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These 12 drink recipes reimagine iconic technology companies as lavish speakeasy cocktails. 

BY NATE STOREY
PHOTOS BY DANI VERNON AND SCOTT BURRY
COCKTAIL STYLING BY GREG SEIDER


When the late bartender Sasha Petraske opened the pioneering Milk & Honey on New York’s Lower East Side in 1999, he sparked an international cocktail renaissance that renewed the diligence of a Prohibition Era craft. At the same time, another industry was in the first stages of its own ascension: tech. Google had just emerged from beta. Windows 98 was the dominant OS. The internet’s early surfers were using dial-up modems and amassing free-trial AOL hours. And the onset of social media, led by Friendster and MySpace, was less than five years away.  

Since then, the startup and drinking cultures have experienced concurrent evolutions. Speakeasy-style bar concepts with imaginative cocktail programs, once an attribute distinct to America’s coastal capitals like New York and San Francisco, are sprouting up in second cities and throughout Europe, awakening dormant scenes in places like Paris, where even the most pretentious wine snobs have discovered the subtle pleasures of a well-nourished whiskey. Tinctures, foams, spirit-infused mists — bartenders are looked upon as modern mad scientists, deploying whiz-bang gizmos and molecular techniques to manipulate flavor profiles. (In true science-fiction form, some even create new menus and test recipes in their own laboratories.)

From the petri dish that is Silicon Valley, the tech revolution continues to march steadfastly into new frontiers. The Internet of Things has changed the way we consume content; music apps condensed a vast ecosystem of albums and songs and delivered it to our fingertips; any product is now available on a digital marketplace; movies and TV shows stream to our smartphones; the sharing economy has modified our lifestyles forever, rendering commonplace fixtures like taxis and offices less and less useful. And that’s before considering the impact of social media. Charting new courses beyond Facebook’s relationship manicuring platform and the rapid-fire news feed — and unfiltered opinion soundboard — of Twitter, it’s now penetrated every aspect of our lives, from dating to job networking to photography, transforming humans into brands, just as the contours of bartending have been redrawn to include aspects that go far beyond serving a whiskey diet.  

The genetic makeup of the tech and cocktail giants highlights two polar strains of innovation. One is Einstein, the other Picasso. Simplicity versus complexity. Nondescript hoodie or tattoo sleeve? Disparate as they may seem, though, they all meet at a single intersection: Ingenuity. To toast these two incubators of forward progress, Surface tasked 12 industry-shaping bartenders to imagine tech and digital media companies, from Uber to BuzzFeed, as cocktails. Each took on a brand headquartered in his or her city. The results are a window into the very nature of creativity itself. Liquors, garnishes, glassware — the inspiration for the recipes differ, but each one shows off an acute cleverness. “Both cultures are similar in that they’re trying to push the boundaries,” says Christina Cabrera of San Francisco’s Barbarossa, who was tasked with dreaming up a Google drink.     

As for where the two universes diverge: “Trying new approaches to a traditional cocktail is what keeps people intrigued. But unlike the tech world, and I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing: In my world, sometimes staying true to the classics is preferred.”

The coders probably have an algorithm for that.