“I have the coldest Martini you can legally have in the U.S.,” says Jeremy Andre, restaurateur and partner at Barely Disfigured, a bordello-like cocktail bar in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood. Before he ever mixes gin and dry vermouth for his 50/50 Martini, he delicately pours a glass vial of water into a chilled coupe. The instant the water hits the glass, like some miracle, it begins to freeze, forming a frosty, two-inch-tall reverse icicle. After adding the other ingredients, Andre stirs the stalagmite until it has fully integrated into the drink.
This wizardry is called Supercooling Magic, and it lies within a dorm-size refrigerator “of Japanese origin, using Japanese technology,” according to the website of Barcelona-based manufacturer Fujisakura. Originally, the machine was born of the company’s business in bluefin tuna distribution; in their wide-reaching exploration of shipping refrigeration, Supercooling Magic technology was born at the factory in Osaka, Japan, in 2016.
“Supercooling is physics,” says Luis Goikoetxea, one of Fujisakura’s founders, when I ask him who invented the technology. He’s referencing the ephemeral state of liquid transcending its freezing point without becoming a solid. A mechanical engineer from Barcelona, Goikoetxea handles the company’s operations and business development, as well as the marketing for Supercooling Magic. “It is a state in nature that only lasts seconds before the crystallization of the liquid starts.” He claims Fujisakura’s machine is the only device on planet Earth that can keep liquids in a stable, supercooled state for à la minute usage.
Though any liquid can be put into the Supercooling Magic machine, it works best with filtered or distilled water at exactly -5 degrees C, five degrees below the typical freezing point of water. The fridge holds 80 vials of liquid at a time, and when one is removed from the unit and poured onto something already frozen—like, say, a chilled coupe—the liquid freezes instantaneously.
Initially, Fujisakura saw Supercooling Magic as a potential vessel for human organ preservation, but while they undergo permitting and adaptation by hospitals and medical centers, they’ve branched off toward the bar world. They sold their first unit to Paradiso, a highly theatrical speakeasy in Barcelona, in October 2017. Wowed by the visual spectacle, Giacomo Giannotti, Paradiso’s owner, was intrigued by the possibilities that Supercooling Magic might offer in drink-making.
Giannotti uses it in his Super Cool Martini, which he claims he perfected via 8,000 attempts over the course of five months. In a sort of oversized Nick & Nora, he pours supercooled water atop a frozen olive, then atomizes Mancino Vermouth that’s been macerated with mustard seeds and Gordal olives over the stalagmite mound before adding fennel- and oregano-infused gin and stirring. Gianotti believes it is a superior technique for dilution as well as chilling, especially compared to the more dangerous liquid nitrogen. “For us, the visuals are the most important thing,” says Giannotti. “Introducing water along with a ‘wow’ factor.”
Indeed, as demonstrated in the company’s videos—a mound of ice materializing in a coupe’s bowl, a tiny berg taking shape atop some microgreens—there is certainly an awesome quality. Still, it seems like the magic of supercooled liquid lies simply in the gesture of sculpting miniature stalagmites. The machines aren’t cheap, either; each costs $3,900 and they are manufactured to order.
Currently, only 10 of the machines exist at bars and restaurants across the world. Nottingham Forest, a cocktail bar with a baroque flair in Milan, uses it for its Harry Potter–inspired Philosopher’s Stone Martini. At the three-Michelin-starred Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, chef Jordi Roca integrates supercooled water collected from his garden into desserts like the Rainy Forest (highlighted in an episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table). Barely Disfigured has a one-year exclusive partnership to use it in New York’s tri-state area and currently uses it for both a 50/50 Martini and a Cosmo riff.
There, Andre is playing around with botanical-infused water, while at Paradiso, Giannotti is experimenting with clarified tomato water. Other bartenders have attempted to supercool Coca-Cola and sake, with marginal success. Goikoetxea says it works most effectively with pure water and admits that supercooled water doesn’t change the chemical properties or add flavor—it’s purely for aesthetic spectacle, which, of course, inevitably dissipates. But, in the age of Instagram, spectacle may very well be the single most effective way to draw customers.
“It’s like the most Instagrammable thing you can do with a cocktail,” says Andre, who garnered viral buzz when influencer @cocktailfiles made a video of the magic in late November of last year. It was shared and ultimately viewed tens of thousands of times. Yes, people across social media are completely delighted by Supercooling Magic, and maybe that’s more than enough for an $18 drink these days.
Or maybe not. When I ask what Fujisakura’s second cocktail world product might be, Goikoetxea tells me: “We are experimenting with drones.”