Curiouser And Curiouser: A pop-up cocktail fun house from Hendrick’s gin

22 Jan

There’s nothing I love more than a good gin, so I jumped at the opportunity to attend one of the “Fireside Chats at the Enchanted Forest of Curiosities,” a week-long series of events hosted by Hendrick’s gin in the East Village’s Gallery 151 space. The night, co-sponsored by Eater NY, featured cocktails created by two mixologists/mad scientists from the French Culinary Institute. The place was magical indeed.

Colorful laser lights spun in the fog machine-produced mist, simulating an aura of fairy dust throughout the room. It cast everyone under a spell, and the free booze enhanced that illusion. Faux trees covered in moss, stumps for seats and a “photo booth” hideaway in one of the trunks definitely added to the Alice in Wonderland-type ambiance. There was even a wishing well.

The only thing I wished for was a drink. Fortunately, the well contained the light and refreshing Boxing Day Punch, comprising Hendrick’s, Yellow Chartreuse, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, green tea, lemon juice, soda water and something called oleo saccharum, which means “sweet oil” in Latin, made by muddling lemon peel and sugar. Apparently, it’s a classic punch ingredient.

Then it was on to the curious cocktail slinger—actor and circus performer Joshua Koehn—who was trapped in a piano playfully dubbed the “pianocktail.”

He served up the Agent 99, a pre-mixed concoction of Hendrick’s, Solerno blood orange liqueur and Peychaud’s bitters, from an oversized Hendrick’s bottle. It tasted like a melted orange lollipop.

The stars of the event—the French Culinary Institute’s Dave Arnold (left) and Nils Noren (right)—enjoyed their creations: the Banana’s Justino blended Hendrick’s, Dolan vermouth and centrifuge-clarified banana juice (more on that later), garnished with a fortune cookie, and the Gin Glögg combined Hendrick’s, red and Port wines, spices and sprigs of rosemary.

In addition to the plethora of beverages, the event featured passed hors d’oeuvres, such as mini caramel-covered apples, which were a tad tricky to eat, especially after one has had a few cocktails.

The bar, also hidden in a tree, offered a number of libations, all garnished with cucumber, which is one of the main botanicals in Hendrick’s gin. The Hendrick’s & Tonic mixed the eponymous ingredients and orange bitters; the Hendrick’s Martini combined gin and Lillet Blanc; and the Snow Miser’s Cooler blended Hendrick’s, St-Germain, fresh lime juice, mint, simple syrup, soda water and lavender spice bitters. The last drink was my favorite of the night, and the lovely Ivy Mix, who tends bar at Fort Defiance in Red Hook and Lani Kai in Soho, kept them coming all night long.

After about an hour, Dave and Nils—who’ve appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon—took the stage to discuss and demonstrate their innovative mixology techniques.

Dave heated the glögg with an electric rod, and the flames leaped up into the hanging moss, which he assured us had been treated with fire retardant.

Next, the cocktail chemists pulled out the liquid nitrogen.

They used the liquid nitrogen to cool the gin, which would be mixed with clarified grapefruit juice and then carbonated to make a grapefruit soda cocktail.

Nils and Dave had clarified the juice back at the lab by spinning it in a centrifuge at 4,000 times the force of gravity to separate the solids from the liquid, leaving a gelatinous mass of pulp behind.

For the grapefruit soda cocktail, Dave first poured the liquid nitrogen-and-gin concoction into a soda bottle.

Then Nils added the clarified grapefruit juice.

Finally, the mixture was carbonated.

I raised my glass for a taste of the gin-spiked grapefruit soda. Too bad you can’t get that at the grocery store! The evening ended with a performance by a rag time-style songstress, appropriate for the vintage vibe of Hendrick’s gin.

© Amber Drea and New York Drinkie, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of images and text without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts may be used, provided that clear credit is given to Amber Drea and New York Drinkie with links directing to the original content.

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