Dave Arnold's Mixology Marvels
by kara newman
Arne double old fashioned, Iittala ($65 for two). Bloomingdale’s, 1000 Third Ave., 212-705-2000
Remember your first chemistry set—the beakers, test tubes, and always-present wonder if you would blow something up in the basement? Dave Arnold remembers, too. At Booker and Dax, his bar adjacent to David Chang’s hot spot Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Arnold is building cocktails with vibrant flavors, thanks to what amounts to an on-premise chemistry lab.
A centrifuge in the basement spins liquids at about 4,000 times the force of gravity, creating liquids with perfect clarity. Liquid nitrogen is used to chill glasses instantly, sending delicate wisps of smoke wafting across the bar top. A red-hot “poker” designed by Arnold stands at the ready for immersion into drinks—a foot-long flame seems to explode forcefully from the glass, but the end result is a gently warmed drink and a luscious caramelized scent.
The scientific showmanship certainly dazzles the senses, but as director of culinary technology of The International Culinary Center—a role he has held since 2005—Arnold says that it’s all about the end result, a well-crafted cocktail. “If it doesn’t improve the drink, why bother?” After years of studying high-technology cooking, he explains, “the most exciting part has been proving these techniques can work in a real bar.”
Indeed, cocktails like the “First Date” exemplify his approach, yielding rich, rounded fruit and spice flavors. Although adapted for the home bar, fans of gadgets and gizmos will be pleased to hear Arnold is planning a company to sell high-tech equipment identical to those used at Booker and Dax. 207 Second Ave., 212-254-3500
4 dates, pitted
2 oz. Buffalo Trace bourbon
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 thick orange peel, for garnish
1 thick lemon peel, for garnish
In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, use a muddler to break the dates down as much as possible. Add bourbon, Angostura bitters, and ice. Shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled rocks glass* over a single large cube of ice. Twist the citrus peels over the drink to release oils from the skin, then drop the peels into the glass.
*To chill a glass, set it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, and remove it when you’re ready to pour the drink.
photography by WILLIAM BRINSON; STYLING BY suzanne lenzer.
Cover shoot: May/June 2014 issue of Gotham magazine.