Apart from the volunteer comments, this article was written by Danae Dodge
When our treasurer approached our blog editor about the idea of having a science of cocktails event at the Pint of Science this year, it helped that the treasurer Lynette Hodges was already a co-ordinator of the annual event and that the blog editor already had a cocktail kit! The idea developed into an interactive demonstration which initially was to be held at one location, but later evolved to two locations.
Together Lynette and Danae assembled a stellar team of volunteers coming from both the Sheffield British Science Association and from the Pint of Science, one of which thankfully was an experienced mixologist. The two teams comprising of three volunteers were placed at Tamper Sellars Wheel Coffee House and the Hallamshire House pub on 15 May Tuesday 2018 to showcase the science of cocktails in between talks; Melt in the Mouth Biology and Circus for the Senses respectively.
We were the Mixology Laboratory and here two of our volunteers (one from each location) give their review of how their demonstrations went down.
Alexander Wolfe at Hallamshire House
“At the Mixology Laboratory, we explored the science behind four classic cocktails: the Woo Woo, the Vodka Martini, the White Russian, and the Vodka Gimlet. For the Woo Woo and Vodka Martini, we showed the effect of chilling the cocktail in various ways, specifically the effect that shaking with ice (a wet shake) versus stirring over ice has on the final balance of the cocktail. Traditionally, the Woo Woo is wet shaken, and the Vodka Martini is stirred. Shaking a cocktail dilutes it more than a simple stir does, and so the shaken martinis were more dilute than their stirred counterparts, and the stirred Woo Woos were very strong compared to their shaken variants. The White Russian was used as an example of the various techniques that are employed to layer a cocktail. These include temperature differences, solvation, and special pouring techniques. Most of the techniques worked by widening the density gap between each layer, and the pouring techniques helped reduce the effect that mixing had on the layers. The Vodka Gimlet served as an example of how a foam cocktail can be created. Egg whites were used to create the characteristic foam, as the proteins within the egg whites help stabilise it by trapping bubbles of air. This is achieved by dry shaking (without ice) the egg whites with a small amount of the cocktail for flavour and texture.
It was absolutely amazing showing the public how science can help you make great cocktails! As both a chemist and mixologist, the science of cocktails is quite near and dear to my heart, and it was great to share this with others. One of my lecturers, Prof. Jim Thomas was presenting at the Hallamshire House where I was stationed, and several of my peers came to the evening. It was really good to show how our subject is incredibly pervasive throughout all parts of the world, and it was especially fun talking to other chemists in more detail about the science behind what we were showing! The talks themselves synergised well with the activities- two of them were on food chemistry, so that gave us additional things to talk about. I personally had a few very interesting chats with all three presenters, and we had some very fruitful discussions with the public as well! I think that overall the event was a massive success. We had several people ask us to go into more detail than what we were given as a basic explanation, and hopefully that means there would be interest in a similar event in the future. I for one would certainly be more than happy to help run one!”
Nadejda Tsokova at Tamper Sellars Wheel Coffee House
“I volunteered to participate in the Science of Cocktails event as part of the Pint of Science. As I was a novice with no previous experience in making cocktails, I went to the training session and was impressed with others’ knowledge, and I thought “Oh dear what have I put myself into!” Other people are so experienced, how will I manage on the day? Oh dear how wrong I was! Never should I doubt it! My fellow cocktail scientists were so helpful and supportive. We made four cocktails in total. Two of which were made under the title of ‘Shaken not Stirred’ (how wrong or cool are you James Bond!)
We were warmly welcomed by the organisers and the Tamper staff were so helpful allowing us to use the ice making machine. It seems like people were very interested in one of the cocktails (although not my creation) and when I tried it I realised why; it was a perfect blend of alcoholic coffee and cream. However, my cocktail the Vodka Gimlet (under the title of ‘Foaming in the Mouth’) with the egg white foam on top was really well received, and provoked loads of scientific questions, including food safety using raw eggs. I started talking with a PhD student that had just passed his viva that very same day, and while I was explaining the science behind the cocktail he introduced me to the archaeology crew at the stand next to ours. All evening we were very busy with ‘serving’ cocktails and chatting that we almost missed the talks. But one of the talks grabbed my attention – how excavated animal bones from all over the world can reveal the most common religion. Fascinating stuff! And roll on next year’s Pint of Science or any other cocktail events although this time I will do my homework properly beforehand! Cheers!”
A big thanks goes out to the Pint of Science organisers: Lynette Hodges, and the other members of the Public Engagement Team at Sheffield University, and Devon Smith. I would also like to thank the Pint of Science volunteers who participated in the demos: Ella Bradfield (Tamper), Georgina Starling (Hallamshire House), Swakshadip Sarkar (Hallamshire House); the other Pint of Science volunteers who supported at both locations especially Gemma Stephens, and of course to Tamper and Hallamshire House for allowing us to use their facilities!
About the Pint of Science Festival:
Pint of Science is an international series of festivals bringing world class research to a pub near you. With strands in Europe, Australia, Asia and North America it has grown yearly. Sheffield’s first Pint of Science took place in 2016 in 4 pub venues in the city and in 2018, the third festival comprised three consecutive nights in six venues in the city centre. The festival activities in Sheffield were organised by the Public Engagement team and Sheffield Co-ordinator Devon Smith, along with the help of 16 University of Sheffield postgraduate students. This team of staff and students worked with 50 University researchers to create a programme of 47 talks and more than 50 activities for the festival. In 2018 the Sheffield festival attracted 785 attendees.