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Aviary Cocktail Videos


Holly Moore
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i know the aviary concept is a work in progress but the projects depicted in the videos didn't seem that interesting to me. to me their whole style of art is pretty low brow.

their contribution to mixology seems to be basically exploring really simple avenues of expectation/anticipation and the potential of deconstructing traditionally homogeneous drinks into the inhomogeneous. whether its been done before or not its just not that powerful.

the problem is that their area of exploration that i've seen so far is not where the majority of the emotional content of a drink lies. emotional content being the shape of your like or dislike.

most people really seem to get the majority of their pleasure from elements of gustation. acid, sugar, and alcohol. cheap and easy yet hard to find enough people that understand it well enough.

the pinnacle (and its pretty high brow requiring a investment like enjoying opera) is when you can integrate aroma. wielding tonality and juxtaposition. thats when harmony gets interesting and subversive things start popping up. not easy to do and not easy to find a market for. but thats where the most profound art lies.

all this texture stuff gets the press because its low brow and easy to understand not like all the people here discovering the joys of dry sherry in cocktails. americans seem to identify more with science than art because most of this culinary science is general knowledge while most of this culinary "art" requires a bit of specialization and experience. mixologists always seem to be seen as mad scientists and not rembrandts or wassily kandinskys. a shame because i bet most people aim to be rembrandt.

i keep seeing too much of culinary art happening in an artistic vacuum and not being integrated into art in general. no great writing survives but i have a feeling based on their output, the bartenders of the early 20th century were highly integrated into the general arts scene. they probably had a better understanding of the spiritual value created by uniting relationships with empathy.

i'd love to see this cocktail thing go in a direction where mixologists start making bigger contributions that even leave the discipline every now and then. at the least mixology could take the lead in culinary art theory and build a better understanding of the flavor concept.

mixologists could create the creative linkage theory that builds the better american gin. they could teach perfumers more about aromatic tension & symbolism because they understand it better. and mixologists could create the language that the next generation of sommeliers use to differentiate and interpret wine. they could teach wine makers more about abstracting wine.

i wish i had my own bar and a bigger budget in a denser city.

abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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"their contribution to mixology seems to be basically exploring really simple avenues of expectation/anticipation and the potential of deconstructing traditionally homogeneous drinks into the inhomogeneous. whether its been done before or not its just not that powerful."

That's a good way of putting it.

I have a lot of hope that they will pull off some very cool stuff given the track record of Alinea, but so far what I've seen doesn't seem that compelling.

The videos are a savvy way to generate buzz for the bar so it will be interesting if they track a progression from early clumsy experiments like these to genuine culinary art.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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In any event I'd suggest that if preparing the old fashion at the bar, in front of the guest, improves the quality of the drink, that is the way it should be done. If there is no discernible difference in quality, then it is simply exchanging one approach to showmanship for another.

Questions I regularly ask at my bar: "How would you like your Old Fashioned? Do you prefer a lighter, wheated bourbon or something with a more pronounced rye character? Sweeter or drier? Standard Fee's or Angostura bitters, or would you like to try one of the orange bitters? Standard or improved?" Etc.

Statement at Aviary: "Here's your Old Fashioned" -- which really means "Our Old Fashioned."

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but my answer would be to give me your best old fashioned. What you suggest would be akin to a chef inquiring

whether I wanted white or green shrimp in my scampi, should he prepare it with butter or olive oil, should the garlic be minced or diced or would I prefer he used a shallot? Some people will appreciate an old fashioned crafted to minute specifications, others simply want the bartender's best effort. I suspect that is what Aviary will be offering.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I've been fortunate enough to have had many molecular "cocktails" in the past -- Achatz's mist sprays, Adria's hot/cold Gin Fizz, Blumenthal's G&T nitorgen puffs, Andres' cotton candy Mojito -- and being a classic cocktail devote, I'll say this: they're all damn fine entertainment, but they'll never replace a real drink for me. I do trust Achatz to get the flavors right -- the man's a genius when it comes to that. He never seems to let the whimsy overtake the dining experience.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Grant Achatz quoted in the Village Voice Blogs Grant Achatz: Why Settle for Liquid Cocktails?

