Are you hip to Experimental Cocktail Club? If you’re a serious cocktail enthusiast you should be. ECC, as it’s known, is a series of cocktail bars in Paris, London, and New York that are as cutting-edge as they are elegant. If there’s a cocktail equivalent to molecular gastronomy, it can be found in these clubby lounges, where wild, weird things are done with booze and mixers to make cocktails that are both fascinating and delicious. I’d be shocked if Wylie and Ferran haven’t dropped by yet. ECC bars aren’t snooty per se, but they’re into pushing boundaries, not serving vodka tonics, which makes them precisely the kinds of bars that that whiney, Yelp-style rant the New York Post published a couple of weeks ago was supposed to take down a notch. But bars aren’t for babies, and ECC is a bar for trying crazy, experimental drinks. You should therefore visit with an open mind, not a propensity for being offended. And despite, or perhaps because of, its exclusivity, ECC is doing great. So great, in fact, that it’s opening a summer bar in Ibiza this year called Experimental Beach Ibiza. The Balearic Islands have never tasted anything like it.
Opening in May, Experimental Beach Ibiza will be situated on the beaches of southern Ibiza’s Ses Salinas national reserve, and it promises "marvelous cocktails, fresh local food, and sumptuous sunbeds." That local food will come from the kitchen of chef Gerard Ortiz Arlandis. About those cocktails: They come from ECC bartenders in Paris, London, and New York, adding a beachy little twist. "Expect beautifully giant punch bowls perfect for sharing with friends as the sun sinks into the horizon," says the press release. Sounds good to me, I’d love for well-made punches to replace bottle service among elite drinkers. One vodka and three uninspired mixers does not a great cocktail make.
Of course, all of this raises the question: exactly how weird are these weird cocktails? When I visited the New York outpost of ECC last year to sip drinks with Mike Birbiglia, we had, among other cocktails, the Kinkakuji. It’s premade with coconut milk and regular cow’s milk, which is curdled and filtered twice, then mixed with overproof rum and Japanese whiskey. It takes 3 days to make. Then there was the Jack O’ Lantern. Directions: a whole egg is vigorously shaken with a large dose of butternut squash-infused Plantation Barbados 5 year old Rum and a bit of coconut milk and homemade cinnamon syrup. It’s served up, with some nutmeg freshly grated on the top. They were both as tasty as they were bizarre.
It remains to be seen whether visitors to Ibiza will be into flavors like these, but last I checked it’s a pretty open-minded island, so I like ECC’s chances. If you visit, be advised that you’re expected to step outside your comfort zone and try something different. If you order a vodka tonic, they won’t insult you for your uncreative order. But they will charge you extra for it.
Photo: Toni Ramon