Friday, 28 December 2012

On Nature

The role of science in the craftsmanship of our drinks is often one of the most talked about factors for those who visit 69 Colebrooke Row. The ethos behind our menu is that nothing is ever finished; be it a classic cocktail or an entirely new creation, drinks are always subject to engineering. Each recipe is regarded in the same manner that a mechanic might look at an engine - as something that can be taken and put back together again. For us, not only will the drink still work once all its components are back in place, but it will also function on an entirely new level. 

In this way, using the science available at the bar's lab is a way for us to evolve what bartenders can do with the ingredients available to them, as well as add a new chapter to a pre-existing recipe rather than simply rewriting the book. Because science is used on a daily basis to help execute the concepts behind many of our drinks, it is often overlooked how much nature is an inspiration for the crafting of a new cocktail.

Nature has always been an inspiration for the arts encompassing the diverse terrains of painting, architecture, perfumery, fashion, photography, literature and cuisine. Nature has an inherent duality, incorporating as it does both growth and destruction and it is truly inspirational in its evocative ability to reinvent itself. Although nature is full of aesthetic pleasures, its beauty also comes from its clever design. For centuries, Japanese culture has revered nature as an ideal of beauty. Indeed, a defining part of Japanese culture is a deep awareness of nature’s seasons in order to work in synthesis with them. Seasonal culture is inherited from generation to generation and incorporates diverse traditions: from changing dishes and tablecloths, to horticulture and cuisine; this has been a real inspiration for the way in which we approach ingredients and cocktail-making at Colebrooke row.

The word shun which means ‘now-in-season’ is a long-held principle for selecting local food produced in its season. Japanese cooking reflects the natural environment that surrounds it. Apart from being thought of as a tasty and healthy way of eating, it also has cultural value. When it comes to food, the experience of eating includes smell and taste, as well as the sight of the food which is considered an important kind of art. Decorations and colours of the dish are aligned with the season. White is for the winter, pink and green are for the spring, red and green (or purple) are for the summer and orange and yellow are for the autumn. 

In addition, utensils for eating are also 'seasonal.' Deep bowls, which give a  'warm feeling', are used in the winter to keep the heat, whilst in the summer, wide shallow bowls which allow more air exposure are used. These dishes are decorated seasonally too - a sakura pattern in the spring and a red-leaved pattern in the autumn. Glassware which signifies ice is used in the summer to promote a cool-feeling. 

At Colebrooke Row we are huge fans of Kigo, the Japanese shochu. In Japanese, the word Kigo denotes specific terms used to describe seasonal events. For example, haru is the name of the spring but the morning time in spring is called shungyoo. The spring thunder is called shunrai but thunder in the summer is termed kaminari. When it comes to using Kigo in cocktails we like to keep in mind the beautiful six-generation Kyo-ya distillery in Nichinian, Kysushu where the spirit is distilled. Its woodland surrounding and fresh water stream are often focal points for the way in which Kigo is incorporated in our drinks.  In this way, we try to draw what is best from that which nature offers us, remove what is unnecessary and accentuate what is most desirable..

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