Science Meets Art at D.C.'s barmini

At Chef José Andrés' lab in D.C., cocktails are more than a drink. They're an experience.
The color-changing Divine Wind cocktail at barmini.
The color-changing Divine Wind cocktail at barmini.

When you have the award-winning Chef José Andrés behind the bar, it's a sure bet that the cocktail you'll be drinking won't be your standard G&T. In fact, it's more accurate to consider this all-white, futuristic lounge more of a cocktail "lab" than your average neighborhood bar. From drinks that appear to magically change color to clouds of citrus-thyme wafting in a Negroni, cocktail hour at this D.C.-based bar is always an interactive experience.

Barmini recently made a sleek and futuristic pop-up appearance at Tales this summer, serving drinks from their stainless steel cube as a featured Corner Bar in the Monteleone Hotel lobby, as well as teaming up with the Spanish brand Gin Mare for a Spirited Dinner later that week.

The interior of barmini is sleek and futuristic, seating only 12 at a time. The interior of barmini is stylishly minimalist, seating just 12 at a time.

Tales recently caught up with barmini's Cocktail Innovator Miguel F. Lancha to learn how the team dreams up such imaginative cocktails. With a renowned chef at the helm, Lancha says that "barmini is all about the full culinary experience. José is a big fan of cocktails in general. He wanted to showcase and have fun the same way we do in the kitchen, where you take traditional dishes and showcase it in a modern way."

This connection between the kitchen and the bar is visible in every drink. Lancha notes, "We work together with the chefs on their techniques and approach to flavor and composition, except that we happen to be in liquid form." He explained that similar to cooking, the barmini staff has a strong foundation of the classics. Once you have those in your repertoire, it's easy to build off the standards and experiment with more modern takes on classic cocktails.

With around 100 libations currently on the menu, the cocktail lab might be overwhelming to those having their first molecular gastronomy experience. Not to fear, though, because the barmini team is prepared to lead you through your entire visit. Lancha suggests first participating in one of their seasonal flights to see a wide range of cocktails. He notes, "It's a way to show our guests what we do and to guide them through our menu." The flights change every three to four months, and can feature up to six different cocktails at a time. They recently did a nod to 80's cocktail culture by reinventing such cheesy standards as the Long Island Iced Tea, Sex on the Beach, and the Kamikaze.

barmini's Floral Cloud cocktail comes with a literal cloud of hibiscus tea. barmini's Floral Cloud cocktail comes with a literal cloud of hibiscus tea.

Ordering a cocktail at barmini is much more of a theatrical experience than a simple order — both the making and the serving of the drink are essential to the experience. Lancha says this is the heart of barmini's mission: "We like to bring the magic and whimsy and soul behind the drink. We use it to transport people."

Floral Cloud

  • 1.5 oz London Dry gin
  • .375 oz maraschino
  • .375 oz crème de violette
  • .75 oz lemon juice
  • .375 oz simple syrup
  • 1 dianthus flower

Hibiscus Tea

  • 1 cup dry hibiscus (tea with hot water)
  • .5 L water
  • 1-3 drops of rose water
  • 1 cube (2.5” x 2.5”) amount dry ice

Add gin, lemon juice, maraschino, crème de violette, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a mixing glass. Fill the glass with ice and stir with a bar spoon. Strain into a bowl-shaped wine glass. Add ice cube to glass. Garnish with 1 dianthus flower.

Heat the dry hibiscus and water together over the stove to make the tea. Once boiling, strain, add a few drops of rose water and pour infusion inside a decanter. Add dry ice to decanter.

Pour the cloud only (not the liquid) over the cocktail in the glass and serve. (**Important not to pour in liquid as it contains dry ice**)

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