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The Tastiest Science You’ll Ever Drink

A new bar in the Gaslamp brings the fun and innovation of molecular gastronomy to the world of cocktails and craft beer.


Photo by Bruce Glassman

They say that great beers are the perfect combination of science and art. At Zymology 21, they take that artful science and…well…add even more science; and the science they add is really all about having fun.

The restaurant-bar is the brainchild of Alex and Leyla Javadov, who also own the nearby Café 21 and the Café 21 on Adams Avenue. Inside, Zymology feels like you’ve entered the hands-on area of a science museum. Large glass jars and beakers sit on counters, tables, and shelves throughout the space, most of them jammed with fruits and vegetables that are suspended in various solutions. Copper-topped tables and “molecule” inspired leather banquettes add other playful touches to the decor.

The idea for Zymology actually began with Alex and Leyla’s interest in studying the methods used in Colonial America for preserving fresh food. What they learned about preservation techniques evolved into a desire to create a restaurant that could incorporate some of those processes in a more modern setting. Now the restaurant house-ferments, braises, pickles, brines, and cures dozens of ingredients on a regular basis—and they’re always experimenting with more. Many of their preparations involve desiccating, freezing, and infusing—and  they often employ gadgets that dispense everything from dry ice to bubbles to cotton candy.

Leyla, who is also the executive chef, combined concepts she learned from molecular gastronomy with old fermentation techniques and began developing recipes for unique and innovative cocktail mixers, including craft beer cocktails and beer-ice-cream concoctions. Known for her killer sangria recipes, Leyla began to freeze her mixtures into popsicles so they could be used as infusions in beer. In the past, she’s offered apricot, lemon basil, and tropical peach popsicles, in addition to the traditional red sangria. Recent additions include habanero, grilled pineapple, and Sriracha guava flavors. During my visit, I discovered that the habanero popsicle works wonders in a light, wheaty beer, while the red sangria or pineapple blend perfectly with a cream ale.

Recently, a new category of beer creation has appeared on the Zymology menu: Beer Cream Floats. These whimsical treats include beakers of beer that are mixed at the table with ice cream and a special kind of sauce.  The Modern Times Coffee Stout float, which is mixed with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate-espresso sauce, is a craft beer dessert-lover’s dream. The pale ale float, mixed with vanilla bean ice cream and honey-ginger sauce, was adorned with house-dried ginger chips, which were an especially zingy accompaniment that gave the beer a whole new flavor profile.

Zymology 21 is not for the hard-core beer purist who can only enjoy brews straight from the tap. It is, however, for light-hearted, adventurous folks who like to experience the many unexpected culinary places you can go with beer. It is, after all, fun to remember that beer can be a versatile and exciting ingredient in all kinds of recipes, from infusions to braises to dressings to Beer Cream Floats.

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