"We had the idea that cocktails were kind of stagnant. The trend in mixology, of course, is the speakeasy, and you have the bartender with the shirt stays and the vest. In the cocktail world, they've been looking to the past, back to the '30s. And we said, Hey, we can look to the future. We're starting with one simple question -- What is a cocktail? -- and ripping it apart and putting it back together. Does a cocktail have to be liquid? No. It doesn't. Really the only rule for a cocktail in my mind is that it has to have an alcoholic component. Other than that it can be anything. It can be a solid, a semi-solid, it can be a liquid. It can be frozen, it can be hot. It can be both."

So weird that he is saying cocktails are stagnant. I mean, I feel like bartenders and other drink makers are currently doing some awfully cool things with cocktails and mixed drinks. Having lived through cocktails in the 1980s, it seems kind of odd to say they are stagnant now.

Not just that, but it seems like he is talking from a perspective of a person which is fairly uninformed about the history of prepared alcoholic beverages.

Leaving aside the fact that he is ignoring the work of contemporary drink makers who have been experimenting with culinary or "molecular" techniques, there are recipes for solid drinks and all sorts of other wacky things from the 19th century and before. Ooo, a hot drink. How about a Toddy? Ooo, a hot and Cold Drink, maybe Irish Coffee, fer cripes sake.

Sure, you can do an alcoholic version of the Fat Duck's Hot and Cold Tea, where different jells allow a hot and cold beverage to be served in the same glass without combining, but is that looking to the future? Or is it just a novelty?

Chef Achatz certainly has grabbed our attention, it will be interesting to see the follow through, if he can live up to all the expectations that he is setting himself up for.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Grant is a chef, one of the best, but he's not a cocktail expert or even a bartender. He's awful good at getting press, though. And, he's bringing a ton of enthusiasm and a powerful brand to this concept. That said, there are a lot more knowledgeable folks involved, who (even if they'd never say it) probably had the same reaction as you to that piece, Erik.

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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Hmmm. I realize and freely admit that I'm a cocktail novice but I'm not nearly as offended by these videos as some seem to be. I'm not saying that's a good thing, maybe if I were more experienced in this area I would or should be. I didn't get that feeling of smugness. To me it came across more as "There's a reason people don't do this, are you sure we want to?". Maybe I just haven't been interested in this subject long enough to draw my personal boundaries between what is a cocktail and what isn't. To me the pudding was less silly than the ice egg. The technique with the pudding led to a specific end result that they were looking for, the ice egg was just a showy way to ice the drink. Yes, the encapsulation is on the "it's been done" list but it's still a valid flavor delivery system for those more interested in achieving a result than worrying over whether a technique is still cool or not. Would it be less offensive if they had simply infused tapioca with cucumber syrup like a more traditional bubble tea instead of using encapsulations?

Disclaimer: I'm not shooting down anyone's opinions. I genuinely respect the knowledge of the cocktail experts and enthusiasts here. I'm just enjoying the debate and adding my thoughts on the subject.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Erik,

The hot and cold tea at Fat Duck is a damn fine parlor trick -- one I have not forgotten several years on, which is more than I can say for the Fat Duck on the whole. But yes, it's a fad. The best uses of food science I've seen are when it's incorporated in little ways to compliment a traditional dish. I think Achatz's Old Fashioned, as demonstrated, accomplishes this -- if it's a good drink, the trick doesn't seem to be getting in the way.

One thing I've wondered for a while now is if the average top chef can make a better drink than a top bartender. Is there more experience with flavors and techniques? Do they understand the application of energy and heat better? I'm not saying they do, and of course there are shining examples for both sides. Just a ponder.

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Well, it's not like I'm against bar and food parlor tricks, whether it is flaming an orange zest, or even small magic.

I do wonder how the elaborate theatrical, and rather sober, presentations of a place like Alinea can be translated to a bar.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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[...]

One thing I've wondered for a while now is if the average top chef can make a better drink than a top bartender. Is there more experience with flavors and techniques? Do they understand the application of energy and heat better? I'm not saying they do, and of course there are shining examples for both sides. Just a ponder.

While I know quite a few people who have transitioned from careers in the kitchen to successful careers behind the bar, I can't think of any "top chefs" who have really taken the time to master bar recipes and culture while maintaining their kitchen careers.

Generally, I think being a successful chef is demanding enough, better to delegate the business of running the bar and crafting cocktails to those with the appropriate skills, training, and background.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Aviary is part of Next, Achatz's new restaurant, which is apparently much less formal than Alinea ($40-$70 for prix fixe), so that might help. It also might hurt. Generally, the person who makes the effort to go to places like Alinea, Fat Duck , or El Bulli is a pilgrim of sort -- they know what to expect and they are into the whole experience.

