drink to create Hot Toddy's or Irish Coffee's.

Dave has built his own "holster" to house his poker and keep it safe behind the bar. As well as heating, the poker also caramelizes sugars, ignites the alcohol vapours adding to and augmenting the flavour of the drink to stimulate your sense of smell as well as taste.

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