Tools of the Trade is a series in which we ask chefs, bartenders and other restaurant folks which tools they simply can't live without. Today we talk to Alex Day, the man behind the bar at newly opened Honeycut.
Alex Day is responsible for some of the most revered drinks in the world. Apart from his involvement with Death and Co. in New York City, his consultancy company Proprietors LLC (in partnership with David Kaplan) has left its boozy mark on bars from Jackson Hole, WY, to Mumbai, India. Their latest project, launched with L.A.'s own 213 Ventures, is Honeycut in downtown Los Angeles. The cocktail menu Day and team came up with is more than 40 drinks strong, and many of those drinks use ingredients and methods on the cutting edge of mixology. Which is why we thought it would be fascinating to ask Day which tools he considers indispensable. Here are five things he wouldn't want to be behind the bar without.
5. PolyScience Immersion Circulator
“Sous vide cooking has been a hot topic for a while now, but it's mostly been confined to high-end kitchens, the domain of chefs. Luckily, forward-thinking companies like Polyscience — which just released a $300 immersion circulator and $1000 vacuum machine — are making tools we can now justify for the bar. For us, the use of controlled heat has completely changed our approach to infusions and syrups. We're now able to target specific flavors of a fruit, herb or spice by way of temperature, draw them out in beautifully nuanced ways, and produce ingredients that are light years beyond what we've been able to accomplish by conventional methods. Honeycut's two circulators are indispensable, plugged in every day cranking out deliciousness full-time: homemade tonic, pineapple gum syrup, cinnamon syrup, raisin scotch, among many others.”
“Systems, in general, are extremely important for any ambitious bar, but they're only valuable if you can clearly communicate them to your team. We rely on Evernote to centrally locate the all info of our beverage programs: cocktail menu specs for each bar, a master compendium of hundreds of drinks, syrup and infusion instructions, and general procedures — a huge wealth of information accessible from everyone's mobile phone. In this way, there are never any questions of how you do something; it's always available.”
3. Good Seltzer
“I hope everyone loves bubbles as much as I do. Our obsession with good seltzer has gone so far that we put in a special system at both of Honeycut's bars, churning out badass fizzy water. This has allowed us to re-image the quality of even the simplest drinks — just because you want a vodka soda doesn't mean we can't help make that the best damn vodka soda you've ever had.”
2. Apple Brandy
“Apple Brandy is my desert island spirit category. The various apple brandies of the world are my favorite utility ingredient, particularly French calvados. Mix it into a cocktail, and suddenly you have the world's best gateway spirit — for those new to spirits, it's a great intro into what aged spirits can do without being overly intimidating. Hop over to America and you have a wealth of options, spanning the spectrum from the gritty whiskey-like applejack to the stunningly calvados-like Clear Creek Eau de Vie de Pomme 8-year. Honestly, it's real hard for me to restrain myself from putting the stuff in every cocktail.”
1. Tom Sachs' Ten Bullets Video (specifically Bullet #8)
“There's nothing more valuable than setting the right tone with a new bar team, and in establishing a hilariously ridiculous (but aspirational) expectation for orderly work in a creative and hectic environment, Tom Sachs' Ten Bullets video can't be beat. He's a nut case and in every way my hero, but there's nothing we've found that prefaces an opening better than this video. Always be knolling, people.”
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