Exploratorium: Science of Cocktails

I don’t know what “Meebo” is, but, oh my, this does sound right up my alley!

November 20, 2009

Dear Erik,

I thought you might be interested in the following information.  Images are available upon request.

Science of Cocktails
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Exploratorium transforms into a cocktail laboratory at Science of Cocktails.  Guest mixologists from 15 Romolo, 83 Proof, Orson, Alembic, Annabelle’s Bistro, and other popular San Francisco bars mix delicious cocktails, while guests participate in hands-on science experiments about alcohol, inebriation, hangovers, cocktail creation, and more.  Science of Cocktails presents the artistry of master mixologists shaken with the science behind the craft. Taking an in-depth, hands-on look at the physics, chemistry, and biology of cocktails, this first-time Exploratorium fundraising event engages guests in an exploration of their favorite libations like they’ve never experienced before.  This event is sponsored by Meebo.

General Admission — $50 +

Ticket includes hors d’oeuvres, one free cocktail, samples of all Science of Cocktails signature drinks, access to all Science of Cocktails programs and Exploratorium exhibits, discounted drink tickets for additional cocktails, and a free general admission pass for a future Exploratorium visit.

Top-Shelf Admission — $75 +

Ticket includes all general admission benefits plus access to our exclusive Top-Shelf lounge with special activities, cocktail offerings, and food, the opportunity to meet our guest bartenders and speakers, one additional free cocktail, and a Science of Cocktails gift bag.

San Francisco Bartender Competition

The first Monday of every month Jon Gasparini and Greg Lindgren of Rye bar in San Francisco host a competition for bartenders.

An ingredient is chosen, usually working with a spirits company, and the bartenders create original cocktails featuring that ingredient. The winning cocktail goes on the menu at Rye.

This month I was lucky enough to be tapped as one of the judges.

As a cocktail enthusiast and San Franciscan, I can’t really think of many better ways to spend an evening out at a bar, than having drinks made for me by some of San Francisco’s top bartenders.

The ingredient this month was a challenging one, Campari. This bitter aperitif is most well known for its part in the classic drink, The Negroni. But, its bitterness makes it something of a challenge to feature in a cocktail. Too much Campari and your drink might be too sweet or too bitter. Too little, and it gets lost.

My fellow judges and I were given instructions on the criteria for judging cocktails, from “aroma” to “utility”, and sat down at a table to await our drinks.

I was quite happy to be joined in judging cocktails by two experienced Bay Area bar professionals, David Nepove and Dominic Venegas. (It almost as fascinating and informative just to listen to these two geek out about the spirits and bar industries as to judge the cocktails!)

The cocktails ran the gamut, from an upscale take on the Negroni featuring Anchor Junipero Gin and Cocchi Barolo Chinato to an absolutely amazing new original cocktail with strawberry juice, Plymouth Gin, and a passion fruit foam.

I was completely awed by the amount of work and creativity that went into each of the 9 cocktails we were presented with.

Unfortunately, we did have to decide on 3 winners, and they were:

1) Joel Baker, Bourbon and Branch, for his creation, Notte della Stella

This was the aforementioned creation with strawberry, gin, Campari and a passion fruit foam. I was blown away by this one, from the lovely aromatic smell of the passion fruit foam to the perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness in the liquid proper. He even punched out little star shaped pieces of citrus peel to float on top of the cocktail as a garnish.

2) Yanni Kehagiaras, Bourbon and Branch, for his creation Milanese Breeze

This was an incredibly refreshing combination of watermelon juice, campari, and gin with a lovely curl of thinly sliced cucumber impaled on a silver cocktail pick for a garnish. I really want a pitcher of this for my next party.

3) Carlos Yturria, Rye, for his creation, Spiagia Nera

Carlos created a drink with Campari, organic plum syrup, citrus, and a “snowball”. This was a sort of a Campari sno-cone. Light refreshing and enjoyable.

For me, the whole experience underscored how fortunate we are here in the San Francisco Bay Area, to have available to us such an incredible selection of ingredients, and passionate food and bar professionals who are willing to go to incredible lengths to utilize those ingredients in amazing and unexpected ways.

I can’t wait to get back to Rye some time soon to see how they manage to pull off Joel’s “Notte della Stella”!