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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Bartenders are turning to the kitchen, using ingredients such as cinnamon smoke and colorless tomato juice and cutting-edge cooking techniques, to spice up martinis and other cocktails.
"The use of the kitchen -- this is where I see bartending moving," said Todd Maul, bar manager at Clio.
Maul and the chefs at the high-end Boston restaurant strip colors from tomato juice and apple cider and use the clarified liquids for cocktails. Other so called "bar chefs" are mixing drinks with juices such as yuzu and kaffir lime and spices like curry and myrrh.
"With the rise of bar chefs, I predict seeing unique high-quality ingredients such as fresh herbs, fruits, and savories," said Mariena Mercer, who helped to create the cocktails at The Chandelier.
The bar in The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas is home to the "Fire Breathing Dragon," a cocktail flavored with raspberry, lemongrass and Thai chili and garnished with a dehydrated raspberry treated with liquid nitrogen.
"Once you put the raspberry in your mouth, the smoke releases from it," said Mercer, who compared the latest trend in cocktails to the introduction of molecular gastronomy.
The wine and spirits industry has taken notice of what is happening. Vodka producers, for example, have been looking to infuse an ever-growing array of flavors in their products.
"Vodka companies may want to think about ingredients that are not so easily accessible to bartenders and macerate them and infuse those flavors," said Charlotte Voisey, portfolio ambassador at distillers William Grant & Sons.
Despite the popularity of the innovative drinks Maul believes that the thirst for novel cocktails will likely outstrip the talent available to create them.
"There is very little established talent. A lot of people are over-reaching in what they are trying to do with whom they have. I think it's going to set back the cocktail movement a little," he said.
He advises purists and drinkers who may be overwhelmed by the exotic concoctions to speak up if they want a gin-and-tonic.
For the move adventurous following are recipes for a few innovative cocktails.
Holiday Punch (Courtesy of Charlotte Voisey of William Grant & Son)
2 parts Stoli or other premium vodka
1 part cranberry juice
1 part pomegranate juice
1 part ginger liquor or ginger syrup
1/2 part fresh lime juice
Combine ingredients over ice. Garnish with an orange slice and a sprinkle of freshly ground nutmeg.
Madame Curry (Courtesy of Mariena Mercer at The Chandelier in Las Vegas)
1 oz simple syrup
2 oz Yuzu Sour (Blend of lemongrass, kaffir lime and yuzu)
1 barspoon of housemade curry spice (equal parts of cayenne, curry Powder, Chinese five spice, coriander, cumin)
1-1/2 oz mango puree
1.5 oz Gran Centenario Reposado (tequila)
Assemble all ingredients and shake vigorously. Double strain over fresh ice. Garnish with chili rubbed mango.
French 75 (Courtesy of Todd Maul of Clio in Boston)
2 oz brandy or Cognac
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup (2 part sugar/1 part water)
3-4 oz champagne
Sugar rim of a champagne flute. Stir together brandy, lemon juice and simple syrup. Pour into flute. Top off with champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Patricia Reaney