TODAY is the first anniversary of 69 Colebrooke Row, an Islington bar. Hardly a shocking statement. But when you consider the bar in question, it starts to become a good deal more interesting.
The brainchild of super-mixologist Tony Conigliaro (right), 69 Colebrooke Row is the El Bulli of cocktails. It has the only drinks laboratory in the world and is the result of Conigliaro toying with liquids in unheard of ways for ten years. He’s worked with perfumers, chefs and scientists to concoct new ways of experiencing booze and uses everything from vacuum distillery units for flavour extraction, to bain-maries for making purees. The lab also contains a soxhlet extractor, originally invented to extract lipids from liquids but which Conigliaro uses to make bitters.
“We have the lab upstairs, and we transport ideas downstairs,” says Conigliaro, who flinches at the term “molecular mixology”. “We’re not trying to bamboozle people, we’re just trying to introduce new flavours and new ways of presenting old flavours.” His chemistry set larder includes rose, horseradish and grass essence. Cocktails that would stagger Heston Blumenthal include a gin fizz “that I took the fizz out of.” It comes in a bottle, and when you open it, it’s flat. It comes with a package of fizz-making salts that you add to create a fizz of your choice of strength.
Then there’s Conigliaro’s dry martini: “I distill the tannins and polyphenols out of grape seeds – the result has no smell or flavour, but it has this effect whereby the tannins add dryness and depth to the drink. It’s based around how the tongue works and how flavour hits the mouth.”
Another mind-bending cocktail is the Lipstick Rose. It is based on “what we learnt from working with perfumers. There’s a slight violet note to it, with a hint of raspberry and rose, and the oil of grapefruit peel gives it a lipstick feel.” Conigliari is developing a fruit-based edible lipstick to scrawl round the rim of the cocktail’s glass. If a bar lorded over by a man of such ingenuity isn’t worth a first birthday party, nothing is. www.69colebrookerow.com