Fragrant Cocktails at Bad Luck Bar
I first met Yani Frye at Sugar House about a year ago, where he was tending bar. I live just down the street, and have imbibed his concoctions many times. Yani was working on opening Bad Luck Bar (he is a co-owner there) and although Sugar House had upped the ante in the Detroit cocktail scene upon it’s opening a few years ago, I had heard rumblings that the drinks at Bad Luck would be completely insane. It was at this point that we began discussing the ties between scent and drink.
Many of the same molecules that make a fragrance beautiful are the very same ones that entice us in food and drink, and the interplay between tongue and nose is what creates a complex and thought-provoking cocktail. Sadly, the olfactory element of a drink is often an afterthought, if it is considered at all, just the sum of the volatile molecules from the liquors and liqueurs designed to please the tongue. But why limit ourselves to liquors and liqueurs? What if the scent was an experience in itself? And what if we drew from the entire spectrum of natural perfumery, rather than just the culinary palette? This could be the makings of something…
Several months later, Yani and I sat down at my scent desk overlooking Corktown, and began fleshing out the Sfumato fragrances that would accompany two new cocktails on the menu at Bad Luck Bar. The first scent would be the forest floor. Not just any old forest, but somewhere between Jurassic Park and Jungle Book, perhaps a touch of Mirkwood. Deep, funky, heavy, a surprise around every corner. This cocktail would feature a nori-infusion, savory bitters, bourbon, and candy cap mushroom chocolate from Bon Bon Bon.
The second drink was even more ambitious. It would be served in a golden pineapple, the outside misted with a tiki scent calling forth tropical fruits and beaches, with a burning ball of incense in the base of the pineapple so that fragrant smoke gently envelopes your beverage as it is placed in front of you.
To create the scents and incense, Yani and I began working through my library of ingredients. He insisted that he not see the names of any ingredients, lest any associations he had with the name cloud his judgment. Rather, he wanted to rely on direct sensory experience alone. It became a stream-of-consciousness exercise, opening bottles, instant judgment based on free association. This one smells like a saw mill, good desert flowers, too smoky, just sweet enough. After going through nearly one hundred notes, at last we had narrowed the list to a handful of final contenders. I retreated into solitude and studied this list, adjusting ratios, one more drop here, one less there, until the final formulas for the scents that would adorn Exoticism and The Crown were complete.
To transcend the written word and experience these fragrant cocktail creations directly, you need only pay Yani a visit at Bad Luck.