Chem­istry, mixol­ogy meet at Science World

The Georgia Straight - - Food - > BY LUCY LAU

Molec­u­lar struc­tures and es­ter­i­fi­ca­tion may not be the first things that come to mind when you’re knock­ing back a whisky sour at your lo­cal wa­ter­ing hole, but the realms of science and bar­tend­ing have a lot more in com­mon than you think.

“The sci­en­tific tech­nique in­volved at the base level with dis­til­la­tion is the foun­da­tion for ev­ery­thing we do,” lo­cal mixol­o­gist Gez Mcalpine ex­plains to the Straight by phone. “And then there are the re­ac­tions that are hap­pen­ing when you add in­gre­di­ents like egg whites, cit­rus, or vary­ing lev­els of acid­ity. There’s a lot of stuff that kind of ties into science.”

This oft-over­looked con­nec­tion is the ba­sis of Science of Cock­tails, an an­nual fundrais­ing event at Van­cou­ver’s Science World at Telus World of Science that show­cases the tech­ni­cal side of bar­tend­ing. Launched in 2016, the tick­eted fete brings to­gether a sta­ble of the city’s most in­ven­tive mixol­o­gists, each of whom is tasked with shak­ing up an en­ve­lope-push­ing li­ba­tion that in­cor­po­rates skills and meth­ods you may rec­og­nize from high-school physics and chem­istry classes.

“There’s a lot of liq­uid ni­tro­gen,” ob­serves Jen­nifer Ing­ham, vicepres­i­dent of de­vel­op­ment at Science World, dur­ing a me­dia pre­view of the 2017 gala at Clough Club. “Last year, some peo­ple did cock­tail Pop­si­cles, and there were some drinks with steam. It was pretty wild.”

At­ten­dees can ex­pect sim­i­lar in­no­va­tions for this year’s soiree, which will see over 25 of Van­cou­ver’s lead­ing bar stars—in­clud­ing Mcalpine, brand am­bas­sador for Bruich­lad­dich sin­gle­malt and the Botanist gin; the Union’s Kristi-leigh Ak­ister; and Don­nelly Group’s bar and bev­er­age di­rec­tor, Trevor Kal­lies—con­vene at Science World af­ter hours. Im­bibers will be treated to sam­ples of each mixol­o­gist’s ex­per­i­men­tal cre­ation, plus hands-on demon­stra­tions, cock­tail show­downs, and gourmet-food pair­ings from 13 lo­cal chefs and cater­ers.

All pro­ceeds from the event ben­e­fit Science World’s class field-trip pro­gram, which gives thou­sands of un­der­served kids from across the Lower Main­land the chance to visit the mu­seum dur­ing the school year.

On the menu this time around are the Piña Clear-ada, a piña co­lada sans slush thanks to the use of milk that has been acid­i­fied and then strained through cheese­cloth; frozen gin-and­ton­ics; and Mcalpine’s Nitro Lady, a twist on the clas­sic White Lady that em­ploys nitro-mud­dling, a crush­ing tech­nique that re­moves the lin­ger­ing pun­gency from var­i­ous herbs with the help of liq­uid ni­tro­gen.

“You’re flash-freez­ing it and then it turns it into a very, very dry pow­der, so it takes any of that bit­ter­ness out,” says Mcalpine. “And when you add the rest of the cock­tail and shake, you’re left with a very, very fresh flavour rather than any sort of dull or flat­tened taste of the herb.”

Last year’s de­but Science of Cock­tails raised over $185,000, which or­ga­niz­ers are hop­ing to top. Of course, the fundraiser also of­fers Van­cou­verites a chance to get up close and per­sonal with the ever-fas­ci­nat­ing field of science.

“Ev­ery­thing breaks down to that level,” adds Mcalpine. “So hav­ing an event where we can show­case ex­actly what’s go­ing on in the drink is re­ally cool.”

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