Though the middle of an economic pinch may not seem like the

Though the middle of an economic pinch may not seem like the best time to undergo an overhaul, Canlis is about to complete a relatively drastic change in how they create their revered cocktails. The bar is currently being transformed to incorporate a new culinary element, which simply means everything added to your mind-altering beverage will be made or augmented in-house–garnishes, bitters and even some flavor-infused liquors. And just about everything behind the scenes is changing, too.In short, bartender James McWillians had some big ideas for the remodel, but the only change visible to patrons will be the amount of prep space available, where the bartenders will make some of the garnishes.”In discussing this, we wanted to make sure we didn’t change the overall feel of the bar,” McWillians says. “It’s a classic stone look that fits well with the lounge, so the idea was to find a way to draw a new, younger clientele without alienating our regulars.””We have a new chef coming in, and this seemed right for the bar,” he adds.Room for a reduction burner and a pot will allow guests to watch as McWilliams creates his drinks. Other adornments, however, will require more planning. “I’ve already ordered some elderflower seeds from Switzerland, and I plan to make elderflower water,” McWillians says. “But [that’s] just the beginning. There are a lot of fresh herbs that I just don’t have access to, so to get them I’m going to have to grow them. I’m starting them in some of the Canlis family’s yards, and I have a little bit of space on the restaurant grounds. The rest of the seeds I’m taking up to the mountains somewhere–they grow better in high altitudes–and we’ll harvest them there.” Canlis has also doubled its refrigerator space, where McWillians plans to experiment with brining olives, and newly-remodeled storage space will accommodate an ice crusher that will make several types of ice. In the new freezer, a Cryopak vacuum-seal system will keep house-made macerated cherries fresh. Furthermore, McWillians has contacted whiskey, scotch and gin distillers, and those spirits will feature distilled ice from water used at the source. Finally, the bar will make use of fresh botanicals, employing “lab equipment” to separate essential oils from water in the flowers.Some projects are near completion, while others may take a year to prepare. But McWillians thinks everything should be just as he’d like it by the summertime.


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