A reader who shall remain nameless for the moment (because the e-mail is at home and I don’t want to give credit to the wrong person [edited to add that it was Michael! Thanks Michael!]) alerted me to this fantastic article that is so “me” I actually wondered for a second if I wrote it myself just before being conked on the head with a coconut and experiencing temporary amnesia, Gilligan-style.

Two Parts Vodka, a Twist of Science

Mr. Klemm, director of cocktail development for B. R. Guest, which owns Primehouse, is one of a handful of freethinking bartenders who have taken to the idea of employing the techniques of avant-garde cooking to their work behind the bar, a trend that’s being called “molecular mixology.”

First of all, if my job title was “director of cocktail development,” I think I’d just disappear in an implosion of self-satisfaction. Second of all, somebody is using science to get us sloshed in a more interesting way. Cool!

Okay, technically it’s not as if they’re publishing peer-reviewed papers on the psychological effects of consuming red wine in a carmelized vanilla glass (hypothesis: awesomely delicious). And they’re not genetically altering apple trees to grow apple-tinis (note to geneticists in the audience: please add to your “to do” list); what they’re doing is just getting creative with drinks the same way that the most innovative restaurants in the world have been doing with food for a while now.

But some of the techniques they’re employing sound at the core like a high school science experiment where you get to enjoy the results in a whole new way. (Side note: ten years ago when I was busy hating chemistry class, our teacher taunted us with the fact that a mere ten years before us, his lesson plan included the brewing of beer, which the seniors were at the time legally allowed to consume upon successfully completing the course. Who knows, if New Jersey hadn’t raised the drinking age to 21 prior to my high school graduation, I may have achieved a science degree by now. Actually, it wouldn’t have made a difference since I graduated when I was 17, but still. Okay, parenthetical asides really shouldn’t go on this long, though it seemed to work pretty well for John Kennedy Toole. Anyway . . .)

Check out what they did to the martini:

. . . they blend olive juice, vermouth and gin with xanthan gum and calcium chloride and drop it into a sodium alginate and water solution to form stable olive-shaped blobs. 

A few of these are strictly do-not-try-at-home, like the aforementioned carmelized glass that requires a laser beam. But a number are very doable with a little patience and a reliable supplier of sciencey goods. I want to throw a science-themed cocktail party, complete with fizzing green liquids spilling out of Erlenmeyer flask glasses and eyedropper shots. Safety goggles optional, but recommended.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Count me in.

    I'm assuming the dress code for the party is simply a lab coat and a smile.

  2. At the IBM lab where I work, there was an opportunity for employees to contribute their favourite recipes to a book. Among the traditional recipes for casseroles, dumplings and so on, there were no fewer than three different methods for making liquid-nitrogen ice cream.

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