Molecular Mixology

The New York Times published a great article today on the growing trend of mixing cocktails with science. Entitled Two Parts Vodka, One Part Science, the article definitely seems as if it’s written for those who are already passionate about cocktails, yet there is a bit of history in there for newcomers. From leather-infused Manhattan’s to half hot, half frozen gin fizzes, it will definitely satisfy the scientist in you.

I see a few others have already posted about this article, and the topic of molecular mixology, and the opinions are quite varied. Some view it as gimmicky or just for show, while others really embrace the crazy things you can do with a few chemcials and some time. Such innovations, good or bad, can only be good for a budding community.

Take food for example. There is something prized and special about visiting The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco. Your mouth is nearly assaulted with flavors, textures, temperatures to where you’re ready to submit to Ron Siegel’s every whim and fancy even just for one more petit four, or if you’re lucky, some more of those delicate, fried sweetbreads. Molecular mixology is like a trip to The Dining Room.

But what about those divine shortribs you braised the other night and served on top of 7 cups of heavy-cream laden mashed potatoes? Or how about a simple grilled burger and some boiled corn on the cob, slathered in butter and encrusted with kosher salt? Comforting, consistent, kind of like a crisp margarita or a well-made Sazerac.

If there is a place for both extremes in the food world, why not in the mystical realm of the cockail?

3 Responses to “Molecular Mixology”

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3 Comments to “ Molecular Mixology”
  1. JamieNo Gravatar says:

    OK, first things first…the Carnival Car, surprisingly, is not sweet at all. As a matter of fact, it’s quite tart, and I find that I’ve had to up the amount of Cointreau in order to better balance the drink. Remember that the only ingredient more prevalent in cotton candy, other than sugar, is air. Also, the cotton isn’t crammed into the bottom of the cocktail glass, so there isn’t as much cotton candy as you would think. As for the brandy I use, as I have only made this drink at work, and as I am charging only $9 for a double, I use our well brandy, which is St. Remy Napoleon. I find it’s a fine brandy for most uses. I use a Spanish brandy for drinks in which the Remy doesn’t work. As for home, I have all of the major cognacs, (I even have Louis XIII, don’t ask) but prefer Remy VSOP for mixing. It is good bang for the buck.
    As for photography….I’ve recently purchased a Canon Digital Rebel XT with a wide angle and a zoom. Believe it or not, the zoom is the best way to take drink pictures. I’m learning as I go, but I like taking pictures about 6’-8’ away from the drink, with the drink about 9’’-12’’ away from my background. This blurs the background enough to make the drink really pop, while maintaining a slightly obscure, but interesting, backdrop. I also have the bonus of having work get a new flower arrangement every week, so it makes for a different background for me to work with.
    As for your ice experiment, I found it very interesting. It would have been cool if you measured the increase in volume of the cocktail as well, so that way we would know definitively how much water was added to the drink. I also like having the cocktail sit in the mixing glass for ~ 30 secs after mixing the ingredients together. It is my belief, (not measured), that the drink will continue to drop in temp, but with less dilution as one isn’t adding kinetic energy by stirring.
    Thanks for the comments and keep on with the cocktail crusade!!

  2. CraigerNo Gravatar says:

    My head is swimming after reading that NY Times article. On one hand, I think the chefs & bartenders are to be commended for their willingness to experiment. On the other, I wonder how much of it is just gimmickry.

    It all sounds fun, and I’d certainly be willing to try almost all of the concoctions mentioned…but I’m inclined to think that it would be more entertaining watching the preparation than actually consuming them.

    I do hope they can translate all this into actual sales. I’m always in favor of independently owned bars/restaurants being successful…even if they use lasers, liquid nitrogen, etc. to do it. The last thing we need is another TGI Fridays.

  3. RickNo Gravatar says:


    I also really enjoy the Remy VSOP for mixing as well. In my quest for finding a cognac that was even cheaper, yet still as provocative, I came upon Chalfonte. I have heard lots of good and lots of bad things about it. What are your thoughts?

    Your photography method has given me lots of good ideas. I usually shoot extremely close, so it’ll be refreshing to take a step back and shoot from a distance. I’ll definitely give my next few shots a try like that.

    The amount of water added to the drink was definitely much less than expected. When your ice is at -8° F, there is not much melting going on. I’ll definitely measure volume next time. I actually took the temperature at a few intervals, and there was very little increase in temperature until the 3min mark. Even then, it was minimal.


    Never mention that abomination of a restaurant again! :) I tend to agree with everything you say. My interest in creating such cocktails is beginning to grow, but when you put in 18 hours to make a tasty baguette, the last thing you want to do is to prepare several pompous gels and fluffy things for a cocktail…

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