I first met Eben Freeman a couple of years ago, when he worked behind the stick in the dark basement bar at New York’s Tailor. It was a magical place where smoke infused into liquid; liquids were coaxed into solid form; and gem-like solids were made to pop into the mouth, where they dissolved back into intoxicating liquid and slid down the gullet. Five minutes later, the phrase “molecular mixology”was on everyone’s lips.
An avid cook, Freeman always has one foot solidly planted in the kitchen and one behind the bar. In 2002, he joined chefs Wylie Dufresne and Sam Mason at the ground-breaking WD-50. Later, he moved on to Tailor with Mason, where he helmed the bar and popularized “molecular mixology” (he now prefers the phrase “progressive cocktails”).
After Tailor closed last year, he joined food and beverage consultancy Mangkut Group, and spent months traveling through Hong Kong, Singapore, Jakarta, Bangkok and Shanghai. He currently splits his time between Asia and the U. S., where his family still resides. Among his current pet projects is a traveling bartender extravaganza called “The Cocktail All-Stars.” Initially formed to import top bartending talent into high-profile Asia venues, in February, he exported the event to New York, and in May he will bring it San Francisco.
During his Asia stint, Freeman was inspired by Asia’s abundant local ingredients and the palates of Asia drinkers, who are more likely to incorporate salty, sweet, spicy and sour notes into food and drink—often all at the same time. One of his favorite concoctions is the Frozen Rujak, based on a pungent fruit salad served with a peanut chile sauce. “It’s weird for the Western palate,” Freeman admits. “So I made a mango frozen daiquiri with a chile simple syrup, crushed cashews and green mango, with salt on the rim.”
“The ingredients there are an incredible opportunity,” he says. “ We infused gin with earthy Pu-ehr tea. Fruit there is amazing— mangosteens, lychees, mangoes. I go to the market with a muddler.”
Click here for Freeman’s Rujack cocktail recipe.