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You’ve probably eaten a dish that’s benefitted from sous-vide cooking even if you weren’t aware of it at the time. The technique calls for food to be vacuum-sealed and then simmered in a warm water bath for as long as 24 hours. Fine dining toques like how it concentrates flavor, but even catering chefs use it for the consistency and quality control it brings to their food.
Now, enterprising bartenders are looking for ways to vacuum seal drinks long before they hit your lips.
Quadrant, the bar and lounge inside the Ritz-Carlton in West End, has been turning out batches of off-menu sous vide drinks, like a recent concoction with bourbon, blackberries, sweet vermouth, plum bitters, and cherrywood chips. Introducing wood is “basically like barrel-aging, but you’re doing it a lot quicker,” says lead bartender Chris Mendenhall.
The bar is working up to a full, permanent lineup that will launch March 1 but for now guests can ask to try what they have on hand ($16-$18). One recipe calls for dark rum to be sealed up with toasted coconut, vanilla beans, and ginger while another combines tequila with bell peppers, basil, Grand Marnier, and honeycomb. For now you can ask to try whatever they have on hand.
Much like cooking a steak sous vide, the drinks are typically encased in single-serve pouches. But unlike a steak, which can spend hours slow cooking, cocktails usually only take a dip in the warm water for 15 minutes.
It’s all about “the removal of air,” says Mendenhall, explaining that the drinks take 10 to 15 minutes to oxidize and develop flavor once the package is cut open, stirred with ice, and poured.
Of the presentation, he says, “It’s like an adult Capri Sun package.”
Quadrant Bar & Lounge, 1150 22nd St, NW; (202) 835-0500; ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/washington-dc/dc/dining/quadrant