Mixology Goes Molecular

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There’s some weird science going on behind the bar at midtown’s Lounge ON20. Ever since molecular gastronomy phenom Pajo Bruich took over the kitchen last spring, introducing Sacramentans to such wonders as compressed strawberries and Fresno chili “pearls,” the bar staff has been experimenting like mad scientists to create cocktails in the mode of modernist cuisine.

Think ingredients manipulated through processes such as spherification, where concentrations of flavor (grapefruit, lemon and the like) are captured within gelatinous orbs to achieve “little flavor explosions,” as bartender Vince LaForm describes them. Or a method in which a cocktail glass is rimmed with smoke—of, say, wood chips, sage or rosemary—to create a drink that imparts a smoky aroma (yet doesn’t take like charcoal).

The techniques used in the growing trend of molecular mixology take time and patience to master, but LaForm is up to the challenge. “I’m finally getting to put my degree to good use,” says LaForm, who was a biology major.

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