Taking Cocktails to the Science Lab

Joe Robinson of Standby in Detroit is basically a mad scientist… but for cocktails. So he's the coolest kind of mad scientist, really.

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While we're over here mixing booze with some grocery store mixers, bartender Joe Robinson is concocting out-of-this-world cocktails at Standby in downtown Detroit, one of the most cutting-edge bars we've seen. Your run-of-the-mill mixologist has nothing on this guy.

Robinson behind the bar, right where he loves to be.
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Some of the tinkering and experimentation you'll see at Standby include drinks that mix cognac and tangerine sherbet, mustard with milk syrup, and Greek yogurt with gin. Crazy? No, more like genius.

Mysterious doorways lead to good things...in this case.

If mixing Greek yogurt and gin sounds like too daring a move for you right now, here are some other at-home pointers from Robinson for getting serious about making a good drink at home.

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Master the Technique: "Proper shaking and stirring are essential to creating a good cocktail."

Know the Differences: "Does it have fresh juice? Shake it! If it doesn't, stir!"

Froth game strong.

Don't Hold Back: "You really have to shake like you mean it to force tiny air bubbles into the cocktail. If you're stirring, go at least 30 revolutions, but not hard enough to force bubbles."

Get Experimental: "You can blend leafy green into liquor, like mustard greens with gin, or basil with rum. Then strain out the pulp to make classic gimlets or daiquiris."

Have Fun: "Don't be afraid to plug and play similar ingredients into classic cocktails."

Hey, maybe after you've mastered all that you'll feel ready to get a little more ambitious. Here, Robinson shares a few of the next-level techniques you'll find behind his bar.

Milk Washing: "The proteins from milk strip astringency away from liquor," explains Robinson. "We make a cardamom and black tea gin, along with a rose petal and hibiscus tequila, that we milk wash to remove the bitterness, leaving the flavor and aromatics."

Clarifying: "We use a centrifuge to separate the solids from fruits and vegetables," says Robinson. "This turns a mushy banana puree into a silky smooth banana juice, something that otherwise wouldn't exist in the world."

The aptly named Je Ne Sais Quoi. Because who knows what's going on with this cocktail!

Nitro-Muddling: "This involves freezing herbs and leafy greens, then muddling them into a powder."

Nitrogenating: "We have a nitrogenated cocktail on tap at all times," says Robinson. "Nitrogenating gives a cocktail the body, mouthfeel, and look of a Guinness."

Carbonating: "Instead of pouring carbonated tonic on top of gin, we put the gin and tonic together in a keg, carbonate it and serve it on tap."

Now, for a cocktail break, with rose petal and hibiscus tequila, naturally.

For more on Robinson's bar, Standby, see standbydetroit.com.

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