TOTC09: The Science of Shaking
I’m still sifting through all of my material from Tales of the Cocktail – so many sessions, so many tastings, so many parties… So maybe it’s not so much that I’m sifting, as recovering.
I didn’t want to wait any longer though before I started to share some of the best information to come out of the show.
One of my favorite sessions of the week was “The Science of Shaking,” presented by Eben Klemm (beverage director of the B.R. Guest restaurant group), Alex Day (bartender at the famed Death & Co.), and Dave Arnold (director of the culinary technology department at the French Culinary Institute and author of the Cooking Issues blog). This session was the perfect blend of the two biggest areas of my life: mixology & tech geekery.
Debate swirled around the pros and cons of various shaking techniques, types of ice, shaking materials, and so on. There were charts, graphs, tools to measure dilution, temperature… it was awesome. Among the most significant conclusions: metal-on-metal shakers (as opposed to a shaker that includes a glass) consistently produce the coldest cocktails, shaking style is largely irrelevant when it comes to temperature or dilution, and in the end the best advice is “use lots of ice.”
A bonus bit of info – Famed Seattle bartender Jamie Bordreau was in the audience and made a great point: colder is not always better. Depending on the ingredients in the cocktail, there may be times when “cold” might provide a more well balanced cocktail than “really cold” (where the alcohol might become a little too prominent). It’s often subjective, but it’s something to keep in mind.
The geek continued with full force in the “21st Century Gin” session. The session was moderated by the lovely Charlotte Voisey (brand ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin), and attended by Jim Ryan (also of Hendrick’s Gin), Ryan Magarian (creator of Aviation Gin), and Angus Winchester (ambassador for Tanqueray). The fun geek part centered around what we actually call gin.
After a long period of stasis, gin has developed a lot in the last 20 years. Blends of botanticals have changed, the distillation process has evolved, and loads of new boutique gins with wildly varying flavor profiles are popping up left and right. So the question is, “Is all gin, gin?” Is Bombay the same kind of gin as Tanqueray? As Hendricks? As Aviation, Gordons, Plymouth, North Shore, Bluecoat and Bulldog? Should newer varieties of gin be called something else? Or should we have subcategories of gin (London Dry vs New Western etc.)
There’s no right answer, but it’s a fascinating and fun discussion to have, and certainly brought out my inner-geek.
Much more to come as I continue to report on my trip to Tales. Questions or requests? Leave your comments here, or send me a tweet.