Let’s be honest, these devices look like bongs crafted by a modernist-minded chemistry student. In fact, these siphon coffee makers (otherwise known as a vacuum coffee brewers) have been around since 1830. Here’s how they work: the bottom chamber is filled with liquid, which is pushed into the upper chamber when heated. There, the liquid becomes quickly and richly infused with whatever ingredients await. This makes the duplex device a favored toy amongst mixologists looking to create deeply flavorful cocktails. Here are five standout siphon cocktails.
Godfrey Toddy at I|O Godfrey, Chicago, Illinois
Executive chef Nate Cayer begins with Jameson Irish whiskey, honey, and water in the lower level, and cinnamon sticks, star anise, lemon peel, vanilla bean, clove, lemongrass, and rosemary up above. When the flavors meld, it creates a highly aromatic, belly- warming cocktail full of complex spicy tones, ensuring each sip reveals something new. The tasty toddy serves two. Make a reservation at I|O Godfrey.
Roughly 9400 at Barmini, Washington, D.C.
Trust the team at José Andrés’s futuristic cocktail lounge to devise a modernist milk punch. Bourbon, mezcal, and chai tea are steeped with saffron, fresh ginger, and lemon peels to create a golden tipple. It’s topped off with tres leches to give it a creamy texture. Make a reservation at Barmini.
Café Brulot at The Grill Room, New Orleans, Louisiana
The classic Café Brulot preparation involves setting a bowl of brandy on fire and then ladling the fiery mixture over a spiraled orange peel to create a showstopping finale. This version trades one bit of tableside theater for another. A mix of Cointreau noir (itself a blend of cognac and orange liqueur) and Landy VSOP cognac are immersed in a mélange of cinnamon sticks, cloves, lemon and orange peels, orange bitters, rosemary, cardamom, coffee, and sugar to create a cocktail that evokes the original while still standing on its own. Make a reservation at the Grill Room.
Make-Your-Own-Toddy at Voltaggio Brothers Steak House, National Harbor, Maryland
It’s DIY cocktail time. First, choose a tea: chai, Earl Grey, oolong, or green. Then add a spirit or two, from a selection that includes bourbon, rye, American brandy, cognac, rum, tequila, chartreuse, and sherry. Finally – in consultation with the bartender to ensure a smooth, balanced cocktail – a number of aromatics and sweeteners can be incorporated into the mix, such as lemon and orange peels, honey, demerara sugar, cardamom, cloves, star anise, all spice, lemongrass, cinnamon, and juniper berries as well as other seasonal components. The final result is all you, baby. Make a reservation at Voltaggio Brothers Steak House.
Hot Toddy for Two at The Grill Room, Washington, D.C.
Before your dinner reservation, sidle up to the Rye Bar next door to score this tantalizing toddy. Made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, hot water, honey syrup, lemon juice, rosemary sprigs, fresh ginger, lemon peel, orange peel, and Chamomile, the well- balanced cocktail has a slightly bitter note from the citrus and a pleasant herbaceousness from the rosemary. “When we serve one, we always sell three or four more,” says the Rye Bar’s beverage manager Diego Zeballos. “People love taking pictures and videos of it.” Make a reservation at The Grill Room.
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Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.