This is the fourth post in the New York Thanksgiving series. Other posts in this series include Momofuku Ssam Bar, Momofuku Ma Peche, and Gramercy Tavern.
Booked and Dax is not your typical bar.
Behind a simple looking menu and a seemingly normal exterior is a cutting edge laboratory experimenting with flavors and textures using the latest technology.
Fruits are transformed into completely clear liquids that still retain the flavors of the original fruit. Called "clarification", the technique involves blending fruit with an enzyme to remove all the pectin and hemicellulose before spinning it in a high powered centrifuge and straining it.
Infused oils such as horseradish oil are created by distillation in a rotary evaporator.
There's a lot of liquid nitrogen and dry ice around, which are used in everything from condensing vapors in the rotary evaporator to cooling down your glass before a cocktail is poured into it.
The presence of smoke is not uncommon.
Booker and Dax is a partnership between cocktail wizard and French Culinary Institute trained David Arnold and David Chang of Momofuku fame. In 2012, after the two had worked together on other projects, David Chang let David Arnold open up his dream cocktail bar in the space next to Momofuku Ssam Bar, previously occupied by Momofuku Milk Bar.
We stopped by here after our early dinner at Momofuku Ssam Bar (a 5PM dinner was the only way we were able to avoid waiting in line!). After I told the bartender my preferences (I don't like cocktails that are too sweet; I like spicy; and I enjoy citrus), he suggested their version of the classic cocktail, the Holland Razor Blade.
This cocktail comes with Genever (a juniper flavored gin from Holland), lemon juice, simple syrup, and Hell's bitters. The bitters definitely added a spiciness to the cocktail, which I liked. Overall, the cocktail was sophisticated in flavors and delicious.
They served a tiny cup of complimentary snacks to go with it, which included Kimchi "Cheez-its" and freeze fried corn.
We also tried the Corn Star, which consisted of corn, rye, lemon juice, and black pepper tincture.
This drink was surprisingly clear yet definitely had a strong essence of corn. I wondered whether there was clarified corn used in the cocktail.
The signature drink is anything from the "Red Hot Poker" section of the menu. The production of these crazy drinks is a show in and of itself. The bartender plunges a 1500 ° F flaming hot poker right into the drink. The intense fire caramelizes the sugars, evaporates a bit of the alcohol, and warms up the drink a lot.
If you can, try to snag a seat at the bar seats facing the bartender so you can watch this up close. It's fascinating and fun.
I love how the fire is still flaming in the cup after he's poured it.
This final hot drink is served in a simple coffee cup.
We stayed for about an hour, sampling 3-4 drinks and spending quite a bit of time just watching the bartender perform his "magic." The place wasn't too crowded at first. When we went after our early 5PM dinner, we had no trouble getting the coveted seats facing the bartender. The bar did fill up fast, and within 30-40 minutes, it was packed.
All in all, Booker and Dax is definitely a fun place to visit. David Arnold most certainly puts a lot of thought into his cocktails, and they are excellent. The nerdy science focus makes it all the better and more fun.
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