The DNA of drinking

These microscopic images by photographer Karl Gaff get up-close to cocktails on the menu of a leading London bar

Words by Laura Richards

Photography by Karl Gaff

silverleaf bar's dna of cocktails

While many a cocktail enthusiast will have found themselves dazzled by the appearance of a drink done well, this project takes the awe to a whole new level: London cocktail bar Silverleaf has collaborated with microscopic photographer Karl Gaff to illuminate the DNA of drinks on the venue’s new list.

The cocktail menu, titled ‘Building Blocks’, features drinks that champion two core ingredients and find themselves illustrated by unique artwork created from what was discovered under the microscope. Gaff worked with the hotel bar to analyse the liquids under the lens, before interpreting the results into the kaleidoscopic renderings featured below.

The Verbena | Olive Oil cocktail shows a leaf-like pattern when captured up-close, while the Hibiscus | Guajillo cocktail from the new menu looks like a frosted surface under the glow of disco lights. Meanwhile, zooming in on key ingredients dotted through the menu gives a different effect: lime cordial takes on a metallic appearance, while Oxley Gin under the microscope looks like the plumage of a peacock.

Gaff’s photography sets out to illustrate scientific concepts and phenomena in a more relatable way, and alcoholic drinks are just his latest subject. ‘We’ve created captivating visuals that celebrate the artistry and creativity behind each cocktail,’ says Gaff. ‘I can’t wait for everyone to witness the stunning visual journey that complements the remarkable flavours.’

Scroll on to see the photographic results across an exciting new menu of highballs, ferments and signature serves.

silverleaf apricot under microscope
Hibiscus cocktail under microscope
Hibiscus | Guajillo
lemon and verbena under microscope
Verbena | Olive Oil
mango under the microscope at silverleaf
Alphonso mango
lime cordial under microscope at silverleaf
Lime cordial
oxley gin under the microscope at silverleaf
Oxley gin