A centrifuge, lasers and roto-vaporizors are typical instruments found in a chemistry lab, not in a cocktail bar — unless the bar is Hide, set to open on Elm Street in Deep Ellum by the end of 2016.
Hide’s website promises to serve “cocktails clarified,” and it’s not just a catchy (if vague) slogan. Nick Backlund, the owner of Hide, says the concept behind cocktails clarified is “reducing the cocktail down to its purest form and creating the clearest, cleanest and best cocktail humanly possible.”
He’s planning to do that with all kinds of fancy technology at his disposal. Backlund has been working with his director of beverage and principal bartender, Scott Jenkins, (who also holds a doctoral degree in art), for over a year to develop the techniques for making their signature cocktails using equipment like centrifuges.
“We can clarify fruit juices [with the centrifuge] so that you can essentially see straight through them, but they taste the same. We can do some really cool stuff with that … create these beautiful sparkling drinks,” says Backlund. “The roto-vaporizer allows us to extract the flavors and aromas out of anything when put under pressure. For example, I could throw some basil leaves in there and essentially take out all the compounds of the basil leaf and create a distillate out of it using some water. I can then spritz it over the top of the drink, and it will smell like perfectly fresh basil on your drink.”
If it sounds gratuitous, well, maybe it is — but Backlund says it’s not just for show.
“I made sure to put the equipment in the back of the house; I’m not going to have it out here in the middle of the bar," he says. It's not meant to be showy. It’s really about making something that tastes really, really good.”
Backlund hopes the technology will enable him to make a new level of libation.
“When you pick up a cocktail, it’s about what you see, smell, taste, and the fourth thing is mouth-feel," he says. "If I take fruit and spin it in a centrifuge, I get a nice creamy, silky mouth-feel on a vodka or rum that I just spun some fresh fruit into.”
Backlund even went so far as to have a laser engineer, who is also his friend’s father, create a type of laser that they can use to hand-cut blocks of ice into single large ice cubes for the cocktails.
“Our presentation is going to be beautiful, the cocktails are going to be beautiful. It's going to be a really great experience for everybody,” Backlund says
Having been in the restaurant industry for a number of years as hospitality manager of HG Sply Co. and assistant general manager of Smoke, Backlund is familiar with creating signature cocktails and dishes that turn a local spot into a perennial favorite.
Backlund is also tapped into the cocktail scene in Deep Ellum, citing Black Swan Saloon and Armoury D.E. as two of his favorite haunts. When he decided he was ready to open his own cocktail bar, Backlund figured Deep Ellum was a good spot for his vision and is hoping Hide becomes a new neighborhood favorite.
“I just love the vibe of Deep Ellum,” Backlund says. “Cocktails are an art, and we're fitting that art into that scene down there.”
Hide is slated to open in a new development by Westdale at the corner of Elm Street and Malcolm X Boulevard. Backlund says he’s excited about the location, which he hopes will have heavy foot traffic on weekends. Hide will have about 75 seats inside and hold about 30 on the patio that will overlook an interior courtyard. Backlund describes Hide’s vibe as modern industrial.
Hide won’t just focus on technologically created cocktails. Backlund is also working on developing a menu of shared plates, sandwiches and salads with a chef, and is focusing on “fresh” fare and less on typical bar food. He says the price point for plates will start at $7 to $15 and cocktails will be between $10 and $14.
Despite the emphasis Backlund has put on the process of making the cocktail with expensive technology, he’s more interested in the overall experience people will have at Hide.
“For me, when I go into a bar, I want it to be about the people and the experience you have, getting back to true hospitality,” Backlund says. “Some cocktail bars have gotten so showy, they've forgotten about the real reason we go out — because we want to interact with each other.”
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