If it Ain't One Thing, It's Another: Grant Achatz to F*@& with Your Whiskey"/>
A few days ago, I discussed the distressing news coming out of the Madrid Fusion conference in Spain: that Super Genius Ferran Adria was going to be closing his groundbreaking restaurant, El Bulli. But you know what they say about the food gods never closing a door without opening a window, right?
No, that's not Grant. That's his assistant, Nerdly the Magnificent.
On Monday, Eater.com got the cocktail-obsessed gastronauts of the world all a-twitter with news (coming via that most wild-eyed of all food publications, the Wall Street Journal) that Alinea chef and molecular wonderboy Grant Achatz had finally decided on what he was going to do for his second Chicago restaurant. The answer? He was going to open a bar.
Which is just brilliant because ... Wait a minute, what?
Said watering hole will be "a stand-alone bar and lounge where food will come second to drinks," according to Achatz (and Eater, and the WSJ) -- a place where he and his crew will be able to apply to boozing some of the serious, high-wire strangeness that, along with the price tag, is the hallmark of any dinner at Alinea. Foams, liquid nitrogen, dry ice, tapioca balls, reverse-sphericalization processes, carbonation guns -- it's all on the table now, all up for grabs. As an example, Achatz talked about his re-imagining of the classic Sazerac with bitters "pudding dots" and a whiskey gelee, all of it meant to be chewed like a gummy bear.
Believe it or not, I am not entirely opposed to this kind of thing. Partly opposed, yes, because I do have a classicist's streak in me and a terrible fondness for tried-and-true cocktails (like the Sazerac), well-made by a skilled craftsman. But as with so many seemingly ridiculously modern things, once I get past my Luddite reflex and urge to smash something with a pipe wrench, my geeky self -- the one with the fascination for newness and serious impulse-control issues -- starts asking, "Why not?"
Why not make chewable whiskey drinks? Why not freeze cubes of gin and serve them as the rocks in a glass of tonic water? Not long ago, I watched (along with a crowd of fascinated rummies) as a bartender in Denver filled an olive-oil mister with lemon-infused Everclear and used it to flame the top of a sugared cocktail in order to give it the scent of warm lemon and a taste of creme brulee. And then there was the time my buddy made me a bunch of whiskey balls, frozen in liquid nitrogen, and didn't warn me until after I'd sucked down a couple that they were about three ounces each...
I am all for the new, the weird and the groundbreaking. And personally, I think it's about time that a little science was utilized in order to find ways for me to get drunk faster or in a more amusing and delicious way. Next time I'm in Chicago, I will seriously consider checking Achatz's bar out.
But I'm not going anywhere near it without an old-fashioned hip flask full of Jameson in my jacket and the number for the nearest alcohol-treatment center on speed dial.