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‘Science of Cocktails’ Makes Drinking Smart

Flaming Cocktail

Flaming Cocktail 

In this city, cocktails are complicated. Ordering one usually demands a dictionary, adventurous palate, and trusting deference to the mixologist formerly known as “bartender.” For any curious lush who ever wanted to know exactly what comprises a botanical or whether there’s a chemical difference between a martini that’s shaken versus stirred, the fourth annual Science of Cocktails returns to the Exploratorium on Friday, January 24th.

“We watched it grow from a neat idea into something tangible,” says Ethan Terry, mixologist  at The Alembic, who helped create the event along with founder and Exploratorium Senior Special Events Coordinator, Adrienne Moon. This year’s party will rock from within the museum’s cavernous new building on Pier 15 where scientists and local mixologists will pour potent sips and teach potable tricks to an expected 1000 attendees. In their cocktail dresses and plaid sports jackets, guests will mosey from demo station to demo station to learn the biology, chemistry and physics behind their favorite spirits.

Dr. Julie Yu from the Exploratorium's Teaching Institute proves the usefulness of her Ph.D in chemical engineering with a demonstration on alcoholic ice cream. She’ll use liquid nitrogen to transform kahlua and cream into frozen globules akin to “Dippin’ Dots.” Ethan Terry joins Chris Lane of Oakland’s Ramen Shop for a class in infusions. “We'll have over 30 herbs, spices and botanicals,” says Terry. Participants will choose a blend to create individualized drinks.

Elsewhere, partygoers will discover how to use liquor to extract their DNA in an exercise that won’t precipitate morning regrets. They’ll combine rum, pineapple juice, dish soap, cheek cells and saliva to create what the staff is calling a “DNAquiri.”  “It’s pretty darn cool,” says biologist Karli Woodward of the concoction. “Though,” she adds, “I wouldn’t recommend drinking it.”  

Other activities include a craft session with cocktail umbrellas and swizzle sticks; a tutorial in easy bar tricks taught by Senior Science Educator Eric Muller; and a study in molecular gastronomy from bar/restaurant consultants Morgan Schick and Eric Quilty of Jupiter Olympus.

Ample bar snacks like deviled eggs, sliders and oysters on the half shell, catered by McCalls will coat stomaches while an open bar encourages hydration.  

Recipes for all the drinks will be printed on cards to take home and later posted on the Exploratorium's website. Proceeds from ticket sales go toward the museum.