Albert Trummer’s ‘Novice Apothekers’ Are at Your Service


"I'm a classic person."Photo: Melissa Hom

With all the fuss over Apothke, we havent heard many specifics about Albert Trummers drinks, which will cost anywhere from $12 to, well, market price. So we decided to ask the bar chef apotheker himself to tell us about them. Trummer says many were inspired by the apothecaries he visited as a 10-year-old in Vienna. Over the past seven years Ive been trying to develop drinks almost like a pharmacy, he tells us. Im shipping special oils from Valencia, Spain, and combining fruits and liquor and soaking and fermenting my own special herbs. We asked him, for starters, whether hes sure all of this is legal.

You make your own absinthe how is that legally possible?
The distilling process was banned in the U.S. What is legal, and what I do, is to take my special herbs (one is wormwood) and soak them in an anisette. Normally you pour the water tower into the absinthe instead of that, Im using the anisette to burn off the alcohol so 80 percent of the alcohol is gone. Its a very smooth absinthe.

And how are you able to use coca and opium leaves, as the press release describes?
Theres a legal coca leaf liqueur on the market, Coca Libre. Were working with special leaves from South America Im getting advice from a pharmacist here. Its the same as the poppy seed you can buy it anywhere but you cant distill or cook it.

What are some other exotic herbs youre using?
I took trips to Grasse its the main producing area for the perfume industry in Southern France. On one of my visits I met a lot of spice and herbs dealers who are suppliers for the perfume industry. You get beautiful roses and lavender. Im still experimenting I have 80 different herbs to experiment with.

You also have 250 cocktails on your menu. Are those all your own creations?
50 or 60 are my creations. And of course we do a lot of classic ones too, because we have to be a cocktail bar where you have to get the sidecar, the best margarita, and the best Bangkok cocktail. And then theres the creativity of each novice apotheker. If you come to our bar and youre not really in a good mood, well try to give you a drink that will make your mood better. Every novice apotheker has their own specialty the same way youd say, Okay, today I need to go to the eye doctor, or, Today my stomach hurts.

So what would you recommend to someone whos not in a good mood?
Champagne is a very good mood-maker, especially infused with my special bitters. I have a special selection of my own soaked bitters, labeled No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, like in the perfume industry. My menu breaks down what each ingredient like the cucumber or the kumquat is good for. Strawberries, for instance, have a cleansing effect.

Are you using anything more exotic than strawberries?
Im using the bar as a lab by day, and Im experimenting with coming up with a special cocktail every week. The mangosteen is a really good fruit it just came on the market a year ago. Were using the juice and soaking it with fresh hibiscus herbs. Its really natural and beautiful.

One of the drinks includes unfermented grape juice. Isnt that just a fancy way of saying grape juice?
During harvest season Im getting natural grape juice from winemakers in Long Island. Normally, when its sold commercially, grape juice is heated up and loses all its flavor.

How about the food?
Were very influenced by Chinatown and we have friends like Daniel Boulud and David Bouley. Were still working on the food menu, but in the meantime were serving local dumplings.

What do you think will most influence other mixologists when they see it done at Apothke?
Ive got this sugarcane machine from Guatemala. A lot of cocktails are too sugary, with artificial sugar. I get my own sugarcane stock from Florida so I can squeeze it in front of the customer if they want a mojito.

Youve been described as a scientist of sorts would you go so far as to call yourself a molecular mixologist?
Its a trend, but Im not so into that because Im a classic person and I trained in the cocktail culture in the eighties and nineties. I like my special ice and ingredients. Ferran Adri has a cocktail lab at El Bulli and I think a lot of bartenders and bar chefs got inspired by that style, but its more food-related than cocktail-related and Im not really jumping on that train.

Earlier: A First Look at Apothke, Opening September 5