There’s a special kind of buzz surrounding a new bar in Toronto–domestically and internationally–and it only grows with each dazzled patron who enters the dizzying expanse of his cocktail kingdom. Frankie Solarik, author of “The Bar Chef” and co-owner of Toronto’s BarChef, is applying the same detail and passion to preparing cocktails as a chef would to haute cuisine. The result has been lifting the perception of cocktails to a whole new tier of appreciation.
“It’s the idea of presenting a drink as a dish, I strive to compose cocktails with the same visual, visceral and taste appeal and complexity that is possible within a dish, the general goal for me artistically is to challenge the conventional thought as to what’s possible within the medium of a glass.”
Although he prefers to describe some of his signature beverages as “Modernist” rather than “molecular”, the cocktails offered at his Toronto cocktail bar are perhaps best described as compositions. Rather than harmonious musical notes, they are a personal artistic expression; a textural and sensory experience presented in liquid form.
Traditionally, the mystique of a cocktail is due in part to the fact that they are as much an expression of the personal taste of their creator as they are of that of the person who chooses to drink them–in the case of Solarik, even more so. “That’s what makes the creative process so special, the goal is to challenge the perception of flavor.”
Solarik is dramatically expanding on the Modernist movement in ways both elegant and shocking, glamorous and rustic, cultured and curious. Although many of his signature “dishes” feature complex flavors and spectacular presentations, employing everything from frozen carbon dioxide to hydrosols and blowtorches, at their very core the compositions depend on a “less is more” approach; a process rooted in balancing components that complement each other rather than contrast, regardless of how many ingredients are in the mix.
At BarChef, Solarik continues to push the envelope, growing a reputation as an innovator and advocate of the progressive approach to mixology. His approach is unique, his research impeccable, and his goal is as altruistic as it is ambitious. Put simply: he inspires others worldwide to adopt a completely new approach to cocktail culture.
Essence of Fall
Spherified maple and Fernet-Branca, brandy,
balsam fir, sweet vermouth, rosemary syrup,
moss, cedar and soil mist.
Elderflower snow, shards of black licorice and violet,
basil, cucumber, coriander, frozen rhubarb paper,
London dry gin, maraschino, effervescence
London Dry Gin, pear eau de vie, chamomile syrup,
fennel and chamomile bitters, essence of cedar,
cacao soil, cedar air, pear
Cacao and chartreuse branch, maple and almond Orgeat snow,
mint and chartreuse, violet, bourbon, patchouli, Amaro,
maraschino, rosemary, balsam fir and honey
Chilled Ontario Strawberry
Balsamic and lavender ribbon, roasted black pepper,
lemon and chamomile brunoise, violet, basil,
chilled Ontario Strawberry gin “soup”
Text by Rohini Moradi
Photography by Leanne Neufeld