Multi-Sensory Mixology With Antonio Lai
Hold on to your ice trays- the world of cocktails is changing! Slapping together a drink and tossing it back is a time honored tradition. It gets a job done. There is a movement however that is bringing the act of mixing drinks to a level of high art. Inspired by culinary advances often called, “molecular gastronomy,” a few mavericks are taking cocktails to the next level. Enter Antonio Lai -owner of two hugely popular and world famous bars in Hong Kong; Quinary and Origin.
Antonio and others from the molecular gastronomy school refer to their cocktail recipes as multi-sensory molecular mixology. Quite a mouthful, but also quite a bit more. His creations not only taste delicious, but engage all of the senses. From the sound of Mr. Lai chipping an ice chunk into a perfect sphere,(it reduces dilution of the drink), to the sight of a well dressed young professional gracefully crafting liquid works of art, to the wafting of vapors into your nose, molecular mixology leaves none of the senses unturned. By the time one of Antonio Lai’s drinks actually hits your mouth, you’ve already enjoyed half of the creation!
I was proud of myself when I finally added a cocktail spoon to my arsenal. Antonio Lai’s kit includes, among other tools, a centrifuge and a smoke pump. I first met Antonio while researching new ideas for bloody Mary recipes. He was most gracious and shared some very cool ideas. We share a love for a good bloody Mary and helping others enjoy themselves.
A conversation with Antonio Lai – Multi-Sensory Molecular Mixologist
MBFBM: Hello Mr. Lai. Thank you so much for taking time to answer a few questions for the readers of My Big Fat Bloody Mary. For those who might not know you, please tell us what a molecular mixologist is, and how it is different than a bartender?
Antonio: A molecular mixologist cares about the flavours, textures and aromas. By understanding the concept of molecular gastronomy methods would allow the mixologist to apply the techniques in making cocktails. He recreates the classic with food science. A bartender follows the recipe.
MBFBM: As a child, what did you want to grow up to be?
Antonio: A Jedi as am a great fan of Star Wars. May the force be with you.
MBFBM: Americans are often in a hurry. I watch people drive through fast food restaurants all day. They buy pre-made foods and even bloody Mary mixes. What would you say to the guy rushing through his eating or drinking experience?
Antonio: Depends on the situation. If the guy is alone, would respect his choice but if he has accompany, why not slow down, enjoy the experience and time well spent together slowly?
MBFBM: You were very kind to help me create a bloody Mary mix. I must say, it’s amazing! One component was the smoke of a Cohiba cigar. How did you first imagine that a cocktail could be wed with a fine cigar?
Antonio: Most welcome and was my pleasure!
I have explored making a cocktail with smoked Bacon Bloody Mary and discovered that the smoke simply increases the flavour of the drink.
MBFBM: Would you be willing to offer a simple but unique bloody Mary recipe that our readers could create at home?
Bloody Mary recipe (same as the one given to you) **See bloody Mary Mix Recipe Below
45ml Absolut Pepper
10ml Lemon juice
5ml Bloody Mary mix
Top with either fresh or half canned of tomato juice, enjoy!
***Antonio Lai bloody Mary mix recipe: Combine a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, 3 grams of coriander, 2g of celery salt, 5g wasabi, 1/2 bottle tocasaco (I used 2 oz fish sauce), one chili pepper in a sauce pan. simmer on low for two hours. Remove pepper. Light up a Cohiba cigar. Since I don’t own a smoke machine (yet) I inverted a mason jar over the cigar until it was filled with smoke, then poured the mix into it. I repeated this step with another Mason jar and poured the mix into it. Do this a half dozen times. Then relax and enjoy that cigar!***
MBFBM: Thank you. We’ve watched videos and read about your amazing creations. A question that often comes up is, “My God, how much would a drink like that cost?”
Antonio: The selling price ranges from USD15 to 20.
MBFBM: What’s the worst cocktail you’ve ever been served, and why?
Antonio: A Long Island Tea without ice and the cola was at room temperature.
MBFBM: With all of the world wide attention, the classes you’re teaching, interviews like this, do you still find time to sling cocktails at your bar?
Antonio: I enjoy working at my bars and serve the customers. As long as I am in town, you will find me there everyday (except Sundays when we are closed).
MBFBM: Finally, I know my readers are wondering: The women! They must be all over you! How do you handle that?
Antonio: Unfortunately, I do not find this happening to me!!!
MBFBM: Thanks again Mr. Lai. You have certainly raised the bar. Standing still is not an option. Best of luck to you in your endeavors. How can our readers learn more about you, your bar, your classes, and life style?
Antonio: Thank you for your kind words.
QUINARY on 56-58 Hollywood Road, Central (www.quinary.hk) – the first and only multisensory cocktail bar in Hong Kong opened last year where it will take you on a sensory experience into the new world of cocktails.
ORIGIN on 48 Wyndham Street, Central – the one and only first Gin bar in Hong Kong, recently opened in Spring.
-Greg My short bio