off the clock
2.18.2015 | Issue #11
Of all the brains out there doing cartwheels around the status quo of the food and drink world, the one kickin' it in the skull of bartender Todd Maul is one of our favorites.
Formerly of Boston's Clio, and now of Cambridge's outer-space-fever-dream Café ArtScience, Maul is known for eschewing conventional cocktail wisdom in favor of creating something entirely unique. He was among the first to mainline the use of a centrifuge behind the bar, and he likes to mess with your head a little bit—a recent drink is something he dubs a "collapsed margarita." Urfa chiles are flash-infused into mezcal, then made into ice cubes along with clarified lime juice. A tequila vapor—an invention of his business partner, scientist and bon vivant David Edwards—is floated over the ice, then capped off by a chili chip. He shatters the chip into the glass, then pours equal parts tequila and the Urfa-infused mezcal on top. TURNT UP.
You'd think manifesting libations out of a kaleidoscopic imagination would be enough to keep the cogs well-greased, but a creative mind is rarely drawn to just one thing. Maul is no exception: he also happens to be a damn fine craftsman of custom furniture. He credits his alma mater, Boston's North Bennet Street School, with changing the way he viewed alcohol forever. By introducing the concept of reverse-engineering into drink design, he has—excuse the carpentry pun, but let it happen—carved out a singular place for himself in cocktail history. His tendency to riff did not always place him in the good graces of his carpentry professors.
“It caused some issues when I was at North Bennet, because they’re very much entrenched in traditional American furniture, like Thomas Seymour and all that. I think that furniture is disgusting," he says, without a hint of remorse. "I'm much more influenced by French Art Deco. It's very sexy, very slick and very visceral.”
His fascination with veneering is also not typical; because the massive design hangover resulting from the 1970s, most Americans are not down with veneer. "When you veneer stuff, you’re using a very hard wood on the bottom layer, which doesn’t have much movement. When you veneer it, you cross-veneer it and then veneer it again to get the direction you want. There’s a lot of layers to something to make it look good, and in drinking it’s the same thing," he explains. "It’s all about layers."
Maul is a fan of using the term "smash it" when he is explaining his concoctions to you, whether they be drinks or French Art Deco-inspired tables, which as you can see, are totally legit. He's not even using it to be dramatic—it's a legitimate step in the process, and a solid indication of the aggressively-inquisitive nature of his mind. Because he's also the one who turned us on to The Bambi Molesters, the rockabilly stylings of Dexter Romweber, and the face-melting awesomeness of the Flat Duo Jets, you can see why we'd be down to hear him talk about veneer and hand-planes.
Read on for the at-a-glance parallels of drinks and furniture, two things you never thought were related, but now that you think about it, totally are.