Juan Coronado has a great job, but not an easy one. He oversees cocktail programs at all of José Andrés’s restaurants (Owen Thomson’s old gig), as well as Barmini—the just-announced “cocktail lab” adjacent to the newly revamped Minibar at 855 E Street, Northwest. Partnering with him in this latest endeavor is ThinkFoodGroup R&D chief Ruben Garcia.
News of Barmini arrived Monday evening, when Andrés addressed a crowd of media and friends gathered in the 30-seat space. The chef—who has taken some heat for raising Minibar’s dinner prices to $225 per person—recalled a time when he could not afford to eat at fancy restaurants like Manhattan’s famous La Grenouille. “We see Minibar as a great gift to us, because we love to work at Minibar . . . and a great gift to the city that has welcomed us,” said the restaurateur. Barmini, meanwhile, is a gift to cocktail fiends and foodies with smaller budgets. When it is not being used an idea incubator, the gleaming white bar will serve cocktails and small plates such as jamón ibérico sprinkled with caviar, and uni-stuffed mini tortas. Cocktail prices will top out at $20, bar snacks at $16. As at Minibar, there will be an e-mail-based reservation system, but places will be set aside for walk-ins, too. A reservation earns guests two hours inside the bar.
But back to the challenge of being Juan Coronado: At Barmini he will serve guests ordering from a massive menu of original and classic cocktails—including the famously labor-intensive Ramos Gin Fizz. Scroll through said menu and you will understand what an endeavor that will be, even with Andrés’s considerable staffing resources—especially when you take into account the elaborate processes involved in conjuring airs, foams, and other molecular miracles Andrés fans have come to expect.
Coronado, however, seemed happy and confident mixing up Martinezes and falernum-sweetened rum fizzes to guests at the announcement party. And looking around at the backlit shelves stocked with high-tech gadgets and some seriously gorgeous glassware, it was easy to see why. Beautiful Barmini is the sort of workspace about which most ambitious bartenders can only dream. For Coronado and his staff’s sake, though, we hope guests order their Ramoses judiciously.
Barmini debuts February 15. Hit up the slideshow to see a sampling of the libations on offer.