To spend a day inside the mind of Brynley Leach, the bartender at Le Slang, would be like taking the wildest roller coaster ride imaginable. Or at least it would be, if that roller coaster served some of the best booze this side of the Rockies and looked like it came straight off a Gaelic war ship.
All decked out in brass, glass and warm Tungsten lights, Le Slang looks like a cross between a posh library and the lab of a mad scientist. Vintage scales, vials full of unidentified fluids and Bunsen burners going at full speed line every available surface, while the tables are covered in scribbled formulas from long-forgotten chemistry lessons. The kitchen is in full view, with staff moving fast at all hours of the evening, churning out exquisite shareable plates to the hungry diners.
But the real focus at Le Slang is the bar. This is a realm of handmade bitters, house-infused syrups, premium spirits and endless possibilities, and decorated mixologist Leach is at the heart of it all.
At over 6-feet, Leach towers over his working area. Despite this, his movements are nothing but precise. Traditional instruments like strainers and shakers are his constant tools, but he is equally at ease with the more specialized brass pots with centripetal motion magnets, the smoke machine, and liquid nitrogen tanks that are usually reserved for science class.
Leach works with tweezers, treating each of his ingredients like the most delicate blossom. He coddles each spice, each flavor, thinking combinations through over and over again. He talks at length about his ice machine, describing ‘her’ in the same ways most men reserve for a mythical lover. It is clear that Leach demands perfection from his ingredients, his co-workers, and his concoctions. Recipes take weeks to plan out, and days to prepare.
Thankfully, the final creations do not disappoint. The taste of his warm apple cider cocktail, made with apple slices soaked in spices and liquor and perfectly frozen with liquid nitrogen, is unforgettable. It’s like the best mulled cider, the kind you would buy at an outdoors Christmas market in Munich. And yet it packs a powerful punch: before you have a chance to figure out the aerodynamics of the apple slices, the rum has already gone straight to your head.
For his bacon Caesar, Leach uses specialized bacon salt and three different syrups and juices. He squirts in a few drops of each in practiced movements, gauging the necessary amount only with his eyes. It is a perfectly imperfect way to measure ingredients, surprising in someone so precise. But Leach knows his drinks; his is an intuitive understanding of just how much lemon juice or bacon-infused Worcestershire sauce is required.
Right before firing on the smoker to finish off the Caesar, Leach puts a few flavoured woodchips in the burner, especially selected for this specific drink. You spend a few seconds staring at a smokey cloche, wondering what magic is going on under the hood, your anticipation building for the creation. He is looking intently at the machine, making sure everything is set up just so.
But when Leach takes the cloche off his smoked Caesar and you inhale the strong scent of pig belly, he can’t hold back his smile. Leach is pleased. And as you take a sip of this masterfully crafted drink, you know that Leach’s enthusiasm for his work is as palpable as the taste of bacon in this creation.
Le Slang is open daily from 6 p.m. to midnight. Check out their Facebook page for special events and updates.