Tony Conigliaro: The Bartender with a Lab Coat

Something I want to learn is to mix good (or just decent, to start) cocktails. In “The Bartender with a Lab Coat,” The New York Times profiles Tony Conigliaro and his skills in concocting signature cocktails:

It is here that he, along with a team of four technicians and a revolving door of mixology interns, works his alchemy, mixing herbs and spices, perfumes and flavors, fruits and vegetables and even tree bark and rocks.

Concocting one of his signature cocktails is a process that requires not just a sophisticated palate but also patience. It is not abnormal for a recipe to take him up to two years to release, as the ingredients must be replicable to his standards before it goes to any of his three London locations (he also has a bar at the Zetter Townhouse and is responsible for all cocktails served at a new restaurant, the Grain Store).

“I like to tell a story through flavors and creating bespoke ingredients,” he said, describing how he reinvented the Prairie Oyster, a concoction Sally Bowles, Liza Minnelli’s character in the film “Cabaret,” consumed every morning.

Another drink, the Rose, came from a perfume project in which Mr. Conigliaro wanted to “recreate the experience of sipping a glass of Champagne while walking in an English summer garden.” The drink’s secret is a sugar cube containing rose essence; the cube reacts with the Champagne bubbles, propelling the aroma through the cocktail.

Mr. Conigliaro recently released a book titled The Cocktail Lab on this art/craft, and The Times summarizes:

Highly produced with colorful photos of enticing-sounding drinks with names like Blush, Luna, Oh Gosh and the Wink, the book also offers classic cocktails with a twist, from a white truffle martini to a marshmallow milkshake. But some recipes require more time than talent (a Vintage Manhattan mixture has to age for a minimum of six months in a cool, dark place) while others seem strictly for professionals — the famous Prairie Oyster being one example, as making it requires a centrifuge, a half-sphere silicone mold, some vege-gel, orange food dye and soy lecithin.

I’ve placed The Cocktail Lab: Unraveling the Mysteries of Flavor and Aroma in Drink, with Recipes on my to-read list for 2013.

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