The Future of Everyday Things: The Cocktail

Dave Arnold's Cocktail Shaker

via Cookingissues.wordpress.com

Dave Arnold, whom we've profiled before, has wired a cocktail shaker with thermocouples. As you shake an iced drink in it, the temperature is graphed on the big screen at the front of the conference room. The nation's top bartenders are invited to try out their carefully evolved shaking styles to see which can get a drink coldest fastest. It turns out that, in terms of chilling a drink, style doesn't matter much -- any sort of shake, hard or soft, gets the drink down to about -7 Celsius after about 10 seconds, and shaking more doesn't make it any colder.

That's just one of many innovative techniques being demonstrated here in New Orleans at the annual Tales of the Cocktail convention, about which we've been drunkenly tweeting all week. A lot of brilliant minds are dedicating themselves to the noble pursuit of better drinks. Dave's shown off a method of gel clarification to dramatically intensify flavors: mix a liquid with gelatin, freeze it, and catch the highly concentrated first drippings as it thaws. Darcy O'Neal guided an audience through a tasting of a dozen different sweeteners with very different characteristics, as well as compounds like miraculin, which makes the tongue experience sour flavors as sweet; and lactisole and hodulcine, anti-sweeteners that take away the sweetness of any food or drink they're added to.

The most exciting demonstration so far is Dave Arnold's rotary evaporation technique, in which converted laboratory equipment is harnessed to make delicious distillations, like beautifully integrated peanut-flavored Scotch, and habanero-infused vodka. In this video, shot for PopSci, Dave Arnold and Nils Noren show off the method:

Stay tuned for further tweets and updates as the festivities proceed.