At The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh there is a food and beverage revolution taking place. Fine traditions of culinary excellence which have long defined the brand now interact with new avenues of innovation, art and science, delivering new and unforgettable experiences for an increasingly adventurous entertainment-seeking public in the Kingdom’s capital city.
At the palatial Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh, where superlatives are the norm, creativity and innovation, it seems, knows no bounds. Having earlier this year successfully launched inventive new coffee brewing techniques at Chorisia lobby lounge – the first of a kind in the country – the award-winning property is now writing new chapters in its much decorated food and beverage story.
This summer, a master craftsman of the genre was welcomed into The Ritz-Carlton Riyadh fold with exactly this in mind: Beverage Manager and ‘mixologist’ Maxim Schulte, whose skills with drinks have been honed at leading hotels around the world.
He was appointed with a mandate to bring new and exciting innovations to the Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh table – literally and figuratively – and he is certainly delivering, wowing guests and visitors with stunning masterpieces never before seen in Saudi Arabia.
For Schulte, a German national, the opportunity to showcase the complex interplay between exotic ingredients, flavours, nutrition, art and even science, which are constituent parts of mixology, for the first time in the Kingdom, is professionally alluring.
“Mixology is about endlessly innovating with ingredients, flavour combinations and presentation,” Schulte explains. “It is also about creating new experiences for guests who demand that something extra.”
Delivering ‘that something extra’ is the gauntlet that every ambitious and talented mixologist lays down for himself, and in Schulte’s case the days and weeks of meticulous planning, experimenting and perfecting the many combinations which comprise each and every signature beverage is very much a labour of love, drawing on equal measures of imagination, adventure, passion, skill and patience.
“Every mixologist’s challenge is to achieve layers of flavour,” he explains. “It can take five days to get the perfect layering and depth, and then you have to work on presentation. You must push the boundaries if you want to challenge the palate.”
Schulte’s quest begins by using only the finest ingredients available from around the world: often exotic, occasionally rare, sometimes subtle in flavour, other times intense, nearly always imported. The palette off which he works is a unique mélange of produce, from plants and tree resins to pollen, and inevitably healthy. There’s organic charcoal powder, hydra salts, delicate butter pea flowers, organic aniseed and fennel oils, and a range of scents. There are difficult-to-source oils such as bitter orange oil, and cassia wood which is boiled for several days to release their intense, captivating aromas.
The results are stunning. There is the Orange Dragon (mandarin puree, young coconut water and spiced syrup, which includes Saudi honey and Asian-inspired herbs and spices); Matcha Ceremony (stone ground green tea powder, spiced syrup, fresh pineapple juice, coconut water and cream and a green tea ice ball); Spiced Spritz (mulled red grape, homemade peppermint soda, pomegranate juice, spiced syrup and cinnamon); Violet Butterfly (including butter pea flowers); Emerald Orchard (fresh green apples, fresh spinach juice, lemon, organic aniseed and fennel oil from Egypt and lavender scent); Rose Garden (including fresh beetroot juice, rose hydra salt and red grape juice) and Black Magic (fresh grapefruit juice, fresh orange juice, bitter orange sherbert (which itself takes two days to prepare in-house), charcoal powder for texture, and colour) and an ice cube with neroli and orange peel).
“You have to have a passion for what you’re doing,” says the master, who can be seen practicing his craft with finesse, flourish and fanfare at Chorisia. “Although working with non-alcoholic drinks presents creative challenges, it is in fact an opportunity to really extend one’s skills,” Schulte explains.
He says the decision by The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh to employ a full time mixologist is symptomatic of the hotel’s philosophy of really pushing the envelope in the pursuit of memorable experiences. To do so, he also draws inspiration from the hotel’s kitchens, where renowned chefs offer advice on flavour combinations and ways to tailor beverages to the different themed outlets such as Hong, Azzuro and Turquoise.