Street: What’s the relationship between the work you’re doing here at the bar and what’s going on upstairs?
Bradford Lawrence: We work closely with Chef Bogle, and I make sure that his vision of the experience upstairs translates down here, for the drinks as well as the food. There are some food elements and approaches that I use to elevate the cocktail experience, everything from agar–agar to xanthan gum to liquid nitrogen. It’s a way to try and get the cocktail to the next level, while still being rooted in a classical backbone for cocktail making. We don’t want the technical side to take over and alienate our guests, or deconstruct things beyond recognition.
Street: Do you work together on developing the flavor profiles of the cocktails?
BL: All the time. I’ll brainstorm with chef and the sous, because I really trust their palates. When you’re in the bar community you can sometimes get tunnel vision of how drinks are perceived. So it’s great to get feedback on flavors from them because of how talented they are and how developed their palates are. And one of the reasons I love working here is that, because of how committed they are to only the best ingredients, I get to work with a real painter’s pallet of flavors.
Street: Tell us about one of the drinks you prepare with liquid nitrogen.
BL: Sure, this is the Panda at the Disco. It’s a combination of mint, vodka made with an Asian citrus called Buddha Hand, fresh squeezed lemon juice and a house made orgeat syrup, which is almond based. I use the liquid nitro for a couple of reasons. It ends up getting the glass really cold, so the stem will be room temperature, but the coupe gets colder than ice cold. And when I flash freeze the mint, I’m able to increase surface area, and when I muddle the frozen leaves they turn to powder, so you get a better flavor extraction and a better color extraction. Normally if you over muddle mint it gets kind of brown and the flavor gets murkier. The liquid nitro lets me get around that. It’s also a lot of fun to play with.
Street: Is there a cocktail on the menu now that uses any other molecular gastronomy techniques?
BL: I have this cocktail called Toe to Toe, I’ve had it in my book for a long time. It’s tequila, mezcal, broiled lemon juice, ginger syrup and fresh carrot juice. At first the carrot juice was separating from the rest of the cocktail, but by using a few little cooking techniques we fixed it. We press the carrots with a really good juicer, cook it down a bit and then add a bit of xanthan gum. That stabilizes everything and prevents it from breaking up. So we can get this really brilliant orange drink that stays the same consistency.
Street: What other techniques are you trying out?
BL: Now, in addition to making cocktails a la minute (prepared to order), I’m starting to play with barrel aging and batch cocktails.
Street: Have you started serving any batch cocktails yet?
BL: I do something called the Ten Bells, which I actually keep off menu. It’s Booker’s bourbon, Buffalo Trace, Antica Formula vermouth, campari and amontillado sherry, so it’s kind of similar to a boulevardier, but the ratios are changed. I take all that and put it all together and let it rest over Japanese charcoal. The Japanese charcoal is very dense, so it really lets it mellow and marry the flavors together. I then finish it with a gunpowder tea tincture. I take the tea and mix it with high alcohol, 190 proof, and I sous vide it (a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath), so it cooks it down, then I add it in. You get some of that tea nose, followed by the bittersweet bourbon.
Street: When I came in, I saw James working with a smoke gun and a flask off in the corner. That looked awesome.
BL: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s something else we’re working on, but it’s in its beta form. We chill vodka cocchi Americano, vermouth and amontillado sherry, then we light up this smoke gun—which is loaded with cherrywood chips—and pump the beaker full of smoke. Then we pour in the liquor, swish it around and let the smoke infuse the drink. So you get this really full, smoky flavor.
1523 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19102