IMAGE BY MIKE SCHWARZ
Looking at Todd Maul, you’d be forgiven if you thought you were staring at Vince Gilligan, the mad genius behind “Breaking Bad.” And you’d be sort of half correct, about both the physical resemblance and the genius part. Mad or otherwise.
Because with the wildly anticipated Kendall Square opening of Café ArtScience looming on the horizon this month (Maul and his colleagues aim to open to the public on October 23-24), you can throw out conventional ideas you may have about sitting down at a hybrid art exhibition space, bar, and laboratory and just ordering a cocktail.
“The big thing for us is taking small ideas and seeing how we can build [on them],” says Maul. “But not with gimmicks. We’re looking at the future of drinking, [and how] to just make a better drink.”
Maul, a well-seasoned veteran of the serious cocktails scene, isn’t just passing gas either. He says while the official cocktail list is still being pinned down, he’s spent ample time in the lab, as it were, working with scientific machinery the way a chef does when processing a whole animal and yielding a menagerie of delicious, unusual offerings.
Maul mentions using the rotational evaporator to turn everything from port wine to vodka-soaked rose hips into essences and sugar-based alcohol “paint,” which will line the glassware of complex drinks. Or employing a sugarcane extractor to create a new take on a classic “Ti’Punch,” a tradintional Caribbean rum drink (“A mojito is basically a bad version of it,” jokes Maul). And, even putting the oft-discarded syrup used to package Luxardo cherries through a centrifuge to create citrusy, edible spheres dropped into drinks—a technique courtesy of partner and Harvard Professor David Edward’s invention, WikiFoods.
“We’re going to carry 25 different types of gin, 30 types of rum,” says Maul. “So we’re going to be playing to the strengths of very specific spirits and brands, accentuating one note and moving that forward.” And that, he says, is the lynchpin of the whole cocktail program.
“If there’s only four components [to a drink], it’s about breaking down those flavors and expressing them in a meaningful way.”