Young and Hungry

Barmini’s Rotary Vacuum Evaporator

Only a handful of cocktail bars in the country have a rotary vacuum evaporator. José Andrés' new cocktail lab Barmini, opening Feb. 15, is one of them.

The mad scientist-like contraption can take any ingredient—from peppers to peanuts to pretzels—and distill the flavor and aroma in a liquid. Booker & Dax in New York and Aviary in Chicago both have them, as does Rogue 24 and Copenhagen's mecca of modernist cuisine Noma, which has even used the machine to create a liquid out of dirt.

Here's how it works: The ingredient is blended (sometimes with a little bit of liquid) and placed in a glass flask, which is submerged in water. As the water heats, a vacuum sucks up the vapor and shoots it through a condensation coil, which is chilled at below freezing temperatures. When the vapor hits the cold air, it turns into a liquid that drips down into another glass flask. The result is a clear liquid with a flavor that is more intense than the ingredient itself.

Inspired by a bag of peanuts on a flight to Buenos Aires, Barmini "cocktail innovator" Juan Coronada has so far experimented with roasted peanuts in the machine. He pairs the peanut liquid with a pineapple vinegar, Drambuie 15 liqueur, and a touch of simple syrup to create the "Veruka Salt" cocktail. The drink is served with a large cube of hand-sawed ice and a pinch of salt. Before you even take a sip, the peanut aroma fills your nostrils.

Continuing with the airplane snacks theme, Coronado would also like to distill pretzels with some cocoa nibs to create a chocolate-covered pretzel-flavored liquid. And that's just the beginning. "The imagination of this machine is endless," he says.

Photos by Jessica Sidman

UPDATE: Rogue 24 also has a rotary evaporator, which was not mentioned in a previous version of this story.

  • Mike at Capital Spice

    So glad to finally see someone mention the RotoVap at Rogue 24 when talking about the one at barmini!

  • AZ

    I am not the first to think "what would happen if you put pot in it?" right?

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  • Nic

    "Chemistry in the Kitchen" I like to call it! Its crazy to see these scientific laboratory devises used in restaurants and trendy upscale lounge bars. The creations you are coming up with are truly innovative. We have seen the Heidolph Evaporator in Hudson Hotel (NY), Rouge 24, Alinea (IL), Clios (MA), WD~50 (NY) and now MiniBar (DC). Very cool and I’m sure delicious. Congrats on the opening, all the best!