The Science of Modern Bartending

12 Jan 2018
3 min read
There’s a science to the creation of cocktails, says award-winning mixologist Tony Conigliaro, and he explains all to FOUR…

I’m often asked about my thoughts on modern bartending. My response is always that the element of craftsmanship is key. Inspiration can be found in a multitude of places—bartenders shouldn’t be limited by the terrain of any one profession—cocktails should break boundaries.

The place of science in drink-making is something that I developed an interest in quite early on in my career. I love classic cocktails, but I also like to look at the entire drinking experience: expectation; creation; delivery and play, in order to subvert what’s expected. For this reason, ‘molecular’ is a term that is often applied to me, but I have always tried to steer away from this idea. I don’t consider what I do to be molecular. My working mantra is to create bespoke, but drinkable, cocktails, using flavours and techniques you don’t usually find, or even associate, with cocktails.

At the heart of what we do is the laboratory, which focuses in alcoholdevelopment and research into liquid flavours. Here you’ll find equipment like the centrifuge, a Rotavapor, homogeniser, dehydrator—all of which function to create the same level of accuracy and innovation that chefs strive to achieve in the kitchen.

This opened up a dialogue with food scientists and flavour and fragrance companies, as we learnt through their experiences and in turn began to deliver products that they themselves commissioned.

Without the lab, I would have never been able to research how to utilise the elements of perfumery and translate this to the world of drinks. I havealways found perfume utterly fascinating; I love its multifaceted nature—the mix of romanticism and pragmatism inherent to its art. For a long time I wanted to move beyond simply reading about perfumery. Investing in a separatory funnel (a piece of kit, which separates two liquids with different densities) allowed for the pivotal move from research to practice. This is essential when it comes to making hydrosols—water-based essences, which suspend essential oils and aromatics inside water through the process of distillation. It’s an extremely useful way to deliver a delicate flavour and aroma. They are similar in structure to how essential oils are used in perfume, but are food-grade and so can be ingested.

Using the funnel to make my own hydrosols meant that I finally had absolute freedom to be creative when it came to aroma and flavour in drinks, and it sparked an entire chapter of perfume-inspired drinks that keeps on evolving.

It’s been a trial and error process. Constant questioning and rigorously refining the ingredients helps to make our style and drinks a constant ‘work in progress’. We’re not satisfied until we feel that we’ve produced the best possible version of an ingredient, whether it takes days, weeks or months. Having the equipment in the lab means we can make totally bespoke ingredients in accordance with whatever new direction we’re working in at the time. This is an incredible freedom.

Shot by photographer Jean Cazals, Tony recreates four gin-based cocktails: Rhubard Gimlet, Green Martini, Japanese Serve and Orange Grove Fizz.




Mixology Masterclass

Rhubarb Gimlet


40ml gin

20ml homemade rhubarb cordial

Grapefruit twist, to garnish


Combine the gin and cordial in a cocktail shaker

and stir over cubed ice. Strain into a small, chilled

coupette. Garnish with a small grapefruit twist.


Green Martini


35ml Beefeater 24

35ml green Vermouth

Garnish with a Nasturtiumleaf


Combine all ingredients in acocktail shaker and stir overcubed ice. Strain and pourinto a chilled coupette andgarnish with a Nasturtium leaf.


OrangeGrove Fizz


50ml Beefeater 24

25ml fresh lemon juice

25ml egg white

20ml Paradiso syrup

Soda water to top


Combine gin, lemon, egg whiteand Paradiso syrup in a cocktailshaker and shake. Add iceand shake again. Pour into ahighball and top with soda water.


Japanese Serve


60ml green tea botanicals inBeefeater 24 infusion

5ml sugar syrup

1 dash gunpowder tea bitters

Matcha Tea, lime rind and

Japanese green tea bean dessert,

sliced to garnish


Combine all ingredients over cubedice and stir. Pour into Japanese dishand garnish with sashimi-slice greentea bean dessert, sprinkled matchatea and grated lime rind.