I live in Los Angeles, and when I've been to popular places like the bar at the SLS hotel that try to bring the same concept to the general public, it can be something of an epic fail. People don't get it, they don't want to get it, they just want a drink and the number of the hot guy/girl down the bar. Of course, that's LA.

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I think it's important for everybody to keep in mind that the Progressive movement is still, 10 years later, extremely young. There is going to be more failures than successes, almost by design. More excesses than home runs, for sure. These are people who are doing something quite creative and new, whether they invented it or not. Who knows how it will be taken? A person's enthusiasm can easily be taken as arrogance- it happens all the time.

Will any of this stop people from trying? The short answer is no- we all do what we love, and if the progrssive style makes these people happy, they will find the other people whom it makes happy, as well.

Look at the Tippling Club- still doing it, still happy at it and are going nowhere.

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I am really excited to see what these guys are going to do. These are really bright guys, with phenomenal sense of flavor, exceptional technique and are looking at cocktails from a very different angle. This combination is not going to hurt the cocktail world in any way.

I am saddened that the community here is veering toward the “been there seen that” jaded, mentality. They are just starting out, and already doing things that 99.9% of the bars in the world can’t. Give them a little space to grow for the love of god. If you think what they are doing is passe don't go. More room for those of us who want a seat.

I think it is wicked cool that they are sharing what they are doing. They are giving us a tease of what to look forward to. Chefs don't make videos of their upcoming menus for public consumption, this should be seen as a bonus. They don’t have to take the time and effort to make the videos. They don’t really need to manufacture hype. It’s there already. If you don’t like the tone of the videos, stop watching them.

Why don’t we all wait and see what happens when they are open and serving people. That is the true test of an establishment. I for one am counting down the days until I can go to Aviary and experience all they have to offer. I for one welcome them, with glass raised high, to the whiskey peddling business.

Cheers,

Toby

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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  • 2 weeks later...

From the horse's mouth (well, Craig Schoettler's rather):

Four Questions for Craig Schoettler

Dish: How did you get picked to helm Aviary?

Craig Schoettler: At Alinea we’ve spent some time taking classical, pre-prohibition cocktails and re-interpreting them into edible bites. I was the one who was responsible for coming up with them and making them. It became part of the menu, and now we give you three edible cocktails to start your meal.

D: Will this be a big part of Aviary?

CS: It won’t be the foundation of Aviary, though it may be offered. Aviary will be all cocktails, with small, seasonal bites that will have a paired cocktail on the list.

D: What will the bar look like? Will it be loungy?

CS: There won’t be a bar—as far as what society’s norm of what a bar is. All the cocktails will be coming out of the kitchen, and the kitchen will be in view of all the guests.

D: Were you a foodie child prodigy?

CS: No. I originally wanted to be a pediatric oncologist.

This still leaves a lot open-ended, but it does shed some light, and justifies some concerns, about the potential for interaction with the bartenders (chefs?) at Aviary.

 

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  • 1 year later...

Sorry for digging up an old thread, but it didn't look like there was another based on the search.

Has anyone been here since they opened? What is the process like in terms of getting a reservation? (how much lead time is needed? Is it a ticket system like Next? Does one reservation count for both restaurants?) What is the menu? The website is incredibly vague about all of this.

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Sorry for digging up an old thread, but it didn't look like there was another based on the search.

Has anyone been here since they opened? What is the process like in terms of getting a reservation? (how much lead time is needed? Is it a ticket system like Next? Does one reservation count for both restaurants?) What is the menu? The website is incredibly vague about all of this.

For a regular reservation, send an email the morning of with your name, phone number, party size, and desired seating time. They will respond by early afternoon. There are three seating times: 6pm, 8pm, 10pm. They always accept walk-ins.

For a kitchen table reservation, send an email 4 weeks beforehand. There are two seating times: 6pm or 10pm. Only parties of 2 or 4. The kitchen table serves a 10 course tasting of cocktails and bites. $165pp.

A reservation for The Aviary does not count for Next.

The menu is a mix of a la carte drinks ($15-28) and a 3 course prix fixe ($45) as well as a 7 course tasting ($125). Selections change frequently.

Here's a photo of a recent menu.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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