Meet the mad scientist behind Barchef

The comeback of old timey cocktails, like martinis, Manhattans and side cars was fuelled, at least in part, by the popularity of the show Mad Men. But imagine Mad Men-style cocktails made by mad scientists. Enter molecular mixology: cocktails carefully crafted using blow torches, liquid nitrogen, gels, powders and foams.
Toronto's very own Barchef, co-owned by Frankie Solarik, is a global leader in the renaissance of the cocktail and of the avant-garde art and science behind molecular mixology. The gorgeous lounge, lit by candles and filled with jars of homemade infused bitters, syrups and booze-lined shelves, was named one of the top 100 bars in the world by Food & Wine. We recently had the chance to chat with Frankie after he revealed some top mixologist secrets to me for our holiday cocktail segment on The Social.
Q: Do you have someone you idolize in the culinary world?
A: Grant Achatz, hands down.
Q: He wrote the foreward for your book, didn't he?
A: Yes, and he's is the one who introduced the idea of involving all the senses—the visual aspect, you know. It's the idea that when you walk into his restaurant in Chicago, Alinea, they'll have bays of hay and leaves on the ground because that sort of thing provides that overall, visceral experiences of walking into the fall, like the composition of his dishes and his flavours does. It's involving all the senses. That's the idea.
Q: What's your favourite drink on the Barchef menu right now?
A: The Mayan hot cocoa, for sure. Every time I drop a new drink—there are always loads that I'm working on—but the one that always makes the cut is always so special to me. There's also the Kensington as well, which involves a new component that I've never seen used before called patchouli. Obviously I've smelled it before in perfumes, but I was actually able to make a simple syrup out of patchouli.
Q: There's going to be a line-up of hippies out the door waiting to try that one. 
A: [Laugher] That's the thing! But it's amazing. It's paired with violette liqueur, sweet vermouth and rye. It's awesome. It's really, really special. The idea for me is to create a composition of complexity but present simply—at least for the cocktails that we make out front. And I just try to use new stuff all the time; stuff that isn't normally being used. 
Q: Does anyone ever come into BarChef and just ask for a rum and coke?
A: Absolutely! And that's totally fine. Our vibe is that we want people to enjoy themselves here. I drink bourbon and cola. My wife drinks vodka and water. But at the same time, I'll have a beautifully composed cocktail, too. Why not? It depends what you're in the mood for.
Q: Do you have a go-to drink after a long day of work? Maybe one that you'll curl up with while watching your favourite episode on TV, with your feet up?
A: To be honest, it goes anywhere from a glass of wine to a bourbon and cola, or a negroni. I love negronis.
Q: Ooh! Me too! 
A: They're so tasty. I keep it simple, when I'm not doing what I do, because then it frees up my head, artistically.


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