Martin Kastner: Aviary's glass master
The serviceware designer at Grant Achatz's new bar went from fixing locks at a medieval Czech castle to transforming the way you consume cocktails.
Kastner says his design process begins with distilling either a concept or question into a simple sentence. Like this one: Say you have an egg-shaped ice cube, with alcohol inside, resting in a glass: How do you break the ice egg and release the liquid without harming yourself—or the glass? Kastner’s team’s answer (he works with two production coordinators): a rubber band threaded through a stainless-steel disk and looped into a figure-eight shape; the drinker pulls the rubber band back like a slingshot and releases the disk, splitting the ice without splitting a finger.
The final products are often as visually striking as they are clever, but Kastner views them merely as vehicles for an experience. “In a way, I try to forget what I know about objects,” he says. “This is about trying to create little experiences that are unlike what you normally know, whether it’s the tactile aspect or the visual.”
Aviary champions a new way of drinking, and that means doing away with the traditional bar, bartender and—here’s where Kastner comes in—typical drinking glasses. “We don’t just perfect or augment the established glasses,” says drink chef Craig Schoettler. “It’s taking it to the extreme of what a cocktail is saying as opposed to just being a liquid in a vessel.”
Speaking of extremes: At Aviary, ice will come in about 18 different shapes, including a perfect quarter-inch sphere. The spheres are frozen in Kastner-designed silicon tray molds, each of which produce 2,000 tiny ice pellets. A single drink requires about 1,500 of them.
“I can’t pretend this stuff is practical,” Kastner admits. “I create problems.” Luckily, they’re good problems to have.