Home bartending kits come with a standard set of stainless steel toys—a jigger, a stir stick, a shaker, a strainer and a bottle opener. Craft cocktail bars like The Mode Lounge and Mai Thai, however, have taken their tools to the next level.
"The bar program here is detail oriented and focused on innovation and trying to do some original things with cocktails in Boise," said Mode bartender Jake Hansen.
- Laurie Pearman
- The Mode uses a canvas Lewis bag and wooden mallet to delicately crush ice for cocktails.
Some of those innovations include using a blowtorch and an iron rod to stir hot drinks and employing a Perlini to force-carbonate individual drinks. More old-school tools include a serrated Victorinox knife that is used to hand carve ice into specialized cubes and a canvas Lewis bag and wooden mallet that are used to delicately crush ice for cocktails. The Mode also concocts a variety of house made tinctures and bitters, including Falling Leaves Bitters, Garam Masala-Apple Reduction and Tobacco Smoke Bitters.
Mai Thai takes cocktail technology a step further. In addition to having a Kold-Draft ice machine that spits out cocktail-friendly 2-by-2-inch cubes, Mai Thai also force-carbonates cocktails and makes use of spinners—little milkshake machines that make egg-white cocktails more efficient.
"We also use drink spinners for any elaborate tiki drinks that require longer shaking times," added Mai Thai bartender Michael Reed. "So that way we can take a minute [of] shaking time and turn it into a 10-second spin time."
In addition to utilizing liquid nitrogen for muddling, Mai Thai also crafts its own tinctures, bitters and shrubs using unique methods. To make its oleo-saccharum, a classic punch ingredient that is basically sugared oil, Mai Thai uses a sous vide machine.
"We take a professional vacuum sealer and we add sugar and peels and then we vacuum seal them and then we sous vide cook them at a low temp over time, and that helps extract the oil out of the peels and then it flavors the sugar," said Reed.