Editor’s note: We’re chronicling how tech is changing the way we eat and drink as we lead up to this fall’s Food Loves Tech. Our annual deep dive into appropriate food and ag technologies returns to Industry City on November 2–3, 2018—stay tuned for updates and watch last year’s highlights here.
When one thinks of high-tech kitchen tools, the fundamental blender may not immediately spring to mind. But while centrifuges and super chillers may prove trendier additions to one’s culinary arsenal, many restaurants are actually turning to more standard implements to help take their creations to the next level.
In fact, at our Food Loves Tech event last fall, Gramercy Tavern’s bar manager, Ben Howell, demonstrated just that. Appropriating his pastry department’s beloved, multi-faceted Vitamix, he was able to illustrate an industry trend of increased collaboration and cross-over between the kitchen and the bar.
With the touch of a button, Howell transformed his basil- and lime-infused Rickshaw (essentially a standard, summery gimlet), into an invigorating, party-ready slushie, in quantities large enough to satisfy a thirsty, technology-savvy crowd.
And it wasn’t his first go-round with a Vitamix, either. While they’ve long been used to process purees and sauces at the restaurant, Howell now regularly depends on them for making kombuchas, shrubs and sodas, in fresh flavors such as pear and ginger, green apple and fennel, and blood orange and lemongrass.
As far as technology goes, it’s a true-to-self approach for the iconic Gramercy Tavern that’s sought to appeal to new audiences via tiny, thoughtful tweaks on a winning, time-honored formula, as opposed to dashing its original blueprint just for tech trend’s sake.
Not only have blenders helped extend an emphasis on seasonality—a hallmark of the Union Square Greenmarket–adjacent restaurant—to the beverage program, they’ve actually served to address a contemporary, top-of-mind issue: food waste.
“Instead of composting herb and vegetable stems, or pieces of fruit that aren’t pretty enough for the plate, we work them down into syrup for shrubs,” Howell said. “And when making pickled peppers, we take the seeds and tidbits left from forming perfect rings, and turn them into house-fermented hot sauce.”
So who needs centrifuges or smoking guns? We’re totally seeing blenders in a whole new light.
Gramercy Tavern’s Rickshaw
Makes 4 cocktails
For the basil syrup
4 cups sugar
4 cups water
1 cup fresh basil leaves
For the cocktails
4 ounces basil syrup (see recipe above)
3 ounces fresh lime juice
8 ounces vodka
To make the basil syrup, bring sugar and water to a boil. Add basil leaves and steep overnight. Pass through a chinois or fine-mesh strainer into an airtight container.
For the cocktail, combine cocktail ingredients in a Vitamix with an equal part of ice and blend until smooth (about 10 seconds). Garnish with a basil leaf.