Alinea chef Grant Achatz gives L.A. a taste of what’s to come at his new Chicago bar Aviary

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Any cocktail geek who has been watching via YouTube the experiments of chef Grant Achatz et al. as he prepares to open ‘molecular’ cocktail bar Aviary in Chicago has been wondering what an edible Cynar Flip or boozy ‘bubble tea’ tastes like. A lucky few dozen bartenders in Los Angeles got to find out on Friday night after a vodka tasting and along with dinner prepared by Achatz in a loft overlooking MacArthur Park.

Craig Schoettler, the Alinea chef de tournant who has been tapped to head Aviary, said the bar is expected to open in early 2011. It will be located next to Achatz’s planned Next restaurant (the one for which you will have to buy tickets to eat a dinner that evokes Paris in 1912 or Sicily in 1949 or Hong Kong in 2036...). Aviary’s menu will include both classic cocktails and ‘liminal cocktails,’ Schoettler said, referring to the gelatinous, frozen, simultaneously hot and cold, or even powdered cocktails that transform into a pudding tableside. Schoettler also demonstrated how he makes powdered gin and tonic with tapioca maltodextrin. ‘I don’t know whether to eat it or snort it,’ said one observer.


Drinks served to a crowd of mostly bartenders on Friday started with a trio of ‘edible cocktails’: a Cynar Flip, Jack Rose and Girolamo Sour, the latter made frozen and chewy by Achatz’s anti-griddle (a ‘cooktop’ that freezes instead of heats food). Cocktails paired with dinner were made with Absolut -- the Swedish vodka label that is now owned by French company Pernod Ricard, which is pushing hard to reverse an anti-vodka trend. Highlights included a glass of ginger ice topped with chiles, finger lime cells and micro-herbs, over which is poured a small carafe of Absolut Peppar and then is stirred with a lemongrass stalk swizzle stick for a version of the Moscow Mule.

A ‘boba’ drink of apple spheres floating in Absolut Kurant, Absolut Citron and Pommeau de Normandie was paired with an autumn lobster stew. And to go with Achatz’s black truffle juice soup dumpling, a both hot and cold cocktail, the whole glass of it meant to be downed all at once without stopping. The cocktail base was made with Absolut Pears (infused in an immersion circulator at 80 degrees with dried pears), yellow Chartreuse, Poire Williams and Creme de Cassis. The hot liquid is poured slowly (over the back of a cocktail spoon) on top of the cold, said Schoettler, who signed on to Aviary after Achatz asked him to come up with an edible cocktail inside a kumquat. ‘No tricks, no hydrocolloids. The hot liquid stays on top because it’s less dense than cold.’ Easy.

-- Betty Hallock