In a small lab located in the East Side of London, in the same room where Pink Floyd recorded their legendary album ‘The Wall’, the next generation of cocktails are feverishly being explored. Walking in to Tony Conigliaro’s Drink Factory, you might think you’ve mistakenly stumbled into a medical lab. A large centrifuge is surrounded by rotavapors, induction burners and other gear not traditionally associated with cocktails and drinking.
While many bartenders spend time arguing over how classic cocktails should be ‘correctly’ prepared, Tony Conigliaro and company are working on exploring the science of flavor and taste. “We wanted to understand what flavors were the building blocks of drinks and figure out how to assemble them in a way that captures the essence of those flavors while improving the drink”, explains Marcis Dzedelanis.
The first drink out of the lab exemplifies this: a dirty martini with a briny olive juice created by putting crushed olives in a centrifuge and pulling out the essence of the olive flavors. The resulting drink has explosively fresh flavors while still managing to maintain the balance of a martini.
Everything in the lab is painstakingly measured to create incredibly precise drinks. Marcis demonstrates a measuring device that precisely measures liquid down to 10 microns, and on some drinks the oils are expressed on the top of the drink with needle-shaped droppers that you’d expect to be used when combining very volatile elements.
The Drink Factory isn’t just focused on recreating or improving classic cocktails. The majority of their efforts involve exploring new flavor combinations and drinks which could very well become the foundation for our generation’s new classic cocktails.
One drink, The Rhubarb Gimlet, is made with gin and a rhubarb cordial, created by centrifuging fresh rhubarb and combining it with sugar and citric acid, and then combined with a zest of grapefruit, exemplifies how complex preparation can result in an amazingly simple and elegant cocktail.
Many of the classic cocktails come from bartenders using the ingredients and tools of their time. The next generation of classics may very well be born in a lab like the Drink Factory, using cutting edge tools to isolate, extract and combine ingredients in a way we’ve yet to experience. Tony Conigliaro and company are true pioneers in this space, looking ahead at the future of cocktails when so many of their colleagues are looking back.