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Only a handful of cocktail bars in the country have a rotary vacuum evaporator. José Andrés‘ new cocktail lab Barmini, opening Feb. 15, is one of them.
The mad scientist-like contraption can take any ingredient—from peppers to peanuts to pretzels—and distill the flavor and aroma in a liquid. Booker & Dax in New York and Aviary in Chicago both have them, as does Rogue 24 and Copenhagen’s mecca of modernist cuisine Noma, which has even used the machine to create a liquid out of dirt.
Here’s how it works: The ingredient is blended (sometimes with a little bit of liquid) and placed in a glass flask, which is submerged in water. As the water heats, a vacuum sucks up the vapor and shoots it through a condensation coil, which is chilled at below freezing temperatures. When the vapor hits the cold air, it turns into a liquid that drips down into another glass flask. The result is a clear liquid with a flavor that is more intense than the ingredient itself.
Inspired by a bag of peanuts on a flight to Buenos Aires, Barmini “cocktail innovator” Juan Coronada has so far experimented with roasted peanuts in the machine. He pairs the peanut liquid with a pineapple vinegar, Drambuie 15 liqueur, and a touch of simple syrup to create the “Veruka Salt” cocktail. The drink is served with a large cube of hand-sawed ice and a pinch of salt. Before you even take a sip, the peanut aroma fills your nostrils.
Continuing with the airplane snacks theme, Coronado would also like to distill pretzels with some cocoa nibs to create a chocolate-covered pretzel-flavored liquid. And that’s just the beginning. “The imagination of this machine is endless,” he says.
Photos by Jessica Sidman
UPDATE: Rogue 24 also has a rotary evaporator, which was not mentioned in a previous version of this story.